The Virunga National Park (Parc National des Virunga) of DRC, was started way back around 1925 and therefore one of the oldest National Parks in Africa. It is a world Heritage Center of UNESCO. Virunga National Park is habitat to about 22 primates with a quarter of the world’s surving mountain gorillas ( it’s the only portion of these endangered creatures distributed to Congo ) with the half found in Uganda and the remaining half of the 880 mountain gorillas eventually shared between Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National park and the Virunga National Park of Congo.
The Virunga National Park sometimes referred to as Parc National des Virunga), which was previously known as Albert National Park,is a very large premise covering an area of about 3,000 square meters.
The Virunga National Park covers a very wide area with in the Central African basin where it expands from the Southern Virunga Mountains, to the Northern Rwenzori mountains and eventually to the Eastern region of Democratic Republic of Congo. This National Park borders Rwenzori Mountain National park and Queen Elizabeth National Park of Uganda as well as Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda.
It is a bio diversified park with several wildlife and has been in existence since 1925 when it was established for the protection and conservation of wildlife species.
Virunga National was for quite some time , was nearing abandonment to the ongoing civil war which was taking place in the country claiming human lives and also disturbing the wild life habitat.
The recent records show that the park was reopened and growing big on the tourism market which makes it a great opportunity for the previously threatened wild life with the mountain gorillas inclusive. It holds a diversified tourism base with activities like wild life watching, birding, mountain gorilla trekking, primate watching with about 22 primate species.
Anyone planning a tour visit to Africa, Virunga National Park should be your number one choice for it is a wonderland for many travellers, this trip once taken; you will never ever regret it.
Previously, the political unrest with in the country together with poaching, have negatively impacted on the wildlife population within the park.
Despite all this, the Virunga National park has been resurrected and is managed by the Congolese National Park Authorities, the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and the Virunga Foundation, (the former Africa Conservation Fund (UK)). These, through their efforts have played a great role in the protection and conservation of wildlife at the park and hence developing and expanding the tourism industry in Congo. In their struggles, they also see to it that the endangered species of mountain gorillas too is under protection. A visit to the Virunga National Park can provide you with wild life watching, birding, mountain gorilla trekking, mountain and volcanoes climbing, fishing among others.
Best season for exploring the exceptional Virunga
Virunga National Park boasts of a mild weather of 16 to 24 Celsius degrees for areas in higher elevations and this means it is pleasant to make tours at any time of the year. However, the Park can also get hot with temperatures ranging between 23 and 28 Celsius Degrees in the dry season.
The dry season is surprisingly also the peak safaris months, and extend from June through September as well as December through February. These months are preferred because they favor most activities in Virunga National Park, that are mainly conducted on foot since the reduction in rains means forest floor or drier, not muddy or slippery.
While the gorilla treks, mount Nyiragongo Hikes and guided nature walks are undertaken year round, the wet season require extra consideration as travellers should be prepared for challenging treks, occasional falls and getting messy.
Getting to the Spectacular Virunga National Park
Travellers will need private transport means to get to Virunga National Park (from Rwanda’s Kigali and Uganda’s Bunagana) or Goma Town, after arrival through respective International Airports. Most travellers to the Park choose to begin their trips from Kigali City, 4-5 hours’ drive away. Because of the muddy and slippery roads in the wet season, 4X4 Safari vehicles are required for getting there or around this spectacular Congo National Park.
Where Do You Stay?
When visiting the Virunga National park you can choose on any accommodation you may desire to use; Mikeno lodge, Bukima Tented Camp, Nyiragongo Volcanoes Summit Shelters and Techengera Island Tented Camp. Mikeno lodge is one of the most beautiful lodges in Africa within the rain forest found in Rumangabo. It is a very spacious lodge with a wide verandah; very welcoming bedrooms with fire places and a very good hospitality staff that provide very good services.Here you can have a clear view on wildlife like monkeys, chimpanzees and even mountain gorillas among others.
Bukima Tented Camp is yet another welcoming lodge where you can stay during your trip to Virunga.It is the starting point of a mountain gorilla trekking trip and all other Virunga wildlife safaris and trips.It is designed with beautiful tents comfortable tents and with all the necessary requirements for a good night’s sleep. It also provides you with a good sight view of Mikeno Mountain. Though any visitor with their camping equipment are free to come along with them as this can help cut the costs while on trip in Africa. Nyiragongo Volcanoes Summit Shelters is yet another place where visitors can stay safely and peacefully. These shelters are a natural wonder found on the top of Nyiragongo Volcanoes next to the largest lava lake in the world. It’s only about an hour’s drive from Goma. However, when visiting Nyiragongo volcanoes and planning accommodation at this summit, one is advised to include all the cold weather gear in the package as it tends to be cold up there or even the rains can drop while on your trip.
Techengera Island Camp is another camping site on Lake Kivu shores that can provide you with a calm relaxing experience while at a trip to Congo or the Virunga National Park.