Top Things To Do in Virunga National Park
Are you planning to visit Virunga national park, the top things to do in the park include; mountain gorilla trekking, mount Nyiragongo hiking, Chimpanzee tracking and habituation, bird watching and nature walks.
Mountain Gorilla trekking in Congo
DR Congo is among the three African countries where gorilla trekking activities are done. Besides, Bwindi, Mgahinga and Volcanoes national park; Virunga national park is blessed with huge numbers of mountain gorillas available for tourism. Travelers interested in this activity must purchase and book a gorilla permit from a trusted travel agency like Africa Adventure Vacations in advance to avoid disappointments. Please note that gorilla trekking experiences are highly demanded activities and trekking permits tend to get finished not only in Virunga national park but also other three gorilla trekking destinations.
The best time to visit Virunga national park for mountain gorilla trekking is during the dry season in the months from December to February (short dry season) and from June to October (long dry season of the year). During dry season, the weather is cool, hot during the day and cold at night. The chances of receiving rainfall are minimal hence gorilla trekking experience is less disrupted, trails tend to be drier and makes movement easier compared to wet season.
Please note that Virunga national is dominated by tropical rainforests that receive ample rainfall throughout the year hence tourists are strongly advised to waterproof rain jackets for emergency in case it rains. It is always necessary to contact local tour operators like Africa Adventure Vacations to guide you accordingly with first-hand information regarding the best time to enjoy Congo gorilla safaris and any other travel times across East African region.
Mount Nyiragongo Hike
Mount Nyiragongo is an active volcano situated in Virunga national Park and attracts a number of hikers across the world. The recent eruption on Nyiragongo happened on 27th May 2021 just after 9 years of eruption that happened in 2002. Currently, this mount has a red-hot lava lake at the summit! Therefore; hiking to the top of mount Nyiragongo and spending the night at the summit is indeed a thrilling and life time memorable experience.
Yes, getting to Mount Nyiragongo for hiking is very easy. You just have to fly through Kigali international airport in Rwanda and later transfer to Gisenyi- Goma border. The journey from Kigali to Goma is approximately 4 to 5 hours drive by road. You will spend a few minutes to clear with the immigration office and later enter DRC. Travelers may opt to spend a night in Gisenyi, Goma or in some of the lodges of Virunga national park. Arranging a trip with a local tour operator is highly advisable because they always have competent guides who pick you from the airport and transfer you to Goma and later Kibati post to start your expeditions.
Alternatively, you can fly directly to Goma international airport using some airline carriers such as Ethiopian airways, Air France among others and later transfer to Virunga national park for mount Nyiragongo hiking tour.
Hiking to the top of Mount Nyiragongo is a worthwhile experience you will ever have in your entire life! Tourists watch the red glow of this active volcano at night from as far as Gisenyi town however, hiking and viewing it from the summit is more thrilling. The trail is about 8.5km from starting point to the summit.
You should be at Kibati patrol post by 9:00am for briefing sessions before you start your trail at exactly 10:00am. The journey takes about 5- 6 hours depending on the physical fitness of the hikers.
Tourists should pack strong hiking boots, thick rain jacket, mineral water, warm clothes and a lightening torch if they plan to spend the night at the summit in Nyiragongo shelters.
If you have a lot luggage, porters are available at the starting point to help you carry some items at a small extra cost.
Yes, the minimum age to hike Mount Nyiragongo is 12 years. Anyone persons below the age 12 is not allowed to go for hiking. You are required to be physically fit and well hydrated to take up this challenge.
Chimpanzee tracking and habituation
Chimpanzees are among the amazing primates that live deep in the tropical rain forest jungles of Virunga national park at the slopes Virunga Mountains in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Chimpanzee habituation was introduced in 1987 by Frankfurt Zoologist in Tongo forest of Virunga region in Congo where he developed an 80km trail into the forest. After 2 years, more than 50 chimpanzees were habituated and available for tourism activities however, this activity was interfered by insecurity of rebels and poachers. Consequently, Virunga national park was closed with no tourism activity taking place including chimpanzee habituation not until 2014 when a team from the local community that was trained by Frankfurt Zoologist restarted the activity. This team visits the chimpanzees in the Virunga forest on a daily basis at 4:30am to check where they spent their night before taking the visitors for chimp tracking. Currently, there are more than 28 chimpanzees in the forest available for tracking at a fee of USD100 per person per trek. Booking permits for chimpanzee trekking is done at Mikeno lodge and the activity starts at 6:00am. A group of 4 guests are allowed to visit a particular chimpanzee family and once tourists spot these chimps, you will be allowed to spend ample time with them, watch them how they de-nest, hunt, play, breastfeed and a lot more behaviors. After an hour of magical interaction with the chimpanzees, you will retrieve from the forest and go for relaxation or any other activities. Travelers interested in chimpanzee tracking are always advised to stay at Mikeno lodge for an overnight because the activity starts very early morning.
Individuals with chronic diseases such as a cold, fever, diarrhea and persistent sore throat are strongly discouraged to go for chimpanzee tracking in Virunga national park since these kinds of diseases can easily be transferred to these primates and may lead to their death.
Nature walks in Virunga National Park
Trekking through the trails forested Virunga national park is one of the spectacular activities you shouldn’t miss on your African safari to the Democratic Republic of Congo. During nature walks on this amazing African tropical forest, you will be led by ranger guide to the most silent corners of the park while being entertained beautiful songs of forest birds and magical sounds of the wilderness! On a lucky day, you may encounter a number of forest residents such as forest elephants, monkeys, buffaloes, lions, zebra, giraffes and crocodiles and hippos at Lake Edward. You may also spot some mountain gorillas if you are fluky.
Visiting Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage center
Senkwekwe orphanage center was introduced in 2010 to take care of orphaned gorillas that were rescued from poachers in Virunga region. This center derived its name from the dominant silverback that was killed in 2007. Senkwekwe orphanage center is located in Rumangabo, not far from the park headquarters and Mikeno lodge. This is the only gorilla orphanage center in the whole world and it is privileged to have the best professional veterinary doctors, chefs and more staff to give necessary care to these gorillas. This center started with 2 orphan gorillas that is to say Ndakasi and Ndeze. Later, the number of gorillas increased with addition of Kaboko, Mazuka, Yalala, Matabishi. In 2010, the center was saddened by the death of Koboko and Maisha due to health complications.
If you are interested to tour this center, please book with a local tour agency like Africa Adventure Vacations for extraordinary safari experiences.
Bird watching in Virunga National Park
Virunga national park is a home to over 600 species of birds. Therefore, it is a perfect bird watching destination for bird lovers with a number of endemic species. Birding is done in different environments of the Virunga region ranging from mountainous areas, swamps, tropical rainforests and all other landscapes. Expect to see unique bird species such as Francolinus nobilis, Rwenzori Turaco, the forest ground thrush, Musaphaga among others. Around wetlands, grey herons, skimmers, egrets, shoebills storks, ibises are easily spotted. Other species of birds in the Virunga national park are African olive pigeon, grey-throated barbet, Angolan swallow, white-headed woophoopoes, tropical boubou, Rwenzori batis, alpine swift and papyrus yellow warbler. Some of the rare bird species in the park include the rockeffeller’s sunbird and Nectarinia Rockefeller that can be spotted in the bamboo, the Grauer’s swamp warbler on the mountain
The best landscape views come out clearly when you visit Virunga national park in the DR Congo. Among the most spectacular land views are the most Nyiragongo volcano, mount Rwenzori ranges, tropical forests and grasslands in and around Virunga national park, water bodies, eroded valleys in Ishango and Sinda among others