Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park Rwanda is the most sought after protected area and national park in the Congo, having thousands of travelers after authentic jungle adventures in Africa visiting. Virunga National Park is the oldest national park in Africa established in 1925, still wild and not so much exploited, still rewarding travelers with that authentic jungle feel uninterruptedly. Virunga National Park is a true African gem that is barely known and appreciated by travelers due to a number of reasons, and yet rewards those that are able to visit with some of the best jungle experiences they could get.
Virunga National Park is located in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, just near the border of Uganda and Rwanda, with which the park is a park of the larger Virunga Massifs which stretch to the other two countries. Virunga National Park is most visited for one particular reason among others; the mountain gorillas. Virunga National Park is one of the only three countries in the world to inhabit the endangered mountain gorillas which are protected in the four mountain gorilla destinations which are Virunga National Park in the Congo, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda all three making part of the Virunga Massifs, and also in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda which actually hosts more than half the total world population of mountain gorillas.
Attractions in Virunga National Park
Whereas it is the gorillas that bring travelers to Virunga National Park, there are a number of other attractions in Virunga National Park that travelers can encounter and they include;
Virunga National Park is one of the only four areas where mountain gorillas can be found in the wild. It is the mountain gorillas which bring a number of travelers to visit Virunga National Park. Virunga National Park has about 8 habituated gorilla families which travelers can visit with gorilla trekking safaris in the park, giving travelers an opportunity to encounter the gorillas in their natural habitat.
Virunga National Park hosts 5 of the 8 Virunga volcanoes. The volcanoes in Virunga National Park include Mount Nyiragongo which stands at 3470m, Mikeno Volcano which stands at 4437m, Mount Nyamulagira with an elevation of 3058m, Mount Sabinyo which stands at 3645m and Mount Bisoke which stands at 3711m above sea level. These Virunga volcanoes can be hiked, rewarding travelers with magnificent views.
Virunga National Park is indeed a birder’s haven. Travelers after spotting a variety of bird species should consider visiting the Congo and Virunga National Park in particular. There are 706 bird species recorded in Virunga national Park, making the park a true birder’s paradise with keen birders being able to spot even more than 100 bird species in a day with the help of a knowledgeable bird guide. If birds are what you are most interested in to give you reason to visit Africa, then Virunga National Park Congo should be your destination.
Other animals in Virunga National Park
Apart from mountain gorillas which are an endangered species that is sought after by many travelers, there are other animals in Virunga National park which travelers can encounter while in the park. With about 218 mammals in Virunga National Park, travellers are sure to enjoy their stay while in the park. Some of the animals in Virunga National Park that travelers can encounter include forest elephants, okapis, and chimpanzees, among so many others.
Activities in Virunga National Park
Gorilla trekking is the most done activity in Virunga National Park. Gorilla trekking is an activity that involves travelers hiking through the Virunga terrain in search of the mountain gorillas. gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park starts as early as 7am with a briefing about what to expect while gorilla trekking. After, travelers do embark on the search of gorillas in their natural habitat having been placed in groups of 8 and allocated a gorilla family. Gorilla trekking can take anything from 30 minutes to 4 hours or more depending on the location of the gorillas and the terrain. Once travelers do encounter the gorillas, up to one hour only is allowed in the presence of the gorillas. After, you get to trek back to the start of the gorilla trek making the gorilla trekking adventure come to an end. While gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park, travelers re advised to look out for other animals in Virunga National Park like baboons, chimpanzees among others.
To be able to take part in gorilla trekking, travellers need to purchase gorilla trekking permits which cost only USD400 per person per trek, the cheapest gorilla trekking price if compared to USD700 for gorilla permits in Uganda and USD1500 for Rwanda gorilla permits. Booking gorilla permits for gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park should be done in advance to secure your pass.
Hiking Mount Nyiragongo
Hiking Mount Nyiragongo is the second most done activity in Virunga National Park. Mount Nyiragongo is an active volcano which actually recently erupted, and has the world’s largest lava lake at the summit. Hiking Mount Nyiragongo has travelers enjoying great views and also satisfaction of a watching a lava lake in the summit.
With a variety of birds in Virunga National Park, bird watching is one of the activities in Virunga National Park which travelers who do visit Congo can do. Bird watching has travelers hiking through the park thereby getting an opportunity to appreciate the park even the more. Be sure to get a good bird guide as well as carry a good pair of binoculars.
Visiting Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage
The Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage is a Centre set up just near Mikeno Lodge, where orphaned and rescued gorillas from poaching activity and the like are kept and taken care of. Travelers can visit the Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage and take part in caring for the gorillas.
When to visit Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park can be visited all throughout the year. The best time to visit Virunga National Park is however during the dry season which is also the peak season of travel. The dry season is the best time to visit Virunga National Park especially for gorilla trekking and hiking Mount Nyiragongo as well as mountain climbing of the other volcanoes in Virunga National Park. Travelers after birding safaris in Virunga National Park Rwanda are however advised to visit during the rainy season especially in November and April when there are migrant birds in the park. Travelers are advised to remember that Virunga National Park is a mountainous tropical rainforest which literally receives rainfall at any one point in time, even during the dry season. Packing warm clothes and waterproof items like hiking shoes and rain jackets is advised.
How to get to Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park can be reached easily, by both air and road. By air, travelers can fly into Goma airport using airlines like Ethiopian airlines, Turkish airlines, and then be transferred from Goma airport to Bukima, the headquarters of Virunga National Park and where most activities like gorilla trekking do start from.
By road, travelers can use different routes to get to Virunga National Park. travelers from Uganda can easily connect from Kisoro town through Bunagana border though considered quite risky due to security reasons, travelers can however choose to use the commonly used route which is from Kigali Rwanda, by travelers flying into Kigali International Airport and then transfer to Virunga National Park by road through Gisenyi and then to Goma and finally to Bukima. It is about 4 hours from Kigali International Airport to Gisenyi town, and 2 hours from Goma to Bukima, making it a total drive time of about 6-7 hours through some really scenic areas of especially the rolling hills of Rwanda.
Virunga National Park is a wonderful barely exploited tropical rainforest which inhabits some of the last living mountain gorillas which travelers do come from far and wide to encounter with gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park safaris. Along with the active Nyiragongo Mountain, s well as the various plant life in the park and birds, Virunga packages are some of the best Congo safari tours to take for an opportunity to explore the park and all that there is. Get time to interact with reputable tour operators to help you put together an amazing Africa safari tour visiting Virunga National Park in the Congo.