Virunga National Park

Virunga national park was gazette 1925 and is known to the oldest national park in Africa situated with in Democratic Republic of Congo in the border with Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda and Volcanoes national park in Rwanda which are known for harboring the endangered mountain gorillas and the volcanoes. In the year 1979, Virunga was termed as a world heritage site to ensure total protection of the endangered mountain gorillas from extinction. Virunga is located in north eastern part of the Congo covering a landscape of 7,900Km2.  The park thrills with different species of wildlife including Mountain Gorillas, elephants, antelopes, warthogs, and several species of birds. The park also harbors stunning volcanoes such as Mount Nyiragongo, Mount Nyamulagira, Mount Karisimbi, Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Bisoke and Mount Mikeno some of these mountains exist inside Virunga national park while the rest are shared with other parks in different countries. Out of which two are still active and the remaining 4 are dormant. 

Tourist attractions in Virunga national park

Virunga national park is blessed with a lot of tourist attractions including wildlife species, flora species and different volcanoes among others.

Wildlife in Virunga national park

Gorillas: Virunga national park is amongst the 34 destinations in Africa to harbor endangered mountain gorillas with the remaining  population of mountain gorillas distributed in Uganda with in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park and  also with in Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. Democratic Republic of Congo is blessed with two species of gorillas with Eastern lowland gorillas found in Kahuzi Beiga national park and Mountain gorillas in Virunga implying that tourists can trek both species of gorillas though the eastern lowland gorillas are abit common than the mountain gorillas that still exist in only 3 countries and 4 parks in the whole world. Apart from Gorillas, Virunga is also a home to other primate species chimpanzees which are available for trekking in Mahura forest or at the sanctuary, other primates include; Monkeys, Baboons, Chimpanzees etc.

Mammals: Virunga national park is also a home to some mammals though it doesn’t offer game drives due to the nature of the park thus the only way to encounter these mammals id during the guided nature walks, gorilla trekking and volcanoes hike. Some of mammals spotted include Elephants, Hippos, Lions, buffaloes etc.

Birds: Virunga national park thrills with over 700 species of birds that are usually seen roaming the forested areas, near the water bodies, and in the slopes of the volcanoes as seen while on hiking safari. Other wildlife spotted in Virunga include reptiles, Amphibians, Butterflies and many more

Tourist activities in Virunga national park

Gorilla Trekking in Virunga National Park: Being a home to endangered mountain gorillas, gorilla trekking in Virunga lasts from 1 hour to 8 hours or even a full day and it allows only 8 people per habituated gorilla family as long as the trekkers are above the minimum age of gorilla trekking which was set at 15 years and above. The maximum time allowed to stay with gorillas in Virunga national park is just one hour like any other parks and the gorilla trekking permit costs $400 during high seasons and $200 during low season making it the cheapest gorilla permit in Africa as the permit to trek similar gorillas costs $700 in Uganda to trek gorillas in Mgahinga gorilla national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park and $1500 in Rwanda to trek gorillas in Volcanoes national park.

Volcano hiking in Virunga national park: Virunga offers fascinating volcanoes hiking safaris which leads to different stunning destination. With 6 volcanoes thrilling in Virunga out of which only 3 can be hiked from Congo while the rest are hiked from Rwanda and Uganda sides. Out of the 3 volcanoes hiked in Virunga Mount Nyiragongo and Mount Nyamulagira are active volcanoes while Mount Mikeno is a dormant volcano. The frequently hiked volcanoes in virunga is Mount Nyiragongo to spot the glowing lava lake at the summit though other volcanoes are also worth a hike duo to the beautiful attractions including a clear view of the entire virunga park from above, a view of the stunning lava lakes, a view of the nearby volcanoes, an encounter with primates such as Gorillas, Baboons, monkeys and mammals such as Elephants. Volcano hiking permit costs $75 per person.

Chimpanzee trekking in Virunga national park: Virunga offers chimpanzee trekking with Mahura forest which allows tourists to trail via different trails with in the forest while searching for habituated chimpanzees and upon landing on the chimpanzees, only one hour is allowed for trekkers to interact with the chimpanzees. The minimum age limit for chimpanzee trekking is 12 years, unlike gorilla trekking whose age limit is 15 years. There is yet a fascinating visit to Lwiro chimpanzee sanctuary where the orphaned chimpanzees that were rescued from poachers are being protected in their natural habitats with in Virunga. The cost of a chimpanzee trekking permit in virunga national park costs $100.

Chimpanzee trekking in Virunga
Chimpanzee trekking in Virunga

Guided nature walks in Virunga national park: Virunga is not only known for gorilla trekking and volcanoes hiking but also offers the best walking trails that take tourists to explore different corners of the park while foot. Walking safaris in Virunga have to be guided at all the time for security and safety purpose. While on a nature walk, tourists get in contact with several species of fauna and flora. 

Birding in Virunga: Since Virunga is home to over 700 species of birds, this makes it a perfect destination for bird lovers.

Getting there,

Virunga national park is usually accessed either from Rwanda or from Uganda.

From Rwanda: tourist from Rwanda have to land at Kigali international airport in Kigali Rwanda and then drive to Gisenyi which is reached within 4 hours drive and then connect to Rwanda Congo border point for clearance before proceeding to virunga national park.

From Uganda: Tourists who intend to access Virunga have to land on Entebbe international airport and then take road transport from Entebbe to Kisoro and then connect Bunagana Uganda Congo border. This can be accessed either by using private vehicle or public transport from Kampala to Kisoro and then connect to the border point for check in and finally cross over to Virunga.

By air, Tourist who wish to reduce on the travel time may opt for a flight from Entebbe international airport or Kajansi airfield to Kisoro.

Accommodations in Virunga

Virunga has few accommodations but they are enough to cater for all their tourists depending of the pocket of the tourists ranging from Budget, Midrange and Luxury such as Kibumba tented camp, Mikeno lodge, Bukima tented camp, Lac Kivu lodge, Mount Nyiragongo Summit shelters, Lulimbi tented camp, Orchids safari club, Exodus Bukavu, Lakeside hotel Bukavu, Ngali lodge Virunga, Hotel Begonias, Lodge Coco among others.

Conclusion

All tourist activities in Virunga are protected by a convoy and the armed rangers to ensure security and safety of all tourists while on a safari to Congo.

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