Virunga National Park
Virunga national park, part of the Virunga conservation region, located in eastern DRC, bordering Uganda and Rwanda is one of the oldest protected wildlife area on the continent. The park which has been gazetted for wildlife since 1925 is known greatly for being a habitat for the endangered mountain gorillas along with other animals.
The park that sits on a total land area of 7800 sq Km, is made of an assortment of vegetation that include:- grasslands, swamps, woodlands, rain forests, block mountains, craters and wetlands. The mountains in the park are the Mt Nyiragongo and Mt Nyamuragira; these are both active volcanoes and Mt Nyiragongo’s recent eruption was in 2021.
Despite the political and security instabilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, people constantly folk the magnificent Virunga National Park to experience the park’s beauty and diversity. Virunga National Park is home to of course the endangered mountain gorillas, other primate species about 20 or more, 230 mammal species, 100 reptile species and over 700 bird species.
Persons visiting this park are usually interested in mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, birds and the Virunga Mountains.
On a visit to the park, you have a chance to take part in a variety of activities that include but are not limited to mountain gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking, bird watching, nature walks, Mountain climbing or hiking among other things.
Mountain gorillas are the major attraction in the park. The park currently has 6 habituated families that can be trekked all year round by tourists. Virunga offers the cheapest mountain gorilla trekking rates which are USD 400 compared to USD 1500 and USD 700 for Rwanda and Uganda respectively. Mountain gorilla trekking in Virunga is done all year round.
other animal exploring activities include Chimpanzee trekking, and mammal viewing of animals like the savannah Elephants, leopard, lions, giraffe, Kob, Bongo, okapi, Topi,etc.
On birding sprees you get to see several birds including forest, water, and savannah birds. Like the blue turacco, wattle billed stalk, Madagascar bee eater, albertine endemic birds, narrow tailed starling, grey throated barbet, African fish eagle among others among others.
Mt Nyiragongo hiking and nature walks are also very unforgettable experiences in the park. Getting up this active volcano and experiencing its beauty is every hiker’s delight. On your hike up the mountain you will have views of tropical forests with open grassland and wetlands, surrounding views of the Virunga region among other things.
Visitors going the Virunga National Park will have to endure a bumpy and rough ride to getting to this magnificent park. Because the DRC has had a fair share of war in almost all its years of existence, most of its infrastructure is not so developed especially the infrastructure out of the capital hence the bad roads to Virunga.
To access Virunga National Park, you will have to:-
- Fly into Kigali International Airport then connect to Virunga by road through the Gisenyi Rwanda – DRC border. When you cross into DRC you will driving past Goma town all through to the park headquarters. This journey from Kigali to Virunga can take between 5 to 6 hours.
- From Uganda you can connect to the park through the Bunagana Uganda – Congo border to enter DRC and then proceed to Virunga National Park
- Most people from Uganda however prefer to cross to Rwanda first connect to Gisenyi town then to DRC and proceed to Virunga. This is an ideal route but quite tiresome and the longest route. It takes travellers the entire day to make this travel.
You can visit Virunga National Park, any time of the year.