Which country is Virunga national park?
Which country is Virunga national park? Formerly known as Albert National Park, Yes, Virunga national park is located in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The national park is located in Kinshasa in the eastern part of the country. Virunga national park is bordered by Rwanda and Uganda and its near volcanoes national park and Mgahinga national park both protect mountain gorillas.
The national park was founded in 1925 making it the oldest national park in Africa. The national park was gazetted to protect the remaining tropical forest which as of today is the second-largest in Africa and to also protect different animal species. The tropical rain forest of Virunga national park protects 196 mammals, 20 primates, 706 birds, and 109 reptiles.
Activities in Virunga national park
Mountain gorilla trekking: Primate trekking is the main tourism activity in Virunga national park of DR Congo. Virunga national park is among the few national parks that harbor primates most especially the mountain gorillas. There are over 8 mountain gorilla families in Virunga national park and all these are fully habituated for tourism purposes.
Most trekking is the most interesting activity in Virunga national park and it does start with a briefing early in the morning at the park offices. The activity does start with a briefing from the park wardens who teach the trekkers about the rules and regulations of the trekking activity. Later armed ranger guides lead the trekkers in the jungle and the search goes on.
The trekking activity in Virunga national park takes 2-7 hours of passing through different vegetation covers, seeing birds, and animals such as monkeys, olive baboons, bongo, mongoose, duikers, lions, giant forest hogs, buffaloes, topis, okapis, aardvark, and much more. Once the gorilla family you have been looking for is located, the trekkers are given 1 hour to be around these apes, watch them do daily activities, take photos and learn about their behaviors.
Birding: Virunga national park is one of the best birding destinations in Africa with over 706 bird species so far recorded in the park. Like any other activity, the birding activity in Virunga national park starts with a briefing and then the armed ranger guides lead the trekkers to the best birding spots in the park. Birders are advised to come with their birding books, cameras, and a pair of binoculars to enjoy the birding activity.
Birds you are likely to encounter in Virunga include red-throated alethe, stripe-breasted tit, African goshawk, white-tailed crested flycatcher, brown necked parrot, cinnamon-chested bee-eater, mountain buzzard, grey-throated barbet, alpine swift, mountain oriole, speckled mousebird, blue-headed coucal, white-tailed blue flycatcher, grey-chested illadopsis, grey-backed camaroptera, and mountain buzzard.
Chimpanzee trekking: Chimpanzee trekking in Virunga national park is done from Rumangabo sector in the Mahura forest. Chimpanzee trekking activities are mostly done by those that booked their stay at Mikeno Lodge or Bukima tented camp. The chimpanzee trekking activity starts with a briefing from park wardens in this park.
Armed ranger guides lead the trekkers in the jungle and start searching for where they could be. The searching activity takes 2-4 hours of meeting different park animals, mammals, and primates but when the hikers finally meet the trekkers, they are given 1 hour to be around them. During the 1 hour given to trekkers, they are able to learn about the habits of chimpanzees, take photos and watch them do daily activities like hunting, eating, mating, nesting among others.
Hiking: Hiking Virunga mountains is one of the best experiences tourists can have when they visit Virunga national park. The Virunga volcanoes that can be hiked from Virunga national park are Mount Nyiragongo, Mount Nyamuragira, and Mount Mikeno.
To hike any of these mountains you need to have hiking permits and you must be physically fit to make it to the summit. Hiking to the summit of these mountains takes 5-6 hours of passing through rugged terrain and very steep slopes but at the summit, it’s very rewarding. The summit gives spectacular views of the lava lakes, surrounding areas like the Virunga mountains, mount Rwenzori, Virunga national park, plantations, and Lake Kivu.
Accommodation in Virunga national park
So many accommodation facilities ranging from budget to mid-range to luxury options are situated in and around Virunga national park. Travelers do have to worry about where they will stay what matters is their travel budget. These accommodation facilities offer different services and are of different prices such as Lulimbi Tented Camp, Nyiragongo Volcano Summit Shelters, Bukima Tented Camp, Mikeno Lodge, Tchegera Island, and Kibumba Tented Camp.
Best time to visit Virunga national park
Virunga national park is open for tourism activities at any time of the year however there are months that are good to visit this park. The drier months are the best to visit this park and they do happen from June to September and December to February, they are characterized by little or no rainfall that leaves the trekking trails less slippery, vegetation is short with clear views of the park animals and the roads leading to the park are passable.
Travelers can still take a visit to Virunga national park most especially the budget ones to enjoy huge discounts on accommodation facilities and gorilla trekking permits. However, the rainy months that occur from March to May and October to November are characterized by too much rainfall that makes the trekking trails muddy and slippery, the vegetation is tall with unclear views of the park animals and the roads leading to the park are impassable.
How to access Virunga national park
Virunga national park can be accessed using both air transport and water transport in a single day. The national park can be accessed using road transport from Rwanda and Uganda. Those in Uganda can access Virunga national park by driving to Kisoro in southwestern Uganda. In Kisoro, they will use Bunagana border to cross to Goma city where they will connect to Virunga national park.
Travelers in Rwanda can drive from Kigali to Gisenyi town and then cross Congo-Rwanda border to Goma. From Goma, Virunga national park authorities will drive you to Virunga national park located not so far from the border.
Luxury travelers can fly to Kigali international airport and use chattered flights to Gisenyi airstrip where they can use road transport to connect to Goma border and then Virunga national park. Other travelers can access Virunga national park from Kenya by using Jambo jet from Jomo Kenyatta international airport to Goma international airport. From there, they will be transferred to the park using road transport and the journey takes 1 hour.