Must Do Tour Activities in Virunga National Park

Tourist Activities Within Virunga National Park Congo

When you mention Virunga National Park, many people will associate it with a place where Park rangers are always killed by poachers or rebels but what most people don’t know about it is the fact that it is one of the most biologically diverse Conservation Areas not only in Africa but in the whole World. You will be surprised that more than half of all of the biodiversity in Sub-Saharan Africa is found within this National Park much as it is also undeniable that it is also severely threatened by armed conflicts.

Established as Africa’s first National Park in 1925, it was originally known as Albert National Park and became a UNSECO World Heritage Site in 1979. Virunga National Park currently covers an area of 7800 square kilometers (780,000 hectares/3000 square miles) from the Virunga Mountains in the south to the extreme Rwenzori Mountains in the North but also borders Protected Areas of other countries like Queen Elizabeth and Rwenzori Mountains National Parks in Uganda and the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda.

Virunga’s exceptional biodiversity include several unique mammals especially the critically endangered mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, lions, leopards, giraffes, buffaloes, forest elephants and many others as well as bird species to look out for. On top of the flora and fauna, the site is also home to a number of Virunga Volcanoes including Nyamulagira, Karisimbi, Mikeno, Sabinyo and Nyiragongo, The Presence of the extraordinary wildlife and bird species as well as Virunga Volcanoes have made it possible for tourists to enjoy several activities that include;

  • Tracking The Mountain gorillas

It is obvious that mountain gorilla trekking is the main tourist activity undertaken by tourists who visit Virunga National Park. There are so far 6 habituated gorilla families (including Kabirizi, Lulengo, Rugendo, Mapuwa, Munyaga and Humba) within this immense park available for trekking thus over 48 gorilla permits are available daily for tourists. It should be remembered that Virunga National Park is one of the four Parks in the whole World where this activity can be enjoyed. Other gorilla safari destinations in Africa include Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, as well as the magnificent Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

  • Climbing/Hiking Mount Nyiragongo

Mount Nyiragongo is one of the active Volcanoes in Africa (having erupted more than 34 times with the recent ones being in 2002 when the Lava Lake drained and flowed to the surrounding communities) with a vast Lava Lake in the while World and tourists to Virunga National Park can not only see the wildlife species but also climb to the summits to enjoy its beautiful views. Mount Nyiragongo trekking is one of the most popular tourist activities to DR Congo Visitors and requires 2 days and 1 night at  the summit. Virunga management can pick you from Goma town hotel or Goma boarder to the trekking start point, and can arrange everything required to trekking Nyiragongo.

  • Bird watching

Did you know that Virunga National park is actually a home to over 780 species of birds? You will be mesmerized by the sights and sounds of the beautiful bird species when you rise up early in the morning at 5:00am. Some of the notable species not to miss in the Park include the Narrow-tailed Starling, African green broad bill, Yellow-billed Barbet, yellow crested helmet-shrike, Grey-throated Barbet, Congo peafowl, Madagascar Bee-eater and the Double-toothed Barbet among others.

  • Landscape Viewing

With its magnificent montane landscape and phenomenal vegetation, Virunga National Park can be visited for landscape viewing and photography. Notable spot for this activity include the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains, the eroded valleys of Sinda and Ishango regions, the Virunga Volcanoes and the Afro-Alpine vegetation of tree ferns and the thick forests. All these outstanding views offer tourists with breathtaking experiences since they don’t need to go to places physically but instead enjoy them from specific places in Virunga National Park.

  • Chimpanzee Habituation Experience

Much as this activity is not widely done as it is within Uganda’s Kibale National Park, it is an extremely interesting tourist activity within this National Park and was started in 1987 by a Zoologist named Frankfurt. This is where Chimpanzees are made familiar to the presence of humans and several tourists flock into the Park for this interesting experience.

Uganda recently introduced gorilla habituation experience in southern Bwindi Impenetrable National Park where each permit currently costs US$1500. This allows a maximum of 4 hour’s experience with the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat!

  • Nature/Forest walks

This National Park is comprised of a vast Tropical rain forest with thick vegetation that offers shelter to several wildlife species such as chimpanzees, Hippos, monkeys, forest buffaloes, forest elephants, leopards and giraffes that can be encountered by tourists during forest walks. There are different nature walk trails that tourists follow and they lead to different places in the Park.

From the discussion above, it is clear that Virunga National Park is a must visit while on a tour through Africa! For security purposes, you are advised to book your safari in DR Congo through local tour operators and you must first inquire about the political situation at that time. If you are planning a safari in neighboring countries like Ruanda and Uganda, you can add a few days in DR Congo’s Virunga massif for gorilla tracking, chimps habituation, excellent birding, forest walks and Nyiragongo mountain trekking among others.

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