Requirements for accessing Virunga national park
Are you intending to visit Virunga national park? There are requirements you need before accessing the park and this means you have to move with them on the day you are coming to visit the park in order to be allowed into the country. After confirming your safari to Virunga national park, you have to get a valid yellow fever vaccination card, Congo visit visa and you need to have a passport that is still valid for at least 6 months ahead of travel dates.
Virunga national park is one of the most visited places in DR Congo that is famous for activities such as birding, mountain gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking, and Virunga hiking. Virunga national park is located in the eastern part of the country and harbors over 20 primates, 230 mammals, 706 birds, and over 100 reptiles.
Requirements for accessing Virunga national park
A valid passport: A passport is one of the requirements necessary to be allowed to cross borders to DR Congo. The passport is used to verify the citizenship of the traveler. The passport is required to confirm if the details match with those on the gorilla or hiking permits purchased for Virunga national park. The passport comes along with a travel visa which is a document from the government that temporarily allows you to be in the country you are visiting. Travelers who don’t have passports will not be allowed into the country.
A valid Congo visit visa: A visa is a must before entering DR Congo to access Virunga national park. The Congo visa is a document issued out by the embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo to allow you to travel through the border into the country. Congo visa can be got from the DR Congo embassy website or a trusted local tour operator. Tourists intending to visit Virunga national park need to know that a visa can’t be got on the final day you want to get into the country so you need to book in advance with your tour operator to get you the permit or get it online yourself.
A valid yellow fever card: A yellow fever card is a very important thing you don’t have to leave behind when traveling to Virunga national park. A yellow fever card is a must for every traveler entering DR Congo for Virunga national park. The yellow fever card is imposed by the country for protection against yellow fever since Aedes aegypti mosquito is present in Virunga national park and other parts of the country. The yellow fever card is one of the documents you present at the immigration office to be able to get a Congo visa.
Activities you can do when you access Virunga national park
Primate trekking: Primate trekking in Virunga national park is the most done activity by travelers who visit the park. The national park is home to endangered chimpanzees and mountain gorillas that have found their homes in the thick vegetation cover. To trek primates in Virunga national park, you need to have a gorilla trekking permit or chimpanzee trekking that is valid with details matching those of your passport or national identity card.
Primate trekking starts with a briefing at the park offices where participants are taught about the rules and regulations of the trekking activity. Armed ranger guides lead you through the thick rain forest looking for these apes and during the search, the trekkers are able to meet some of the park animals such as buffaloes, duikers, red-tailed monkeys, giant forest hogs, olive baboon, blue monkeys, okapi, elephants, birds, vegetation and much more. When the primates are found, the trekkers are given 1 hour to be around them as they spot them doing daily activities such as hunting, nesting, coupling, breastfeeding, as you learn about their habits and take photos.
Birding: Birding is another activity that can be done after accessing Virunga national park. The birding activity is conducted by armed ranger guides who take you through different trekking trails around the forest. Birders to Virunga national park need to come with waterproof hiking shoes, a birding book, voice recorder, a camera, and a pair of binoculars to be able to see different birds in the park.
Some of the birds spotted in Virunga national park include thick-billed seedeater, bronze mannikin, common waxbill, narrow tailed starling, northern puffback, mackinnon’s shrike, olive sunbird, bronze sunbird, grey-chested illadopsis, Rwenzori turaco, Kivu ground thrush, red-faced woodland warbler, regal sunbird, grey crowned crane, white-browed robin-chat, grey-backed camaroptera, western tinkerbird and mountain greenbul among others.
Hiking: Hiking is another activity that can be done after accessing Virunga national park. The hiking activity in Virunga national park can be done on Mount Mikeno which is a dormant volcano, Mount Nyiragongo, and Mount Nyamuragira which are active volcanoes. Hiking these mountains is very rewarding as hikers get to the summits and have aerial views of the surrounding areas. Hiking on all the Virunga volcanoes in Virunga national park starts with a briefing at the park offices where hikers are taught about the rules and regulations of the trekking activity.
Armed ranger guides lead the hikers up the summit with opportunities of meeting park animals on the slopes such as mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, okapi, duikers, giant forest hogs, olive baboons, mongoose, elephants, birds, and different vegetation covers. Hiking these mountains takes different hours but the experience is the same. At the summit of Nyamuragira and Nyiragongo are lava lakes, you will have stunning views of surrounding areas such as Lake Kivu, Virunga volcanoes, Rwenzori mountains, plantations, and Virunga national park.
What is the best time to access Virunga national park?
Virunga national park can be accessed at any time of the year but there are months that are better than the rest. The drier months are the best to have access Virunga national park for different park activities because during these months, the hiking and trekking trails are less muddy, the vegetation is thin with clear views of the park animals and the roads leading to the park are passable.
Travelers can still access Virunga national park in the rainy season of March to May and October to November to enjoy huge discounts on accommodation facilities and permits. During the rainy season, there is plenty of rainfall, the trekking and hiking trails are muddy and slippery, the roads leading to the park are impassable, and the vegetation is tall giving unclear views of the wildlife.
Where to stay in Virunga national park
There are so many places where travelers can stay after accessing Virunga national park and these places are situated outside and within the national park. They do range from budget to mid-range to luxury options such as Lulimbi Tented Camp, Nyiragongo Volcano Summit Shelters, Bukima Tented Camp, Mikeno Lodge, Tchegera Island, Kikumba Tented Camp, and much more.