Getting To Virunga National Park
Getting to Virunga national park- The park is one of the best safari and holiday destination for family travel in Africa. It is located in the northeastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo and famously known for mountain gorilla trekking experiences and mount Nyiragongo hiking.
Yes, Virunga is among the best national parks in Africa to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitats. Other destinations include Bwindi impenetrable forest national park & Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda and Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park. Following the recent conducted population census of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas shows that 1,004 individuals live in the four highlighted gorilla natural habitats of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. The Virunga massif (Virunga national park, Mghainga gorilla national park and Volcanoes national park) is a home to about 604 mountain gorilla individuals. The rest of the population is housed in Bwindi forests.
Virunga national park is not only the oldest national park in DR Congo but also in Africa. It was gazzetted in 1925 with the purpose of protecting and conserving the endangered wildlife species living in the park such as mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants, Okapi species among others.
Currently the park is a home to over 218 mammal species, including 22 species of primates such as Black and White Monkey, Red Tailed Monkey, Chimpanzees, Olive Baboons among others. More so, over 706 bird species can be spotted including 24 endemic species. If you are a keen eye bird watcher, expect to see the following bird species; Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Standard-winged Nightjar, Tambourine Dove, Namaqua Dove, Jacobin Cuckoo, Levaillant’s Cuckoo, Klaas’s Cuckoo Pennant-winged Nightjar, Mottled Spinetailed Swift, African Palm Swift, Alpine Swift, Mottled Swift, White-rumped Swift, Horus Swift, Little Swift, Swamp Nightjar, Mozambique Nightjar, Common Swift, Senegal Coucal, Blue-headed Coucal, White-browed Coucal, Yellowbill, , African Emerald Cuckoo and so on
The park in Congo offers a number of tourist activities such as mountain gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking and habituation, nature walks, bird watching, hiking Mount Nyiragongo and visiting Senkwekwe Orphanage Centre.
Yes, getting to Virunga national park in DR Congo can be by road, air and water transport means.
Getting To Virunga National Park by Air
In most cases, a number of tourists interested in visiting Virunga national park fly via Kigali international airport in Rwanda. It is easier and more reliable to access the park through Kigali because other main airports to DR Congo such as Kinshasha are far away from Virunga national park. When you fly via Kigali and arrive late, the driver guide picks you and transfers you to your booked hotel for an overnight stay before being driven to DR Congo through Gisenyi- Goma border to Virunga national park for gorilla trekking and other activities.
Alternatively; you may opt to fly directly to Goma international airport and then get transferred to the park however, there is a challenge of limited airline companies operating flights to this airport. The Airlines that fly to and from Goma airport are Ethiopian airlines, Air France, Brussels, Turkish Airlines and Kenya airways
Getting To Virunga National Park by road
Connecting to Virunga national park by road depends on where you are coming from
Connecting to Virunga national park by road will depend on where you are coming from and where you wish to enter from.
If you are coming from Kigali Rwanda the journey is shorter than from Kampala Uganda by road. It takes approximately 5 ½ hours connecting to the park from Kigali international airport via Gisenyi- Goma border. This time is inclusive of visa processing and clearance with DR Congo immigration office.
From Uganda, you may drive to Kisoro town and connect through Bunagana border and then proceed to Bukima starting point for gorilla trekking experiences. This route is good for tourists with some activities in southwest Uganda otherwise, entering through Entebbe international park to connect to DR Congo takes a full day driving to Kisoro where you will have an overnight stay before heading to the park the next day via Bunagana border.
If you book a safari to DR Congo with local tour operators such as Africa Adventure Vacations, ground transportation is by 4×4 safari vehicles with enough leg room, AC and sliding windows. However, the park management can arrange ground transportation from the Gisenyi-Goma border to Virunga national park if you booked a gorilla trekking tour with them.
Getting To Virunga National Park by water
Water transport on Lake Kivu is mainly used by tourists who want to connect from Bukavu to virunga national park by use of a ferry. Ferries move from Bukavu via Idjwi Island to Goma and this takes approximately 6 hours
Visitors may opt to use a speed boat that takes 3 hours whereas a public boat takes about 5 hours to arrive at the landing site of Goma. From Goma, you are then driven to Virunga national park and the journey takes about 1½ hours.
Riding on a slow boat costs you $50 while the private boat ride costs between $300 to $400. You can as well make reservations in advance for swift boats. These swift boats require advance bookings to obtain tickets
Best time to Visit Virunga National Park
DR Congo is crossed by the equator, however the weather patterns differ vastly throughout the country however, if you are looking for the best time to visit Virunga national park for mountain gorilla trekking and other tourist activities, we are here to guide you with first-hand information.
Despite the fact that it can rain any time in Virunga region, the national park can be visited throughout the year. From July to September are by far the driest months of the year and it is the most popular time most travelers book safaris to the park. Actually, if you are looking to combine a wildlife safari in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, this the best time of the year to book your tour in East Africa. During this period (from July to September), mountain gorilla families in Virunga national park tend to move to a higher-altitude and tourists trek for longer hours in search for their allocated gorilla family. Just like anywhere in the world, the rain is unpredictable, therefore, don’t get shocked if it rains. You are always advised to pack a rain coat and strong hiking shoes just to be ready for any circumstance.
On the other hand, the rain starts in November, and this is considered as the wettest month of the year. However, traveling to the park is very possible and the experience for gorilla trekking is the same. Just be equipped with all-weather gears. It might not typically be the best time to visit Virunga national park, but if you decide to travel in either October or November, or March to May, the park offers discounted gorilla permits and different safari lodges provide crazy discounts on accommodations and other services to attract guests.
Looking at the details of Temperatures in DR Congo, Virunga national park is located the tropical region where weather is always warm and humid. During the drier months, from June to September, daytime temperatures approximately 25 degrees Celsius.
At the summit of mount Nyiragongo, temperatures regularly drop below freezing throughout the year and this is inevitable. Proper hiking gear is a must if you are planning to hike to the top of this active volcano! You can also hire extra equipment such as sleeping bags and mats from Kibati briefing point. Always don’t forget to pack warm clothes, good socks, gloves and hiking boots.