Virunga National Park
Virunga National park was gazette in 1925 ad is one of the oldest national park to be established in the African continent and later in 1979, the park became a UNESCO world heritage site to protect the mountain gorillas that were at the period of extinction in the wild due to poaching, hunting, and wars. Virunga national park is situated within Virunga massif which is shared with other two national parks including Volcanoes national park and Mgahinga National park. It harbors different species of fauna and flora ranging from Physical features such as Lake Edward, Volcanic Mountains, and Rivers among others. The park also is home to several Primate Species, Mammals species, Bird species, and different plant species. Virunga national park is situated in the Eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo and is the only park that harbors the endangered mountain gorillas in DRC. The similar species of mountain Gorillas are found in Rwanda with in Volcanoes National Park and in Uganda within two national parks of Bwindi Impenetrable national park and Mgahinga Gorillas national park. Virunga national park covers a landscape of 7,800km2 and is strategically situated within the Albertine rift bordering two nations that is Uganda and Rwanda.
Attractions in Virunga national park
Attractions in Virunga National Park: Virunga national park being the oldest national park in Africa probably has lots of tourist attractions that attract several travelers from different parts of the world to visit Africa especially this oldest park. The attraction that can never be missed throughout a safari to DRC especially in Virunga national park include;
- Primates: the major primate species encountered in Virunga National park are the endangered mountain gorillas. Virunga National park is home to at least a third of the still surviving population mountain gorillas in the wild after following Bwindi Impenetrable national park which has at least a half of the population of these primates and then Volcanoes national park that is in the second position. Apart from mountain gorillas, there are other species of primates found in Virunga national park and these include Chimpanzees and different monkey species.
- Mammals: The nature of Virunga National park provides the best conditions for the existence of different species of mammals which include Hippos, elephants, lions among others. Most of these mammals can be seen during Gorilla trekking and volcanic hiking.
- Birds: Visit to Virunga National park is incomplete until you encounter some of the unique and rare species of birds including those endemic to Albertine rift, forest birds, water birds and many more. In fact this park is a home to over 700 species of birds such as Rwenzori Turaco, African fish eagle and many more.
- Reptiles: Virunga National park is known to be the best park that harbors at least 100 species of reptiles such as snakes, Crocodiles among others.
- Amphibians: amongst the attractions in Virunga national park is yet amphibian species. This park is known to be a home to at least 70 species of amphibians such as Frogs, salamander among others
Activities in Virunga national park
Activities Virunga national park: there are several activities enjoyed by travelers on an African safari especially to the eastern part of DRC in Virunga national park. These activities can be done either by individuals or as a group in order to have a fun filled experience while on a safari as elaborated below;
- Gorilla trekking: Gorilla trekking is always the topmost activity done by several travelers on a Congo safari. A visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo is always headed by Gorilla trekking where travelers are able to spend an hour with the endangered mountain gorillas within the jungles of Virunga Massif. To take part in a Congo Gorilla trekking safari with in Virunga national park, one has to be at least 15 years of age which is the minimum age limit for gorilla trekking in Africa (in DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda) and must obtain a gorilla trekking permit which costs $400 during the peak season and $200 during the low season. Congo is known for offering the cheapest gorilla trekking permits as compared to Ugandan permit that costs $700 with effect from July 1st 20202, and a Rwanda permits at $1500 per person. Gorilla trekking in virunga national park starts in the morning with a briefing at the park headquarters and then the trekkers alongside ranger trail through various trail heads within the wild as they search for the habituated, mountain gorillas that have been trained and used to human presence. Once an hour is done, trekkers are supposed to leave the presence of the mountain gorillas.
- Volcano hiking: hiking is yet another breathtaking experience that allows travelers to climb up to the summit of different volcanic mountains within Virunga massif. Out of the volcanic mountains in this park, three are hiked by several tourists and amongst these three, two are known to be active and one dormant. These mountains include mount Nyiragongo, Mount Mikeno and Mount Nyamuragira which all offer the best hiking experience. A hike to summit the top of mount Nyiragongo which is the most hiked volcanic mountain in Virunga national park allows travelers to have an overnight view of the lava lake that glows due to the rain drops within the night.
- Chimpanzee trekking: Chimpanzee trekking in Virunga National park is carried out in Mahura forest. Trekking these primates that share human DNA by 98% last just an hour which is not different from any other primate trekking such as gorillas. To enjoy chimpanzee trekking in Virunga national park, trekkers are entitled to a permit that costs $100 per person. Tourists are also in position to visit the Lwiro Chimpanzee sanctuary which is a home to the orphaned chimpanzees that lost their parents during the war.
- Chimpanzee Habituation: on the other hand, travelers who prefer to spend more time with the chimpanzees other than just spending an hour as in trekking. Gorilla habituation is an art of hiking deep within the forest alongside armed rangers, researchers and the guides in search of the mountain Gorillas that aren’t used to human presence. During the habituation process, travelers are in position to learn lots of character such as feeding, copulating and breastfeeding of these chimpanzees in the jungle. However, chimpanzee habituation is limited to only four visitors thus only 4 habituation permits are available on a daily basis
- Nature walks: nature walks in Virunga national park is also done under proper security like any other activity that is carried out with in the Democratic Republic of Congo. During the nature walk, travelers get a chance to encounter lots of fauna and flora such as green vegetation cover, mammals, primates, waterbodies, birds, and the local Congolese.
- Birding: the park being the home to over 700 species of birds, birders have a golden opportunity of watching different birds with the park including the migratory species, the water birds, and the species that are endemic to Albertine rift.
Conclusion: Being the oldest national park in DRC and Africa at large, Virunga national park has attracted several tourists to take park in the different park activities. Also considering the fact that it DRC offers cheap gorilla permits, this has yet helped the park to attract several visitors in order to enjoy the discounted permits especially during low seasons. Finally, Virunga National park has a well-maintained security available to protect both the travelers and the wildlife from any harm unlike in the past where the country was full of political instabilities and ways. Travelers in Virunga national park are always safe and protected by the convoy from the time of Entry into the park till they Exit.