Virunga National Park

Virunga national park is a magnificent national park in the Democratic republic of Congo bordering volcanoes national park in Rwanda, Rwenzori and Queen Elizabeth national parks in Uganda covering an area of 7,800 kilometers squared. The park is named after the virunga volcanoes found in the vast southern ends of the park.

Virunga national park was established in 1925 by King Albert 1 of Belgium with an aim of protecting the endangered mountain gorillas and was made a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979; it was the first national park to be established in Africa boasting with largest larva lake in the world and home to the world’s rare mountain gorillas. The park is characterized by rainforests, Savannah vegetation, glaciated peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains, swamps, lava plains and valleys.

Virunga national park is very rich in biodiversity with two of the world’s most active volcanoes “Nyirangongo” and “Nyamuragira”. The park was also formerly known as Albert national park as being its first name before president Mobutu renamed it after Independence.

Virunga national park has greatly been affected by poaching and the civil Congo war plus other rebel groups leading to the decline of tourist’s visits as well as wildlife. In fact when president Mobutu lost power around mid 80s the park greatly suffered infrastructure was burnt down, rangers were killed and heavy poaching occurred even UNESCO changed its status to one of the world’s endangered heritage sites but today, the park is greatly recovering from its past loss.

Activities at virunga national park

Gorilla trekking

Virunga national park is home to a quarter of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas and gorilla trekking is the main tourist’s activity in the park. Tourists can also come across other primates during the trekking such as; chimpanzees, black and white colobus monkey, olive baboons, blue monkey and many more. The best place for this activity is in the southern sector of the park.

Wild life viewing

Apart from gorilla trekking being the main tourists activity tourists can go for game drives and view animals such as; African elephants, buffalos, topi, warthogs, hippopotami, lions, kob, okapi, giraffes among others.

Bird watching

At virunga national park you can be awakened by the chattering of birds as early as 5am in the morning some of the birds to see are, double toothed barbet, grey throated barbet, narrow tailed starling, Madagascar bee eater and yellow billed barbet to mention few.

Hiking

Tourists can hike up to the Nyirangongo and seethe largest lava lake in the world in its natural state and beauty, the peak provides striking views of the entire national park. Tourists can also hike the Rwenzori Mountains bordering Uganda boasting with various wildlife, plant species, glacial landscapes, birds and many more. Hiking normally take 4-6 hours depending on the fitness of hikers

Cultural experience​

Tourists can visit the people and know about their ways of life and living, one of the most recommended places to visit is Mount Hoyo where the famous pygmy people live known for their short statures, hunting and fruit picking. The pygmy people have maintained their culture being untouched with modernity they remain one of the world’s primitive people typically African. Mount Hoyo has also got enormous caves and magnificent waterfalls.

Fishing

Apart from wildlife viewing and bird watching tourists can engage in this recreational activity in the splendid Lake Edward that has several fish species fifty to have been recorded.

Where to stay

Accommodation at virunga national park varies from luxurious lodges, campsites, mid range and many more where to stay will depend on the tourists choice some of the accommodation units are: Mikeno lodge,

When to visit

Virunga national park can be visited all year round however, the best time is during the dry season when the Vegetation is not thick hence easy trekking and gorillas can easily be seen.

How to get there

Virunga national park can be accessed by road or air transport. By air, visitors always fly into to Kigali Rwanda and then take four hours drive through Goma/ Gisenyi most of the flights arrive late and the boarder doesn’t work 24/7 so spending a night in Kigali will be recommended. By road, the park can be accessed through Goma which is just 32 Kilometers.

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