Why Virunga National Park Is Popular Among Tourists: Virunga National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of Africa’s most renowned parks, thanks to its diverse species and spectacular features such as volcanoes, rivers, and lakes. The park is located in the porous region of the Albertine Rift Valley, extending approximately 300 kilometers north to south along the border with Uganda, covering an area of 8,090 square kilometers in total.
Virunga National Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 because of its diverse ecosystems, outstanding biodiversity, and endemism. Virunga is also one of three parks in the Virunga Mountains that preserve mountain gorillas. Furthermore, due to civil upheaval and a humanitarian catastrophe in the region, the park was added to the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1994.
Despite its enormous tourism potential, Virunga National Park has been plagued by instability for decades, including the murder of park rangers and the kidnapping of visitors by multiple militia groups operating in the vicinity. The park has been closed multiple times owing to such incidents, the most recent being in 2018, albeit it was eventually reopened.
However, tourists have not been forced to forsake the park entirely, and it has continued to welcome hundreds of people who come to enjoy its stunning wildlife and adventure opportunities. The park’s administration is always working with security authorities to safeguard the safety of rangers and animals, as well as visitors to the park.
Reasons why Virunga national park is popular among tourists.
Mountain Gorilla Trekking
Virunga, along with Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, is one of three national parks in the Virunga Mountains that preserve endangered mountain gorillas. The most popular activity in the park, which attracts hundreds of people, is gorilla trekking. The park features eight habituated gorilla groups that are visited on a daily basis. They are the Kabirizi gorilla group, the Humba gorilla group, the Rugendo gorilla group, the Mapuwa gorilla group, the Lulendo gorilla group, the Munyaga gorilla group, the Nyakamwe gorilla group, and the Bageni gorilla group. Virunga’s gorilla trekking permit costs $400 per person, which is significantly less than Rwanda’s $1,500 and Uganda’s $700.
One of the finest animal encounters in Virunga National Park is chimp habituation. Trekkers pay $100 per person to see these extraordinary creatures, who share up to 98% of human DNA with gorillas. The goal of the habituation exercise is to make chimps habituated to the presence of people, which will enhance tourism. Visitors are escorted by rangers and trackers throughout the exercise to follow chimps as they go about their everyday routines such as eating and playing on the ground and in tree branches.
Hike Mount Nyiragongo
Mount Nyiragongo is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, with many eruptions in recent years, the most recent occurring in May 2021. The eruptions of Nyiragongo are generally fatal, taking scores of people and damaging a large amount of property.
Hiking the volcano rewards travelers with wonderful views of the Virunga hills, lush forests, and other volcanoes in the region, in addition to witnessing Nyiragongo’s red-hot crater at its summit. Hikers are recommended to bring drinking water in order to keep up with the volcano’s energy needs. Porters are also widely available for hire to assist individuals who have exhausted their energy reserves in reaching the summit and returning safely.
Guided Nature Walks
Guided Nature Walks at Virunga National Park provide tourists with up-close encounters with some of the park’s most impressive elements, such as volcanoes and animal species. Among the wildlife species typically observed on nature walks in the park are primates, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
Community Cultural Tours in Virunga National Parks
The Batwa are an indigenous people that have lived in the Virunga rain forests for thousands of years. Despite the fact that other groups have been colonized by civilization, the Batwa have maintained their ancient way of life. They continue to live in the woods in grass-thatched homes, carrying out all ancient rites, including hunting. However, the desire to encourage animal protection and tourism has had a tremendous impact on the Batwa, who have been evicted from forests and forced to relocate elsewhere.
The park administration at Virunga has organized a cultural excursion to the Batwa village, where visitors can get up close and personal with these incredible people and experience everything they have to offer. Guests are greeted with exhilarating traditional music and dance performances before being taught to Batwa occupations like as farming, hunting, and tool building, among others.
Mountain gorillas can only be found in two places on the planet: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwest Uganda and the Virunga Mountains, which span the borders of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda. Volcanoes National Park is one of three parks in the Virunga Mountains that preserve mountain gorillas, the others being Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda