Tourist activities in virunga national park
Tourist activities in virunga national park :Virunga national park is found in the eastern region of democratic republic of Congo (DRC) and lies in the Albertine rift valley, the park is one of the oldest protected areas in Africa gazetted in 1952 covering an area of 7,768.93 square kilometers. Virunga national park is a great ecological system created by a series of vegetation cover such as montane forests with over 3000 floral species, the park is also a habitant to the most endangered species of animals on earth that is the mountain gorillas and chimpanzees.
Virunga National Park is a fascinating and memorable tourist destination worth visiting, the park offers a couple of safari activities which are very amazing and memory offering to participate in while on your safari in the park. These activities include.
Mountain gorilla trekking
Mountain gorilla trekking is the main highlight of Virunga national park, Virunga national park is one a few remarkable areas in the world habiting the endangered mountain gorilla which are trekked on a mountain gorilla trekking safari. Gorilla trekking safari is a bit challenging expedition but very rewarding and memorable, the activity involves hiking through the hilly forested slopes of the park’s volcanoes searching for mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas in Virunga national park live and are found in groups which is an amazing sight to see and the park’s forested area are home to mountain gorilla with 8 habituated mountain gorilla groups such as 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 begins at Bukima patrol post and it is a trek of 2-6 hours depending on the location of the mountain gorillas and the family you are to trek, your head guide always has an idea of where the mountain gorillas are to be found. To participate in mountain gorilla trekking in Virunga national park you need to be in possession of a mountain gorilla trekking permit which currently costs USD 400 for an adult female and USD 150 for a Congolese citizen. Gorilla trekking only allows a group of 8 people per trekking.
Virunga national park is not only a habitant to mountain gorillas it is also a home to other primates including chimpanzees which live in the thick forests of the park, it is these beautiful chimpanzees which are searched for while on chimpanzee trekking experience. These chimpanzee trekked are habituated a process which start in February of 2014 and because of this successful experience these chimpanzees are used to human presence and less hostile to them unless they are provoked. Chimpanzee tracking in the forests of Virunga national park starts early in the morning with the intention of sighting the chimpanzee while in their nests, collecting fruits and feeding their young ones. Chimpanzee trekking is a very rewarding experience and each trek only 4 people are allowed to participate in the activity and they need to have a chimpanzee trekking permit.
For hikers, Virunga national park is a paradise for you, the park consists of two volcanoes that is mount Nyiragongo and mount Nyamuragira but it is only mountain Nyiragongo where hiking activity takes place. Mount Nyiragongo is a very magnificent feature covered with beautiful vegetation and consists of the world’s largest lava lake. The forested slopes of the mountain is a habitant to many animals such as chimpanzees, bush bucks which are encountered while hiking the volcano.
Hiking the summit of Nyiragongo begins at kibati patrol post which is a 30 minutes’ drive by car from Goma town and a drive of one hour from Rumangabo, the climbing usually starts at 10:00 am and climbing to the summit usually takes approximately 4-6 hours accompanied and led by park rangers. Virunga national park is a forested national park that is why rain is always expected, so as you are going for a hike it is better to carry warm clothing.
Guided nature walks
Virunga national park is a very fascinating destination consisting of many attractions including the green forest cover dominating the park, the park offers mind blowing nature walks which is one of the greatest ways to connect with nature. The park consists of many trails which are used on this activity and as you walk through the park you get to encounter many forest creatures such as chimpanzees, mountain gorillas and beautiful green vegetation of different kinds.
Virunga national park is a home to many bird species which habit in the forests of the park and easy to view while on bird watching safari in the park, bird watching activity in the park starts as early as 5:00 am in the morning and embark on your hike in to the park. As you hike through the forested park you get to enjoy the beautiful melodic sounds and views of birds with a help of binoculars and telescopes. Birds seen in Virunga national park include Grey-throated Barbet, Double-toothed Barbet, Yellow-billed Barbet, Madagascar Bee-eater, and Narrow-tailed Starling, white necked raven, black kite, paradise fly catcher, pin tailed whydah, speckled mouse bird, double collared sunbird, olive woodpecker, olive pigeon, blue headed coucal, alpine chat, dusky turtle dove, regal sunbird, stray seedeater, olive thrush, Rwenzori batis, bronze sunbird and many more.
Landscape viewing and photography
Virunga national park is dominated by a landscape dominated by volcanoes and valleys which are covered by montane and afro alpine forests which makes the park a perfect destination for landscape viewing and photography.
Visiting Senkwekwe orphanage centre
While on a safari in Virunga national park you can also visit Senkwekwe orphanage center, Senkwekwe orphanage center is located in Rumangabo near the headquarters of Virunga national park. This facility caters for orphaned gorillas and it was named in memory of a dominant silverback Rugendo who was assassinated in 2007 with other three mountain gorillas.
Senkwekwe orphanage center consists of 4 gorilla families which are catered for at the centre, these families include Maisha, Ndeze, Ndakasi and Matabishi. The centre also hosts rescued eastern low land gorillas. When visiting Senkwekwe orphanage center you engage in activities like feeding the gorillas and watching them play.
Accommodation in Virunga national park
In Virunga national park accommodation is got from mikeno lodge, Tchegera Island Tented Camp, Bukima Tented Camp, Lulimbi Tented Camp, Nyiragongo Volcano Summit shelters and many more.
How to get to Virunga national park
Virunga national park is a very accessible tourist destination in Congo easily accessed by both road and air, by road the park is accessed through Goma and Bunagana. Goma town is easily accessed from Kigali town which is about a 3 hours’ drive. By air you fly into Kigali using Kigali international airport then you drive crossing Gisenyi town to Goma or you can fly to Goma though there are few airlines operating flights to Goma airport.