If you try to ask most travelers who visit Democratic Republic of Congo, the reason why there are doing so, Virunga National Park cannot miss among the answers.
This Park is an ideal locality for those who seek a destination with spectacular sights and free from crowds. It is located in the Eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo.
Formerly called Albert National Park, Virunga covers a total area of 8090 square kilometers and is in close proximity to the Queen Elizabeth National Park and the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda.
Virunga National Park is the oldest protected area in Africa, it was mainly gazzeted to protect and conserve the unique Wildlife species including the endangered ground dwelling Mountain Gorillas.
This Park is under the Virunga wildlife conservancy, a great joint where the West African rainforests meet with the East African Savanna grasslands. This zone stretches for about 300km along the Albertine rift (this rift valley splits the African continent from north to south)
To add on that, its diverse ecosystem that include volcanic mountains, Albertine rift, crater lakes, rainforests, woodlands, open grasslands, swamps and wetlands provides habitat to a range of a diverse Wildlife including unique species that are not found anywhere else in Africa.
Although some political upheavals brought in negative implications on the conservancy that did not limit, in 1979, this Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Park was more affected during those times of the 1990 war period in Rwanda, thousands encroached the park’s areas seeking refuge.
With this, in 1994 the Park was declared a World Heritage Site under danger; it became a ramser site of international importance in 1996.
After all that, the big thanks and appreciation goes to the Virunga foundation, it has played a great role as far as restoring Virunga National Park into a secure tourism destination. It’s now a major draw for most tourists to DR Congo.
Activities in the Park
Mountain Gorilla trekking tops the list among the main highlights for most of Safaris to Virunga National Park.
This Park is inhabited by variety of Gorillas but only six habituated Gorilla families are open to tourism excursions in the Park.
Of all families, Kabirizi Gorilla family is the most popular to most of tourists trekking Gorillas in Virunga.
The family’s name was derived from the Silver-back “Kabirizi” that heads this group. Gorilla trekking excursions in Virunga start early in the morning after the briefing conducted at the Park offices.
After you start the trekking journey into the jungle, when you discover their location, you are allowed to be in their presence for only one hour. After one hour you are required to start the Journey back to the Pack offices or your lodge.
Chimpanzee tracking /habituation.
Chimpanzee tracking usually grants tourists the opportunity to meet with the chimpanzees in the Jungles. You are only allowed to be in the presence of these primates for only one hour.
Then for chimpanzee habituation, you can spend the whole day with these primates in the Jungles while following their movements.
While in Virunga National Park, you can do this experience in the Tongo forest. The tracking sessions start very early in the morning, usually the time taken and distance moved in the Jungle depends on where these animals spent their last night.
Mountain Nyiragongo is an active volcano in the Eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo. It lies in the Virunga massif.
Hiking to the top of this volcano and observe boiling molten lava gush out of the earth crust is an unrivalled experience to remember for the rest of your life.
The expedition is done in two days and it includes one overnight stay at the top. The journey to the top is strenuous but rewarding once you make it up to the top.
With its diversity of birdlife, Virunga National Park is a destination not to miss for bird watching excursions in Democratic Republic of Congo.
It is recorded with over 706 species and you can sight some species like the grey throated barbet, narrow-tailed starling, African fish eagle, Madagascar bee-eater and more.