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.

Uganda: Birders’ Paradise

Uganda is one of the countries blessed with different kind of birds. The country accommodates about half of the total African bird species and it has attracted a lot of safaris in Uganda. Uganda has rich diverse habitats for birds. Most of Uganda birds are found in forested areas, national parks and wetland areas.

kazinga-channel-birding

In 2012, Uganda was voted the best birding destination by African bird club with Bwindi national park being number one birding sight and Murchison falls national park being number nine. Uganda safaris offer tourists the best opportunity to sight half of the African bird species found in her rich habitats. Ranging from wetlands to savannah areas, different bird species can be spotted.

Most tourists interested in birds travel to Bwindi impenetrable national park that is also famously known for gorilla trekking in Uganda, Murchison falls national park, Kazinga channel in Queen Elizabeth national park and other habitats to identify the different species of birds. Uganda safari also offers tourists to sight beautiful and colourful birds at Bigodi wetland sanctuary.

The bird species recorded in Uganda includes a total of 1,061 species, of which two are endemic and four are rare species. These birds include the ostriches the largest bird in the world, the rare shoebill stork, flamingos, geese, ducks and swans, secretary bird, doves, parrots, cuckoos, turacos, red bishop marabou stocks, bee-eaters, among others.

Ostriches are the largest flying less bird native to Africa. In spite of them not able to fly, they can run at a very fast speed and in long distance because they have a distinctive appearance. Their long neck and legs help them to run in high speed. Ostriches are found in Kidepo valley national park one of the savannah parks in Uganda. Enjoy bird watching which is one of the major activities offered to tourists on Uganda safaris to the different national parks and have a word to gossip back home.

The rare shoe bill storks are the most humble birds found in Murchison falls national park. Most of the tourists during their safaris to Uganda enjoy the sight of this beautiful bird. Visit Uganda the paradise of birds and have a chance to sight the different bird species of your interest.

The Batwa Trail Experience in Uganda

For quite a long time till of late when the Batwa the pygmy community were displaced from the thick rain forests of Bwindi and Mgahinga in south western Uganda that are famously known for mountain gorilla trekking safaris. The forests where a self contained home to these pygmies, they got fundamentals of life right in the Forest, for example shelter, sustenance by hunting, medicine by use of traditional herbs.

The Batwa People (Pygmies)

The Batwa People (Pygmies)

Who are the Batwa Pygmies?

The Batwa are the group of the hunting people who lived all their lives hunting animals and gathering fruits and honey for nourishment. The Batwa come form the word ‘twa’ which implies dwarf and additionally refers to short forest people who lived in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks bordering Rwanda & Democratic Republic of Congo. By stature, the Batwas are noticeably short something like 4feet in tallness and carried on with a Stone Age life. They hunted small animals using poison bows and arrows. They also lived in small shelter made with leaves between big tree limbs for protection from predators. They use to move place to place within the forest in search for food, water and new homes, that is to say they where nomads in nature. They used hard wood and stones to light fire, cutting and digging.

How the Batwa life changed?

In the end Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla Forest were gazetted into National Parks in 1992 deliberately to secure the rare and endangered mountain gorillas yet this was not in the favour of the Batwa people who knew no other home however the Forest, they had to begin a whole new life from what they were using to for eras. Great news is much as they can no more leave in the forest, they have an opportunity to go back this time an income generating visit to the forest throughout the Batwa trail when they get to demonstrate to tourists how they once lived.

What happens during the Batwa Trail?

This activity was a thought of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), the seniors dressed backcloth heads you to the forest to the trails they once knew and reveal to you how they lived in the woods, you get to see their small shelters, show how they hunted and lit fire, how they used herbs for medicine, and this adventure ends at the holy Ngarama Cave which was a palace for their King.

This is the thing that you will encounter.

Spooky singing echoes in the Ngarama Cave enjoy traditional exhibitions, a forest stroll with amazing perspectives of the national park, watch how fire is lit without a matchbox or lighter and so much more.

Why your Visit is Important

By tourists taking this activity, you significantly help the welfare of the Batwa people. In the first they feel at euphoria when they come back to the forest their former home this gives them affectionate memories and satisfaction. Also the fee you pay goes back to the community helping to enhance the standard of living by building and maintaining schools, hospital and clinics, water and sanitation projects.

Thirdly all pygmies who partake in the Batwa trail activity whether by guiding or making exhibitions are paid, this method they earn a living and to cater to families. It’s extremely significant that when you arrange a cheap Uganda safari try to include the Batwa trail, your visits means a lot to this community or forest exiles.

For more information about The Batwa People and tours in Uganda and Rwanda, contact African Jungle Adventures, the official sponsors of this article, and specialists in Uganda Rwanda gorilla safari Adventures. They are located on Kampala and Kigali. Email: info@rwandasafarigorilla.com, Website: http://www.rwandasafarigorilla.com, Tel: +256-772561508

Packing List for your Gorilla Trek in Rwanda

Travelers many times don’t understand what it means when we talk of packing list for your gorilla tour in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, however if you are planning a gorilla trek in Rwanda you must dress smartly while on your gorilla trek. The experience of gorilla trekking is so adventurous and as a fact you must prepare the appropriate clothes as well as safari gear for your safari. Most of the time tourists fail to notice the packing list and end ruining their tour. You must note that tracking involve passing through muddy and thick forest and some times meeting gorilla may take a half or full day in jungle as meeting them depends on where they spent the previous day from.

Hiking through the thick vegetation is exhausting and so don’t expect a smooth road, the terrain is rough so a sturdy pair of shoes is recommended. in such a back ground many visitors often dress the way they want, some putting on sandals, shorts, t-shirts, no bags and no water bottle to cool their throats. This kind of dressing is wrong for your trip and you may come out of the forest with a lot of crashes on your body, since it’s not a picnic you are going for; you must take time and think about what is expected on your safari and what not. It must be at the back of your mind that volcanoes National Park is a high attitude and its weather is hard to predict. It is always cold in the morning and in the evening and it can rain at any time therefore appropriate clothes will make your trail comfortable. Gorilla tracking is regarded the number one interesting and memorable activities in the volcanoes national park so you are recommended to do it in the best way possible.

The following are the packing list in the preparation of gorilla safari.
Hiking shoes/ Boots; these are very essential on a gorilla safari and it must be packed first before anything else. Without a good pair of hiking boots/ shoes, your trek may not be exciting as you may not be comfortable in the forest. The ground is rough and sometimes muddy in cases where it rains so without strong shoes it may make tracking very difficult. You will see rangers with rubber boots, gumboots and not sandals. They also want to feel comfortable since they know what it means being in the forest while on a search of these our close relative gorillas. Try also to carry light-weight boots to offer appropriate support for your ankle as well as balance. You are not advised to carry new shoes try to wear it before your trip. A good pair of socks will also be needed. The experience is rewarding when you set your eyes on the great mountain gorillas.

Bag; in order to enjoy your gorilla tracking the most, you must also poses a suitable day pack. As the hike involve moving through the forest and you have accessories like camera, note book, rain jack, bottled water and some times packed lunch and many others, the bag does it the best as you will pack all those in a bag and start the search for gorillas in their natural habitat. Since it’s hard to predict the weather, it would be better if you bought a waterproof day pack.
Jeans, Long-sleeved shirt and Trousers are recommended on a gorilla track: when you’re organizing your gorilla safari pack the best travel wear. Long sleeved shirts/blouses and Jeans or trousers are recommended for a tour in Africa since tracking is in the jungle and on foot. These protect you against vines, nettles branches as well as thorns. Remember to maintain these in natural colors, a long sleeved shirt will be good if it’s in cotton; this will provide warmth and still protect your skin.

Rain Jacket and Safari Hat; these are a must pack due to the fact that African weather is subjected to change at any time, a rain just is very important as it can rain while in the jungle. In case you forget, it can ruin on you during your safari yet it’s always very good to go on safari and come back when satisfied. A safari hat is a must, it’s the only way you will avoid the boiling sun of Africa. Wearing hat will simply make you a smart tourist and it indicates that really you’re a traveler don’t forget it.

Walking stick, Bottled water and Pack lunch; due to the fact that meeting the gorillas may take quite long it may go to a half or full day in the forest searching for gorillas, meeting them depends on where they spent the last night from, it is always advisable to go with packed lunch and bottled water to get more energy for tracking. Walking stick is given to you at the park headquarters or at the lodge to support you as you hike through the thick vegetation.

Sunglasses and Insect repellent: sunglasses are good especially when on a game drive to spot wildlife and even when in the forest, as this protect you from the sun. Insect repellent is highly needed to be packed as there are a lot of mosquitoes in Africa which may cause fever and this may disorganize your safari. When it gets in the evening, you can spray your clothes or body to avoid them.

Garden Gloves

Garden gloves are also necessary to protect your hands during gorilla trekking, as in the forest it can get slippery and even you can tough or hold some plants, trees. These gloves will therefore protect you from germs and other items that may scratch your hands.

If you follow the packing list you will enjoy your Rwanda adventurous safari in the suitable way