Located between the Virunga and Rwenzori Mountains in Congo, the Virunga National Park is a protected landscape covering 3000 square miles of exceptional diversity. Set some 85 years back to be the nation’s first national park, Virunga is now a World Heritage Site although the civil war has swallowed many wild lives here.
Among the tourists, the park is famous for its poaching mountain gorillas and the diverse ecosystems such as the Lake Edward’s western shores of Lake Edward, grassland plateau, marshland, plains, mountains, alpine meadows, volcanoes such as Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira, lava plains, and glaciers. So, you are really bound to enjoy every bit of moment spent here, which will seriously get to you something new to see and do. Coming to the wildlife, the Virunga National Park is the home of several mammal, bird, and reptile species whose statistical figures with regards to the quantity are the highest as compared to the continent’s any other protected area.
Spotting mountain gorillas is one of the most jaw-dropping activities here accomplished via the stunning gorilla safari. You can easily spot this creature despite the fact that it is now a rare creature and all thanks goes to the successful conservation effort of the park. If there is something that you will remember throughout your life, it will be your experience of spotting the Mountain Gorilla for the first time. And this is possible only via Gorilla Trekking wherein your park ranger will guide you to reach the current site of a Gorilla family. This site keeps on changing as these creatures do not bother of the zones or borders. And if you are lucky to come to the park when they thrive within the park borders, you can spend 60 minutes in just watching them. This trekking is only specific to Africa; so do take this chance as you might never get it again. Guided trek, mountainous landscape, rare, but a magical experience, and funny play of the creatures are some of the main features of this activity in the park.
Besides gorillas, you can also look for savanna and forest elephants, Okapi, buffaloes, chimpanzees, giraffes, as well as endemic birds. For the bird lovers, the Virunga National Park is like a paradise with more than 700 species such as herons, darters, gulls, pelicans, weavers, warblers, egrets, ibisis, geese, ducks, bitterns, skimmers, cormorants, open bills, shoebills, francolins, and ospreys. To see these, look for wetlands and some dedicated areas by asking the park rangers. And then there is something for the botany lovers too: dense rainforest, mangroves, low level woodlands, additional savanna grasslands, and flooded forests.
High concentrations of wild animals can be seen along the rivers. In the savannah, you will be able to spot buffalo, elephant, antelopes, hippopotamus, lions, and various monkeys; while lower Rutshuru shows off several pelicans. The slopes of the park mountains as well as the Semiliki Valley houses chimpanzees, gorillas, and okapi.
Besides trekking, you can choose from a myriad of activities on your trip to the Virunga National Park; such as sand boarding, sky diving, and white water rafting for the adventurers and bird watching, hiking, and exploring the local culture for the leisure fans. Just remember that the adventure activities are optional and take them up only if you want a chill to run down your spine. While you are in this park, do spend some time to explore the adjoining Mount Hoyo zone as the home of the folks of the Bambuti Pygmy tribe, waterfalls, and caves.
Intense poaching for the meat industry to prosper as well as land invasions were recently on peak, but now are under control.
Reaching the park
It is easy to reach here from the nearby Kinshasa International Airport in not more than an hour.
The park is in the east region of the state, which is very well known for crimes like hijacking. So, always come here with a guided tour.