Which countries border Virunga national park?
Which countries border Virunga national park? Virunga national park lies in the Albertine rift region in the eastern part of DR Congo. The national park was gazetted in 1952 to protect the natural forest as well as different wildlife. Virunga national park protects 20 primate species, 218 mammals, and 706 bird species. Virunga national park together with Mgahinga national park, volcanoes national park, and Bwindi impenetrable forest national park are the only places in the world that harbor mountain gorillas.
Countries that border Virunga national park.
Yes, Virunga national park is bordered by two countries which are Uganda and Rwanda both in the east. The national park borders Mgahinga national park in Uganda and volcanoes national park in Rwanda. Both national parks do harbor mountain gorillas as well as the endangered golden monkeys. Virunga national park, Mgahinga national park, and volcanoes national park fall under the Virunga conservation area and this is an area where the Virunga mountains are found. There are 8 Virunga volcanoes namely Muhabura, Ghainga, Sabyinyo, Bisoke, Karisimbi, Nyamuragira, Nyiragongo, and Mikeno
Things to do in Virunga national park
Encountering mountain gorillas: This is the most done activity in Virunga national park. There are 8 fully habituated gorilla families in the park and all are open for trekking activities. Virunga national park is part of the 4 national parks in the world that do harbor mountain gorillas. Other national parks are Mgahinga national park, Bwindi impenetrable forest national park, and volcanoes national park.
Mountain gorilla trekking in Virunga national park is done at a fee of $450 for foreign non-residents and foreign residents while Congolese and East African citizens pay $200. The activity is done by those above the age of 15 years and it starts with a briefing at the park offices. The rangers teach the trekkers about the rules and regulations of the trekking activity and then grouping is done.
Armed ranger guides lead the trekkers throughout the trekking activity protecting them from dangerous wild animals and rebels. Trekking activities in Virunga take 2-5 hours and during the search, trekkers are able to meet different park animals such as buffaloes, monkeys, elephants, olive baboons, duikers, giant forest hogs, lions, mongoose, birds, and different vegetation cover.
One the mountain gorillas are located in the jungle, the trekkers are given 1 hour to be around these apes, learn about their habits, take photos and watch them do daily activities like coupling, nesting, hunting, and feeding among others. Later the trekkers keep their voices low and move away from the gorilla family back to the starting point with other opportunities of meeting park animals.
Birding: Over 706 bird species are in Virunga national park and this makes it one of the best birding sites in Africa and DR Congo. The birding activities in Virunga are guides by rangers who lead the birders to the best birding spots in the park. Birds to watch out for in Virunga national park include Rwenzori batis, blue-headed sunbird, black bishop, red-throated alethe, chinspot batis, stripe-breasted tit, collared apalis, white-tailed crested flycatcher, mountain masked apalis, olive sunbird, blue-headed coucal, dusky crimson-wing, mackinnon’s shrike, archer’s ground robin, strange weaver, and wahlberg’s eagle.
Other common bird species in Virunga are Angolan swallow, African goshawk, grey-chested illadopsis, African hobby, tropical boubou, black and white mannikin, harrier hawk, brown necked parrot, northern puffback white-browned crombec, Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, mountain sooty boubou, handsome spurfowl, mountain illadopsis, mountain buzzard, yellow white-eye, Rwenzori turaco, black and white -casqued hornbill, common waxbill, red-chested cuckoo, olive long-tailed cuckoo, black-throated wattle-eye, and barred long-tailed cuckoo among others.
Chimpanzee trekking: Not so many chimpanzees are in Virunga national park but the few that are in the park have been habituated for trekking activities. Chimpanzee trekking is done by a group not exceeding 8 people and the activity starts with a briefing where the trekkers are taught about the rules and regulations of the activity.
Trekking chimpanzees in Virunga national park is mostly done by those that use Mikeno lodge and it’s done on the southern side of the park. The activity that is led by ranger guides gives you an opportunity to learn about chimpanzee behaviors, take photos and watch them do daily activities. It takes 2-4 hours to see chimpanzees in Virunga national park.
Hiking: The most active volcanoes in Africa are found in Virunga national park. These are Mount Nyiragongo and mount Nyamuragira both located within the park. Mountain Mikeno is another volcano in Virunga national park although it’s not active. Nyiragongo is the most hiked of all mountains in this park. The activity takes 5-6 hours and nights are spent at the summit.
A hike on mountain Nyiragongo gives you an opportunity to stand near the largest lava lake, watch the magma boil, and see surrounding places such as Virunga national park, lake Kivu, Rwenzori mountains, and other Virunga volcanoes. Nyiragongo volcano stands at an elevation of 3,470 meters above sea level, has the largest lava lake, and last erupted in May 2021.
Getting to Virunga national park
There are so many different ways of getting to Virunga national park. Travelers can get to Virunga using road transport or air transport but the road type of transport has always been the best because travelers get to see beautiful scenery on the sides of the road.
Traveling to Virunga national park using road transport: Virunga national park can be accessed by road transport from Rwanda or Uganda. Travelers accessing Virunga national park from Rwanda will fly to Kigali international airport and drive to Gisenyi town. From Gisenyi, travelers will drive to the Goma border and cross to Goma city. Travelers from Uganda will drive to Kisoro in southwestern Uganda and cross over to Goma town using Bunagana border. From Goma town to Virunga national park, it can take about 1 hour.
Traveling to Virunga national park using air transport: Visitors traveling to Virunga national park have the first option of flying to Jomo Kenyatta international airport. From here they can use Jambo jet to Goma international airport where they will be picked up by the government officials from Virunga national park and transferred to the park or booked accommodation. Travelers can still fly to Kigali international airport and fly to Gisenyi airstrip using chattered flights. From Gisenyi, they will be driven to Le Grand Barrier border where they will cross to Virunga national park
When to visit Virunga national park
Virunga national park is always open throughout the year for all tourism activities. The national park has two seasons and these are the dry season of June to September and December to February as well as the rainy seasons of March to May and October to November. The dry seasons are considered to be the best for visiting Virunga national park because they are characterized by little or no rainfall, the trekking/hiking trails are dry, vegetation is thin and the roads leading to the park are passable
Travelers can still visit Virunga national park during the rainy season and this favors budget travelers because there are cheap gorilla trekking permits and lodges offer huge discounts. During the rainy season, there is plenty of rainfall that makes the trekking/hiking trails muddy and slippery, vegetation is tall with unclear views of the ani9mals, and the roads leading to the park are passable.
Accommodation in Virunga national park
Virunga national park has a number of trusted hotels and safari lodges located at different levels of prices and comfort. They 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, and Kibumba Tented Camp.