Virunga National Park Congo

Virunga National Park is located in the eastern of the Democratic Republic of Congo and borders Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. This park is one of Africa’s most biodiverse conservation areas, covering 7900 square km. The name derives from the fact that it is located in the vicinity of the Virunga massif, which was established in the early 1900s. The park contains a wide range of habitats, including swamps, snowfields, lava plains, and savannahs.

Various ecosystems can be found on the Virunga Volcanoes, the Ruwenzori Mountains, Lake Edward, and the flat plains between volcanoes. Because of the park’s varied landscape, it provides amazing activities for people of all interests.

The dominant outstanding landscape, along with the eroded valleys, is the volcanoes, which erupt at regular intervals every few years.

Gorilla tracking is the most popular activity in Virunga National Park, and chimp tracking has recently been added to the list. Birdwatching tours have increased, with Virunga containing over 700 bird species. The Rwenzori Mountains are located within the park and are open for hiking. The park is home to the Congo’s Virunga volcanoes, with most hiking taking place on Mikeno, Nyiragongo, and Nyamuragira.

Attractions in Virunga National Park

Mammals: Virunga National park is home to about 218 recorded mammal species including the African bush elephant, hippopotamus, African buffalo, and the Kob, lions, leopards, waterbuck, buffalos, and many others. Enjoy seeing all of these mammals while on a game drive in the park and having the opportunity to photograph them.

Species of primates: The Virunga National Park is home to 12 primate species, including mountain gorillas, chimps, golden monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, olive baboons, grey-cheeked mangabeys, and others. Visit the park and spend time with these friendly and playful creatures, as well as take pictures with them.

Bird species: Insight the beautiful and colorful bird species at Virunga National park since it is home to about 706 bird species including the endemic ones like Rwenzori turaco, Rwenzori batis, red-throated alethe, Kivu ground thrush, regal sunbird, strange weaver, and others and also the non-endemic birds include African hobby, harrier hawk, common buzzard, mountain buzzard, and many others. Visit the park and enjoy the song-like sounds of these birds, which will undoubtedly make you forget about your worries.

Species of reptiles and amphibians: Virunga National Park is home to approximately 106 reptiles and 65 amphibian species, which can be seen along the shores of Lake Edward, Albert, and the Semliki River. Nile crocodiles have been spotted among the reptiles.

Activities done in Virunga National Park Congo

Gorilla Trekking:

A safari in the Virunga national park is incomplete without visiting the endangered mountain gorillas. There are eight habituated Gorilla families in Virunga National Park with the most common and largest family being the Kabirizi family with 32 members. Regardless of which gorilla group you track, gorilla trekking usually starts with a briefing early in the morning.

After the briefing, trekkers are led by Park Rangers to search for the gorilla family. Finding the group takes between one to four hours. You have one hour to observe and photograph the group members as they feed, groom, and care for the young.

Congo’s gorilla permits cost $450, much less than Uganda’s $700 and Rwanda’s $1500. It is important to book your gorilla permits early enough before showing up for the safari.

Chimpanzee Habituation

For just USD100, you get involved in one of the best activities within the Virunga National Park. Frankfurt, a zoologist, initiated chimp habituation in Virunga National Park in 1987. The Frankfurt Zoological Society provided funding for this project. The chimp habituation experience is an activity supervised by researchers and rangers. Chimpanzees are unique and interesting primates because they share about 98% of our DNA. The chimpanzee habituation experience starts as early as 5:30 am when the primates start their exciting day. Visitors follow the chimps as they move in search of food on the ground and on top of trees.

Nature Walks and Hikes:

Since Virunga National park is mainly tropical rainforest vegetation, enjoy the guided nature walk through the forest and explore the breath-taking beauty and landscape of the park and view different tree species and also sight various bird species.

Mount Nyiragongo Hike:

If you are not yet decided on the best place to visit in DR Congo, then this is probably it. Mount Nyiragongo is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The Mountain has erupted 34 times in the last century, the most recent in 2002. Thousands were displaced as liquid lava and ash gushed from the summit and spread quickly to nearby areas, including the shores of Lake Kivu. The damage was great but it hasn’t diminished the charm of the mountain. Thousands of visitors visit the volcano each year for the sole purpose of witnessing one of nature’s true wonders: boiling red lava up close.

The hike to the volcano’s summit rewards hikers with breathtaking views of the Virunga ranges, lush forests, and other volcanoes in the area. Climbing Mount Nyiragongo requires even greater mental and physical preparedness than gorilla trekking. Don’t forget to bring enough drinking water and snacks to help you refuel during the hike. Porters are available for hire at the mountain’s base to assist with heavy luggage, but the hike requires a reasonable level of fitness to complete comfortably.

Batwa Community Cultural Trail

The Batwa pygmy communities have lived for thousands of years in the forests of Virunga, Volcanoes, Bwindi, and Mgahinga National Parks. Unfortunately, civilization has caught up with them too with negative results. They were forced to leave their forest homes in Uganda and Rwanda and now live in settlements outside the parks. They have been relegated to the outskirts of the forest, like Buniga, in the Virunga National Park.

The Batwa cultural trail is led by the Batwa and allows visitors to learn how they make their huts, eat some of their locally prepared foods, dance to songs/tunes from local musical instruments, and learn their hunting skills.

How to get to Virunga National Park

Getting to Virunga National Park via Rwanda

This is the favorite route used by most tourists. The best travel strategy is to book flights so that you arrive in Kigali in the late afternoon or evening. Because this would be too late to start the journey to the Congo Border which is closed at night, it is advisable to book a room for the night and prepare for the journey to Congo the next day.

The journey from Kigali to Gisenyi (the nearest town to the Congo border) takes four hours by road. You can use private or public means of transport to reach the border. A private taxi costs $100, whereas public transportation is very inexpensive. When you arrive in Gisenyi, take a taxi to the Rwanda-Congo border.

To cross the border, you must have three important documents: a yellow fever vaccination card, a valid passport, and a Visa. Travelers are given a stamp from the Rwandan side before crossing to the Congo side for another seal after presenting these documents. Once released from the Congo side, the journey continues to Goma town which is very close to Virunga National Park and takes only 30 minutes.

Getting to Virunga National Park via Uganda

When a visitor arrives at Entebbe International Airport, there are two options for getting to the Uganda-Congo border. One is by road and the other by plane. The drive from Entebbe to the border takes at least eight hours. If you intend to travel by bus, you can book the services of various bus operators such as Horizon buses, Jaguar buses, Bismarkan buses, or Post buses. These bus companies charge between $15 and $20 to get to Kisoro, which is the closest town to the Congo border at Bunagana.

Those who do not want to drive the eight hours from Entebbe to Kisoro can book a chartered flight from Kajjansi flying school, which is located between Kampala and Entebbe. It takes only less than an hour to reach the Virunga National Park from the Bunangana border.

Best time to visit Virunga National Park

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a country that overlaps the equator and experiences both hot and warm climatic conditions. The eastern part of the DRC is covered in dense forests, allowing for frequent rains throughout the year. The most popular time to travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo which is also considered the best time to visit Virunga National Park is during the months of July through to September and by far the driest months of the year.

The low season in the Democratic Republic of the Congo typically begins in November, which is by far the wettest month of the year. Because of the low number of visitors to Virunga National Park during the months of October and November, as well as March and May, many of the lodges offer fantastic rates.

The Nyiragongo volcanoes can be visited all year, but keep in mind that the weather can be unpredictable, with regular rains during certain months making hiking impossible due to the wet muddy trails in Virunga National Park.

Accommodation in Virunga National Park

Depending on your budget, there is plenty of accommodation within and around the Virunga National Park. Hotels and lodges are classified into three types: budget, mid-range, and luxury. All categories provide high-quality services, but some extras may be unavailable in budget rooms. To get the best rooms and hotels, you must book ahead of time.

mikeno lodge dr congo tours

 

Mikeno Lodge

Mikeno Lodge is a luxurious lodge located outside of Goma town. The lodge features 12 luxurious grass-covered rooms made of lava rocks and mahogany. The rooms are large and comfortable, with en-suite bathrooms, curved baths, and stone showers. The lounge area includes a fireplace, a bar, and a dining hall, among other amenities. The Mikeno lodge is located in a strategic area that allows for the easy spotting of Blue Monkeys, Chimpanzees, Colobus Monkeys, Golden Monkeys, and birds that sing sweet melodies next to your room windows.

 

 

Kibumba Tented Camp and Lodge

Kibumba Tented Camp and Lodge: This is a new lodge located within Virunga National Park. These offer all three accommodation types (budget. Mid-range and luxury) and are either tented or built with permanent structures. The rooms are self-contained and include a lounge and dining area. Other amenities include linen bedding, an on-site bar and restaurant, and so on.

 

 

Lac Kivu Lodge:

Lac Kivu is located within the park with 20 rooms built in African style and surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens. The Lodge has spacious rooms with views of Lake Kivu and amenities such as Italian showers, Nespresso coffee machines, a beauty/fitness center, conference rooms, a swimming pool, WiFi, and constant power.