Located between the Virunga and Rwenzori Mountains in Congo, the Virunga National Park is a protected landscape covering 3000 square miles of exceptional diversity. Set some 85 years back to be the nation’s first national park, Virunga is now a World Heritage Site although the civil war has swallowed many wild lives here.
Among the tourists, the park is famous for its poaching mountain gorillas and the diverse ecosystems such as the Lake Edward’s western shores of Lake Edward, grassland plateau, marshland, plains, mountains, alpine meadows, volcanoes such as Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira, lava plains, and glaciers. So, you are really bound to enjoy every bit of moment spent here, which will seriously get to you something new to see and do. Coming to the wildlife, the Virunga National Park is the home of several mammal, bird, and reptile species whose statistical figures with regards to the quantity are the highest as compared to the continent’s any other protected area.
Gorilla Trekking in Virunga National Park
A safari to see habituated gorilla families in the thick forest of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is ideally a lifetime experience. Mountain gorilla trekking in DRC is only conducted in the Virunga National Park, north of Kivu province and West of Goma Town. Virunga National Park covers an area of 7800 square kilometers making it one of the largest tropical rain forest protected areas with diversity of attractions. This park also refuges the Virunga Mountain ranges that are shared between DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. Mountain gorilla adventures in the Virunga National Park, is less exploited meaning visitors have a higher opportunity to experience the authentic African experiences.
Virunga national park boasts of its 8 (eight) habituated gorilla families that are tracked each day in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Gorilla trekking is one of the options that visitors can easily explore more about the daily behaviors of these dramatic apes in the wild. Globally, there are fewer than 900 mountain gorillas left with about 200 of them thriving within the jungles of Virunga National Park. The DRC is still recovering from political instabilities however; the Virunga national park is open for gorilla trekking and the permits are purchased at $400 per visitor. The permits are accessible officially and directly from Virunga’s website www.visitvirunga.org that works together with the Congolese Institute for Wildlife and Nature Conservation.
Besides the mountain gorillas, you can also look for savanna and forest elephants, Okapi, buffaloes, chimpanzees, giraffes, as well as endemic birds. For the bird lovers, the Virunga National Park is like a paradise with more than 700 species such as herons, darters, gulls, pelicans, weavers, warblers, egrets, ibisis, geese, ducks, bitterns, skimmers, cormorants, open bills, shoebills, francolins, and ospreys. To see these, look for wetlands and some dedicated areas by asking the park rangers. And then there is something for the botany lovers too: dense rain forest, mangroves, low level woodlands, additional savanna grasslands, and flooded forests.
High concentrations of wild animals can be seen along the rivers. In the savannah, you will be able to spot buffalo, elephant, antelopes, hippopotamus, lions, and various monkeys; while lower Rutshuru shows off several pelicans. The slopes of the park mountains as well as the Semiliki Valley houses chimpanzees, gorillas, and okapi.
Besides trekking, you can choose from a myriad of activities on your trip to the Virunga National Park; such as sand boarding, sky diving, and white water rafting for the adventurers and bird watching, hiking, and exploring the local culture for the leisure fans. Just remember that the adventure activities are optional and take them up only if you want a chill to run down your spine. While you are in this park, do spend some time to explore the adjoining Mount Hoyo zone as the home of the folks of the Bambuti Pygmy tribe, waterfalls, and caves.
Intense poaching for the meat industry to prosper as well as land invasions were recently on peak, but now are under control.
Reaching the park
It is easy to reach here from the nearby Kinshasa International Airport in not more than an hour.
The park is in the east region of the state, which has been characterized with a lot of civil unrest. So, always come here with a guided tour.