Is it safe to visit Virunga national park?
Is it safe to visit Virunga national park? One of the most asked questions for any traveller coming to the Democratic Republic of Congo for a Congo tour is; how safe is the Congo now? DR Congo has been in the past been associated with insecurity concerns connected to the number of rebel groups that have in the past inhabited in the region. The Democratic republic of Congo is one of the biggest countries on the African continent in the central part with an inhabitation of Congolese as the local people. The Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania are located in the east of the DR Congo with Zambia in the south, Angola in the west and Central African Republic in the north. The Democratic republic is the second biggest nation in Africa after Algeria.
The past cases of insecurity in the Virunga region have been mostly claimed to be from the Rwandan and Mai Mai rebels that are set up base in the Rumangabo sector of Virunga national park. A few killings have been witnessed in the past that is why when this question is posed or brought up, it does not come as a surprise. There have been efforts by the government to chase these rebel groups from the region and have been much fruitful as there has been much more peace in the region.
Virunga national park in the past had a few cases where 2 tourists were kidnapped and a number of attacks on the rangers by the rebel groups which pushed the tightening of security in the Virunga region.
In February 2020, after the park reopened from a long shut down due to security concerns, the park director Emmanuel along with the other stakeholders saw it wise to have a few security measures implemented to see a successful running of tours in the park.
A number of highly trained security team inclusive of ranger guides that have been equipped with international standards of ensuring security were put in place to protect both the guests of the park and their property as well. The security team of Virunga national park are hired and expected to be by your side throughout the safari from the moment you set off from Goma up to when you return to Goma after your Congo safari. The same security team is equipped with skills to protect visitors at both a close and further range. They are also trained on communication, first aid procedures and evacuation skills where need arise.
The Virunga national park also saw it important to book your safari in advance so that your tour is secured and the security teams are ready for your arrival. Your visa application is expected to be sent in at least 3 weeks in advance which is commitment for your confirmation of spending time in Virunga national park.
Another security measure that was put in place after the reopening of the Virunga national park is the standard safari packages that clearly define the paths of every tourist in the park. This is a safer way to handle trips as it is easier for the security to keep you safe when in a systematic group movement.
All these Virunga safari packages have scheduled set off days and times from the Grande Barrier border building which is the first point you arrive at in Goma when headed to Virunga national park. A few of these Congo safari packages include the Mikeno mist package that sets off from Goma at 10 am on a daily basis, Le petit Mikeno which sets off from Goma on Fridays at 11am, the Virunga classic that sets off on Mondays and Wednesdays.
The security team of the Virunga national park is managed and recruited fully by the park management and the team members are recruited from the community which is an aim to benefit the communities living around the park. This move has kept peace in the area along with conservation of the resources of the area as the relationship with the local authorities, community leaders, village groups, country embassies, UN agencies deployed in several parts of the country and the NGO’s has been maintained.
All these measures have been put in place but you are also advised to be security conscious which will help you and your property be safe throughout your safari while in Virunga national park.
Before booking a safari to Virunga national park however much all these security concern have been addressed and measures have been put in place, it is important to first check with you embassy on the current security status of the region. Virunga national park awaits to hear from you and host you on one of the safari packages.