Virunga National Park Travel Guide

Virunga National Park is Africa’s oldest national park, created in 1925, and it is one of the most popular in Africa. The Park boasts many amazing things that attract tourists from all over the world to go and enjoy them. Virunga is located in the eastern parts of Democratic Republic of Congo, about 32 kilometers away from Goma (the capital of North Kivu province, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo).

For tourists who would wish to travel to Virunga, here is some of the travel guide on what you should expect to see and what to pack: tourists should expect to see:

Mountain gorillas

Trekking the rare endangered mountain gorillas is the major activity done in Virunga national park and it is the reason as to why the Park is world-wide famous. The total number of mountain gorillas in the world is approximately 1000-plus gorillas which can only be found in four national parks Bwindi Forest National Park & Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (in south-western Uganda), Volcanoes National Park (in north-western Rwanda) and Virunga National Park (in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo). Interestingly visitors to Virunga will also have the opportunity to trek these rare apes. Congo gorilla permit is literally the cheapest as it costs only US$ 400 and this permit will be purchased for you by your beloved and chosen tour company such as Eco Tours Congo managed by Nature Adventure Africa Safaris Ltd. The above tour companies are among the best African tour companies to organize successful and enjoy gorilla safaris and all the gorilla trekkers who have booked with one of the above companies give positive testimonies about them.

Gorilla trekking in the Virunga National Park has some strict rules and regulations that are supposed to be followed by the gorilla trekkers on their Congo gorilla safari expeditions and these include; group size, the groups to trek per day as well as the time allowed spending with the mountain gorillas. Gorilla trekking is done in groups of 8 individuals per trekking group and trekkers will be allowed to spend one hour with the gorillas. While taking photos, trekkers are emphasized to use cameras without flashlights because the flashlights might scare the gorillas. Trekkers should also take a distance of at least 8 meters away from the gorillas while viewing them.

Other wildlife species to view in Virunga

Besides the trekking of mountain gorillas, guests to the Park will also view many other wild life species such as; common chimpanzees, buffaloes, Nile crocodiles in the Semliki River, duikers, African bush elephants, water bucks, common warthogs, African leopards, hippopotamuses, golden monkeys, blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, Central African Red Colobus, Dent’s mona monkeys, topi, mantled guereza, Okapi, Hamlyn’s monkeys, olive baboons, giant forest hogs, and red-tailed monkeys among others.

The Park is also a perfect destination for birding and birders will view a variety of bird species such as the Albertine Rift’s endemic birds which include; Rwenzori Turacos, Rwenzori batis, Archer’s ground robin, red-throated alethe, Kivu ground thrush, collared apalis, mountain masked apalis, dusky crimson-wing, Shelley’s crimson-wing, red-faced woodland warbler, stripe-breasted tit, blue-headed sunbird, regal sunbird, Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, handsome francolin and strange weaver. Other birds in the Park also include; Wahlberg’s eagle, African goshawk, 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, and white-headed wood hoopoe, among others.

Other things to experience in Virunga include

NYIRAGONGO & NYAMULAGIRA VOLCANOES

Virunga national park consists of two active volcanoes which significantly shaped the national park’s diverse habitats and wildlife. The hike to Nyiragongo will offer you a lifetime experience because you will view a lot of interesting and unbelievable things especially at its summits. Nyiragongo boasts a large bubbling lava lake which offers good scenery at the summits. Its lava lake is most known for its volcanic activity in the recent times and the depth of the lake varies considerably. Nyiragongo is an active volcano which has erupted 34 times since 1882, and it last erupted in 2002. Nyamulagira on the other side is also an active volcano which has erupted for over 40 times since 1882 including the major one which occurred in 1938, when the southwest slope opened and the lava reached Lake Kivu to the south. Nyamulagira volcano for over years it has been regarded as the most active volcano in Africa.

LAKE KIVU

Lake Kivu is among the African great lakes lying on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and is in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift. Lake Kivu empties into the Ruzizi River, which flows southwards into Lake Tanganyika. The world’s tenth-largest island on a lake, Idjwi, lies in Lake Kivu, within the boundaries of Virunga National Park. Some of the activities guests will enjoy at the lake include methane extraction which occurs there, fishing, boat cruises and enjoying some of the fish species caught from Lake Kivu like Nile Tilapia, and cat fish, among others.

Some of Virunga national park’s accommodation

The Park comprises of various accommodations for visitors to stay as they enjoy the various activities done in the Park, and these include; Mikeno lodge, Lulimbi tented camp, Bukima tented camp, Kibumba camp, Tchegera Island tented camp and the Nyiragongo volcano summit shelters for the Nyiragongo hikers.

What to carry

Here is a list of what you should not forget on your packing list whenever you are going for a safari in Virunga national park; a Congo gorilla permit (it will be purchased for you by your tour agency and it will be given to you on your arrival), Nyiragongo hiking permit (which costs US$ 300), carry your yellow fever certificate because you will be charged US$ 70 at the Congolese border in order to make you one if at all you lack it, light hiking boots, garden gloves, rain jacket, long sleeved shirts/blouse, energy giving snacks, good cameras and extra charged batteries, pair of binoculars, hat and sunglasses, and porters especially for those who will hike Nyiragongo volcano.

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