Virunga National Park-Gorilla trekking, chimp tracking & hiking/nature walk adventures
Tour Virunga National Park, the most evocative African destination, Steeped in legend and history, and the iconic features in Democratic Republic of Congo is waiting for you to explore its vast landscapes and the impressive sightings including; the endangered Mountain Gorillas, the famous Nyiragongo, golden monkeys, impressive chimpanzees among others.
Virunga National park formerly “Albert National Park” is known for its magnificent tropical Rain forest, as well as one of Africa’s first National park, covers a geographical landscapes of 7800 square kilometers about 3000 miles and is located in the Eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo stretching from the Virunga mountains in the south to the Rwenzoris in the North. The park also borders both Rwenzori and Queen Elizabeth national parks in Uganda.
Virunga National Park As a World Heritage Site
Virunga obtained the acknowledgement of UNESCO world Heritage site since 1979.Thanks to the exceptional natural heritage and the good ecosystems state of conservation integration of mountaineering and trekking adventures and to its role as cross border protected area with Rwenzori National park, and volcanoes national park.
Besides, the park is now managed by the Congolese National Park authorities , the institute congolais pour la conservation de la nature(ICCN) and its partner, the virunga foundation, formerly known as Africa Conservation Fund in UK.
Visiting the Virunga National Park is invariably a wonderful outdoor experience that includes: untouched tropical rain forest , Home to Mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, Eastern Chimpanzees, hiking tracks, thousands of species of birds and other wildlife, and excellent ecological information about the world’s most diverse ecosystem i.e. just about everything an adventure lover could ask for. However, The Park also contains important concentrations of wildlife, notably forest elephants, Hippos, Okapi, Lions ,buffaloes, Thomas kobs, and the largest concentration of hippopotamuses in Africa, with 20,000 individuals living on the banks of Lake Edward and along the Rwindi, Rutshuru and Semliki River.
How best can you get to Virunga National park
Road transport among other options of Air and Water is one of the best ways to leisurely explore this park. If you are really short of time, a day in Virunga National park can give you a glimpse of much that is here to be explored, but to truly experience and absorb this region we realy hope you stay for several days .
Located in Goma, Virunga National Park can easily be accessed in various ways each of which has a different cost implication. Virunga National park is easily combined with a number of trips including Nyiragongo volcano hike, Trekking gorillas, chimp habituation, nature walks among others between the countries of Uganda and Rwanda.
Flights to Goma international airport and to Africa has now become more accessible in the recent years compared to other past years with the Ethiopian Airlines as the best option. Goma international airport is the main airport upon which every flight lands, although it was heavily affected by eruptions in 2002 and was later developed to enhance the tourism industry in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most flights to Virunga are always scheduled for once every week especially Ethiopian air lines and all travelers are therefore urged to take their return flights from Rwanda since it won’t be possible from Goma unless you opt to take your flight back after seven days.
NB.Please not that all flights to Goma are conducted by the Ethiopian Airlines (most reliable fglight) and all those returning from Goma international airport are subjected to Value Added Tax and airport charges rated at $$50 us dollars
As mentioned before, Road transport remains the only best way to explore the landscapes and the terrain of Congo. It always takes a bout 5-6 hours drive from Kigali international airport to either goma or gisenyi border crossing. Most planes reach Rwanda Kigali international airport in the afternoon which then calls for spending a night in Rwanda and leaving for Congo the next morning since the border does not operate on a 24/7 basis.
Located 32km West of Goma town, the capital of North Kivu, transpotation from Goma to the base of Virunga can only be arranged by trusted tour operators or local car rental companies. It is from these trusted tour companies that you will be able to obtain your Visa for border crossing as road transport offers the following route options to the small town of Goma.
Rwanda to Gisenyi.
Gisenyi being the closest town to Goma, it is proven that a bout four hours is spent to travel from Kigali International airport to gisenyi after which another one and half hours drive will be spent to reach the park headquarters.
From Bukavu Town
Yes you are already in Congo. Bukavu town is just a few hours away from Virunga national Park along the road connecting the two kivu town. From Here, it also takes about 5 to 6 hours to drive from Bukima through the magnificent landscapes of while the company of the lac Kivu will provide offers stunning views.
From Kisoro-Uganda Border
This route is quite tiresome and all visitors using this route are subjected to spend a night at kisoro before setting off the next morning for Democratic Republic of Congo crossing via Bunanagana border after which about 30 minutes drive will then lead you to Bukima where Gorilla trekking is done for gorilla groups.
Most Vacationists to Congo include both Virunga and Kahuzi Biega National Parks as part of their bucket list adventure destinations yet they are connected by the mighty lake Kivu and the only way to cross over is by using the ever available speed boat.
This decision becomes the best for those who opt to either extend there Congo safari after trekking gorillas from Bukavu in Virunga National park. There are two companies operating these boat rides from Bukavu to Goma at an affordable fee of $$50 per ride, although it takes 4-5 hours.
Attractions in Virunga National Park
Due to its unique Landscape, Virunga National Park becomes the most famous home to the three big ape species living in the same territory including Mountain gorillas, Eastern lowland gorillas and chimpanzees whilst other wildlife species are also included such as Lions, Elephants, hippos, Buffalos, Antelops, Kobs, water bucks topis, among others. This result clearly explains that Virunga national Park is home to 218 mammal species, 109 reptiles, 78 amphibian species, 22 primates not forgetting 706 bird species , 24 of which are limited to the range of Virunga including; Herons, Ibisis, egrets, duck, geese, cormorants, skimmers, open bills, ospreys, shoebills, francolins, gulls etc…
Activities in Virunga national park
Situated at an adjoining point of the range of the geographical zones, Virunga still offers a great deal of reach biodiversity .Virunga together with Mgahinga and Volcanoes national park features a count of 480 mountain gorillas slightly more than half of the world’s mountain gorillas.
Gorilla trekking is the main tourism activity in Congo and Virunga counts amongst the four national parks with the surviving mountain gorillas. The park consists of eight gorilla families all of which are exposed for trekking with Kabirizi being the largest group with 32 individual gorillas while others include; Rugendo, Manyaga, Mapuwa, Lulengo among others.
Trekking gorillas is so interesting that the activity starts in the morning, with carrying capacity of members per group per family taking a time range of about 30mins to 6 hours each day depending on the location of the group at an affordable rate of $$400 per person.
Like gorilla trekking, Chimp Habituation is also another thrilling activity in Virunga National park. Although it was introduced by zoologist frunkfirt, Chimp habituation builds a great bond between humans and them because they have been trained easily socialize with people within their locality each time they are visited. A little difference with the habituation process is that each group consists of 4 clients per group at an affordable rate of $$100 per permit per person and the experience is worth the value as you will watch chimps do their daily chores right from the time they get out of their nests to when they build their new nests for that night.
Not only is Virunga blessed with wildlife adventures, but also hiking the mighty and the most active Nyiragongo volcano that captures a number of mountaineers all over the world because of its ever boiling lava in the lava lake at the summit. The volcano liable for about 24 groups per group per day at an affordable rate of $$300 per person but it would be better if an additional extra $$100 dollars for the mikeno package in order to cater for the meals and other extra inclusive packages .
The dense vegetation, Virunga National park contains several trails leading to different directions and sites within the park which promotes incredible nature walks along which there are great encounters of wildlife including monkeys, elephants, buffaloes. Thomas kobs and a large concentration of hippopotamus living in the banks of lake Edward and other water bodies in within the park.