Virunga National Park
Virunga national park is one of the amazing Congo safari destinations located in Democratic republic of Congo in eastern region bordering the Congo-Uganda border, Virunga park is the Africa’s oldest national park and the most biologically diverse protected area on the African continent that is why it is was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Virunga covers an area of 7800 square kilometers with landscape dominated by extensive savannah grasslands, densely forested volcanoes, eroded valleys and lava plains.
The park is famous for hosting the endangered mountain gorillas living on the high altitudes of the forested volcanoes, this park is part of the great Virunga conservation area consisting of other parks habiting the endangered mountain gorillas that are Mgahinga national park of Kenya and volcanoes national park of Rwanda. Mountain gorillas in Virunga park are uncountable but due to habituated process, there are currently 8 mountain gorilla groups which have been studied, research and trained to sustain the mountain gorilla trekking safaris in Virunga park. These include Kabirizi Gorilla Group, Humba Gorilla Group, Rugendo Gorilla Group, Mapuwa Gorilla Group, Lulengo Gorilla Group, Munyaga Gorilla Group, Nyakamwe Gorilla Group and Bageni Gorilla Group.
Virunga national park lies in the Virunga mountains chain and its landscape is dotted with 6 of the 8 Virunga volcanoes that are
- Mount Karisimbi at the elevation of 4,507 meters
- Mount Mikeno at the elevation of 4,437 meters
- Mount Bisoke at the elevation of 3,711 meters
- Mount Sabyinyo at the elevation of 3,674
- Mount Nyiragongo at the elevation of 3,470 and
- Mount Nyamuragira at the elevation of 3,058
Apart from mountain gorillas, Virunga national park is a habitat to numerous fauna specie, 196 mammal species, 109 reptile species, 65 amphibian species and over 706 bird species. Mammals in Virunga national park include common chimpanzees, red tailed monkey, Dent’s Mona monkey, Hamlyn’s monkey, De Brazas monkey, Central African red colobus, Olive baboon, grey checked mangabey, African bush elephant, hippopotamus, African buffalo, blue duiker, bay duiker, weyn’s duiker, yellow backed duiker, water chevrotain, red river hog and many more. Birds found in Virunga national park include turaco, Rwenzori batis, Archer’s ground robin, red-throated alethe, Kivu ground thrush, collared Apalis, mountain masked Apalis, dusky crimson-wing, Shelley’s Crimsonwings, red-faced woodland warbler, stripe-breasted tit, blue-headed sunbird, regal sunbird, Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, handsome Spurfowl and strange weaver, African hobby, harrier hawk, common buzzard, mountain buzzard, hadeda ibis, grey-crowned crane, black-and-white-casqued hornbill, black-billed turaco, African olive pigeon, tambourine dove, blue-spotted wood dove, red-eyed dove, brown-necked parrot, red-chested cuckoo, olive long-tailed cuckoo, barred long-tailed cuckoo, Klaas’s cuckoo, Diederik cuckoo, blue-headed coucal, Narina trogon, white-headed wood hoopoe, white-necked raven, white-tailed crested flycatcher, African paradise flycatcher, white-eyed Slaty flycatcher, African dusky flycatcher and many more.
SAFARI ACTIVITIES IN VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK
Virunga national park is an excellent destination to visit while on a Congo safari, this park offers memorable safari activities such as
Mountain gorilla trekking
Mountain gorilla trekking in Virunga national park is the highlight safari activity of this destination, Virunga national park is a renowned mountain gorilla trekking destination in Democratic Republic of Congo and Africa. Virunga national park is a home to a large concentration of mountain gorillas with 8 mountain gorilla family which a visited while on mountain gorilla trekking safari, these families include Kabirizi Gorilla group, Humba Gorilla Group, Rugendo Gorilla Group, Mapuwa Gorilla Group, Lulengo Gorilla Group, Munyaga Gorilla Group, Nyakamwe Gorilla Group and Bageni Gorilla Group. Mountain gorilla trekking in Virunga national park starts as early as 8:00 am from Bukima Patrol post with briefing, this safari offers one full hour in presence of the endangered mountain gorillas while taking pictures and observing the behavior of mountain gorillas. Mountain gorilla trekking safari is done only by trekkers with a mountain gorilla trekking permit which costs US$ 400.
Nyiragongo volcano hike
Nyiragongo volcano hike in Virunga park is done on Nyiragongo volcano standing at the altitude of 3470 meters above the sea level, this volcano is one of the world’s largest active volcanoes and consist of a lava lake at its summit. Hiking to the summit of Nyiragongo Volcano takes two days to reach the summit and hike back, this remarkable experience starts at Kibati patrol post and the hike to the summit takes about 4-6 hours. On the hike you spend the night at the summit and night you will enjoy the red flares of boiling lava.
The park is a primate paradise habiting more than the endangered mountain gorillas, in the forests of Virunga lives a concentration of chimpanzees. There are one habituated chimpanzee group which is tracked while in Virunga, chimpanzee tracking in Virunga national park was initiated by Zoologist Frankfurt in 1987. These chimpanzees are under the chimpanzee habituation program which aims at caring and bringing back chimpanzee in Virunga park forests, chimpanzee tracking safari in Virunga national park offers an incredible time in presence of chimpanzees and observe them live their daily life as they play tree branches, pick fruits and many more.
Nature walks and sightseeing
Virunga is an incredible site for nature walks safaris and sightseeing, the park comprises of spectacular landscape dominated with mountain volcanoes, eroded valleys, dense tropical forests and montane forests. Nature walks safaris in Virunga offers an opportunity to explore the landscape of the park and its amazing nature, nature walk safaris are done on a number of trails which run through the heavily forested volcanoes and hills and on the walk you enjoy sights of terns, birds and animals such as buffaloes, elephants, monkeys and hippopotamuses on the banks of Lake Edward.
Sightseeing safari in Virunga national park is a very incredible experience for nature lovers, this safari offers incredible views of green forested volcanoes, animals, forests, flowers and eroded valleys.
ACCOMMODATION IN VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK
The park comprises of safari lodges, camps and hotels offering accommodation to visitors of the park, accommodation in Virunga include Ngila lodge, Mount Kahuzi hotel, Lake side hotel Bukavu, Exodus Bukavu, Hotel Begonias, Lodge coco, Orchids safari club, Mikeno lodge, Lulimbi tented camp, Tchegera island camp, Mount Nyiragongo summit shelters, Kibumba tented camp and Bukima tented camp.
HOW TO GET TO VIRUNGA NATIONAL
Virunga is a very accessible mountain gorilla trekking destination and there are many ways to get to park, one of the mostly used way of getting to Virunga is by flying into Rwanda using Kigali international airport situated in Kigali city the capital city of Kigali. From Kigali city you embark on a drive of 4-5 hours to Virunga with border crossing at Gisenyi-Goma border, after crossing the border you register at Grande Barrier the head to the park which is in a distance of 15 kilometers.
Another used way to get to Virunga is using a direct flight to Democratic republic of Congo using Goma international airport, daily flights to Virunga national park are offered by Ethiopian airways then connect to the park by use of a vehicle.