Distance from Kigali to Virunga national park
Distance from Kigali to Virunga national park by road transport is approximately 187km and getting to the national park from Kigali city takes 5-6 hours. Thousands of travelers from different parts of the world visit Virunga national park to encounter endangered mountain gorillas that are found nowhere else in the country but in this park.
Virunga national park is one of the places that harbor mountain gorillas in the world and these have found their homes in the thick tropical rain forest. The national park harbors over 8 mountain gorilla families that are open for tourism at any time of the year. The national park is also home to 706 bird species, 200 mammals, 20 primates, and 109 reptiles among others.
Virunga can be accessed using road transport from Kigali. Most travelers do prefer flying into Kigali international airport where they use road transport to the Goma border near Lake Kivu taking them about 3 hours. After being cleared at the border (you must have a passport, Congo visa, and a yellow fever vaccination card), drivers from Virunga national park d transport you to the park or lodge escorted by a military convoy and this takes about 2.5 hours.
Apart from road transport, you can decide to fly with Jambo jet to Goma international airport from Nairobi Kenya. The flight takes 2 hours and on arrival at the airport, drivers from Virunga national park will be ready to pick you up and transfer you to the park where you will check in your booked accommodation.
Virunga national park was gazetted in 1952 to protect endangered mountain gorillas. The national park as of today is home to more than a quarter of the remaining mountain gorilla species in the world. The national park protects 8 gorilla families all open for gorilla trekking and these include Kabirizi, Humba, Munyaga, Bageni, Rugendo, Mapuwa, Nyakamwe, and Lulengo. Other mountain gorillas do live in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga national park Uganda while the rest live in volcanoes national park Rwanda.
Mountain gorilla trekking is the most done activity in Virunga national park and it involves a group of trekkers joining armed ranger guides into the jungle after a briefing from the park wardens. The activity takes trekkers through different trekking trails in the jungle looking for the unique apes that share about 98% human DNA.
Trekkers are able to meet different park animals during the search and these include okapi, buffaloes, elephants, red river hogs, giant forest hogs, aardvark, bushbuck, olive baboons, blue monkeys, topis, red-tailed monkeys, birds, and different vegetation types. The moment trekkers meet the mountain gorillas they are given 1 hour to be around them and this allows them to know about their habits, take photos and watch them do daily activities such as feeding, hunting, nesting, and much more.
Virunga national park is also home to chimpanzees though not a bigger population. Some of the chimpanzees have been habituated for trekking activities and just like mountain gorilla trekking the activity starts with a briefing and later the armed ranger guides lead the trekkers into the jungle to search for these primates. When the trekkers meet primates, they are given 1 hour to be around them, watch them do daily activities, take photos, and learn about their habits.
Virunga national park hosts some of the Virunga volcanoes and these are Nyiragongo, Nyamuragira, and Mikeno. Mount Nyiragongo is the most hiked volcano in Virunga national park reason being it’s the most active volcano in the world with the largest lava lake at the summit.
Hiking to the summit of any of the mountains starts with a briefing and the activity takes different hours on each mountain due to nature of the terrain. Hiking normally takes 5-6 hours of going through steep slopes and rugged terrain. Hikers meet different park animals and birds and on reaching the summit, they are able to have great views of the surrounding areas such as Virunga national park, Kahuzi Biega national park, Rwenzori mountains, Lake Kivu, plantations, and homesteads.
Virunga national park’s rain forest harbors over 706 birds that can be seen during different park activities most especially birding. Some of the birds in Virunga national park include red-faced woodland warbler, red-chested cuckoo, white-necked raven, stonechat, mountain illadopsis, white-browed crombec, banded prinia, mountain oriole, tambourine dove, olive woodpecker, and grassland pipit among others.
Other birds in Virunga national park include narrow-tailed starling, northern puffback, white-starred robin, Africa olive pigeon, grey-crowned crane, blue-headed sunbird, collared apalis, Rwenzori turaco, narina trogon, white-eyed slaty flycatcher, western tinkerbird, chin spot batis, pin-tailed whydah, streaky seedeater, chubb’s cisticola, and cardinal woodpecker among others.
What is the best time to visit Virunga national park?
Virunga national park can be visited at any time of the year but there are months that are better than the rest and these are the dry months. The drier months of June to September and December to February are the best to visit Virunga national park because they are characterized by little or no rainfall which leaves the trekking trails muddy and slippery, the vegetation is thin with clear views of the park animals and eth roads leading to the park are passable.
Travelers can still visit Virunga national park in the rainy season of March to May and October to November to enjoy huge discounts on accommodation and gorilla trekking permits. However, travelers should know that during the above months, there is plenty of rainfall, the trekking trails are muddy and slippery, the vegetation is thick with unclear views of the park animals and the roads leading to the park are impassable.
Accommodation in Virunga national park
There are several accommodation facilities to use while on a safari in Virunga national park meaning tourists don’t have to worry about where they will stay. These accommodation facilities do range from budget to mid-range to luxury options and they include Lulimbi Tented Camp, Nyiragongo Volcano Summit Shelters, Bukima Tented Camp, Mikeno Lodge, Tchegera Island, Kikumba Tented Camp, and much more.