Virunga National Park

Welcome to the Virunga National Park in the Northern Province of Democratic Republic of Congo and this park is famously known for the mountain gorilla tours, Nyiragongo Hiking Tours, Chimpanzee Habituation Experience. Virunga vision has no changed at offering amazing Congo safari tours with the Eco – friendly Congo safari lodges and exclusive camps like Mikeno Lodge, Bukima Tented Camp, Kibumba Tented Camp, Lulimbi Tented Camp and the Tchegera Tented Camp famously known for the holidays.

About the Virunga National Park

In the forested depth of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo lies Virunga National Park one of the most bio-diverse places on earth and home to the planet’s last remaining mountain gorillas. Virunga National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, and borders Uganda as well as Rwanda. It is the oldest national park in Africa and the second oldest in the world after Yellowstone National Park. It is named after the Virunga Mountain range that lies in the south of the park. The park also stretches all the way north to envelop Lake Edward as well as the Rwenzori Mountains.

The history of the park affected the country, poaching depleted Virunga’s large mammal populations, infrastructure was destroyed and many rangers were killed, but thanks to the dedication of certain politicians, conservationists, park rangers and wardens, the park not only has survived, but is currently experiencing a dramatic renewal. The park was founded in 1925 by King Albert 1 of Belgium and originally known as Albert National Park, the first national park on the continent of Africa. It was founded primarily to protect the gorillas living in the forest of the Virunga Mountains controlled by the Belgian Congo, but later expanded north to include the Rwindi Plains, Lake Edward and the Rwenzori Mountain in the far north.

When the Belgians granted Congo independence in 1960 the new state deteriorated rapidly, in the process it was renamed Virunga National Park and the first Congolese Wildlife Authority was established now called ICCN. Foreign investment helped to improve the park’s infrastructure and training facilities and the park became a popular destination for tourists, receiving on average 6500 visitors a year. New tourist activities are being developed in the park, including the habituation of chimpanzees in the Tongo forest and high-end lodge conveniently located near the centre of the three main tourist attractions in the southern sector, north of north of Goma.

Biodiversity of the park

The park boasts an astounding biodiversity due to the large variety of habitats it offers. In the southern sector the mountain gorillas attract most attention but the montane forests are also home to other primates such as chimpanzees, Golden monkeys, Blue monkeys and Black and White Colobus monkeys, plus forest elephants and buffaloes are also found in this area as well as the shy golden cat.

The central area of the park consists mostly of savannah with species such as lion, leopard, Kob, hyena, Topi, warthog among others. The lake, once containing the largest population of Hippo’s, is now slowly regenerating after many troubled years and Hippo’s and Crocodiles are once again a common sight. In the North of the park in the deep Congolese forest the most elusive of African creatures is found: the Okapi.

Accessibility to the park

There are only two routes that a tourist can access to reach Virunga National Park and these include;

Via Uganda, cross the border in Bunagana, from where the Mountain gorilla sites Jomba and Bikenge are easily accessible within 1 hour.

Via Rwanda, cross the border at Gisenyi/Goma, the border crossing is easy if you pre – arranged a visa, if not it will be difficult or expensive.

Tourist attractions in the park

Mountain gorillas

The mountain gorillas live in Virunga mountain ranges, which are shared by Volcanoes National park in Rwanda, Mgahinga National park in Uganda and Virunga national park in DR Congo. Mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park are a source of tourism attraction under ICCN. In the process of conserving mountain gorillas, the other subspecies of eastern and western gorillas in DRC have also received conservation attention including other wildlife that share habitats with mountain gorillas which has made diversity of wildlife relevant besides gorillas.

Mount Nyiragongo

Mount Nyiragongo is an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 3,470 metres in the Virunga Mountains associated with the Albertine Rift. It is located inside Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, about 20 km (12 mi) north of the town of Goma and Lake Kivu and just west of the border with Rwanda. Lava flows through down town of Goma and reaches Lake Kivu, only to 150 km depth. The most recent large eruption of Nyiragongo occurred in 2002 where 147 people killed. During this eruption lava flows moved through the city of Goma on the shores of Lake Kivu destroying 13% of the city and approximately 12,000 to 15,000 homes displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Chimpanzees in Tongo Forest