Virunga national park is the most famous game park in the Democratic Republic of Congo not only because it is the vibrant tourism destination in this beautiful gigantic country, but also attributed to the fact that it is one of the few blessed destinations to harbor the last surviving and critically endangered mountain gorillas on planet earth. The other destinations are only found in Uganda - Bwindi impenetrable and Mgahinga national parks as well as Rwanda - Volcanoes national park.
Virunga is no ordinary national park with mountain gorillas but plays a great part in the country’s rich history and the world at large. The park which was created in 1925 stands as one of the first sites to be gazzeted primarily for the conservation of wildlife in Africa. It further boasts being the first research base where celebrated primatologist Dian Fossey began her research and study of the mountain gorillas. Her relentless effort helped ensure that we can view gorillas in this present day though it was at the expense of her own life.
The park in addition to shielding the mountain gorillas is endowed with rich biodiversity in fauna and flora which earned it the honors of being recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 and Ramsar site in 1996 for its exceptional habitats. The park with the contiguous Queen Elizabeth national park combine to form a conservation area known as the “Lion Conservation unit” a stronghold for lions in the region and holds a reasonable number of lion prides on the continent.
Virunga National Park is situated in the eastern region of D.R. Congo within the Congo – Nile area and stretches over a 2,999 square miles’ radius. Its enormous size makes it share borders with outstanding game parks with its neighbors like the Rwenzori Mountains, Semuliki and Queen Elizabeth National parks to its north and central sector while its southern sector joins it with the Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. This places the park right in the middle of a vibrant tourism area and is a must place to visit for its tourism potential.
The park is endowed with a variety of attractions from geography starting with its picturesque scenery for example two of the world’s famous active volcanoes in Nyamuragira and Nyiragongo are found here and helped to shape the different habitats, fauna and flora found in the park. Virunga National Park is the only place you find the two subspecies of the eastern gorilla in addition to over 196 mammals, 109 and 65 reptile and amphibian species restively not forgetting over 706 bird species.
The park holds a record of having over 300 Albertine endemic species from the 706 bird species total including Kivu ground thrush, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, handsome spurfowl, and Archer’s ground robin. While notable mammal species include lions, African bush elephant, African buffalo, De brazza’s monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey, okapi, blue duiker, common chimpanzee, aardvark, giant forest hog while the reptiles are represented by the Nile crocodile.
Because of its diverse fauna and flora plus geography, several activities can be enjoyed in the Virunga national park. A couple of these are guaranteed highlight reels for the visitors who opt for the park as a tourism destination. These are spear-headed with mountain gorilla trekking.
This ranks as one of the top African safari adventures and the fact that it can only be experienced in a handful of destinations elevates the satisfaction you relish from it. The activity involves guests taking on the tricky and craggy slopes of the Nyiragongo in a quest of the elusive mountain gorillas that inhabit its lower slopes. The activity which is strenuous most of the way rewards you with one of the most precious memories you will have once you meet the magnificent gentle giants of Africa.
Persevering visitors relish one full hour of awe-inspiring memories of observing the intriguing creatures interacting with each other, grooming, feeding while the mighty silverbacks observe ready to protect their precious family if the need arises.
For hikers looking for an unappalled hiking experience, Virunga offers one of the limited offers you can have in the whole world. A hike of mount Nyiragongo will lead you to behold the largest active lava lake boiling on top of its summit. This comes as an extra topping to the satisfaction you get from conquering a treacherous and hard obstacle that presents itself in Mount. Nyiragongo. The other option is the Nyamuragira volcano which also presents a challenge of its own and hikers can never be disappointed in Virunga national park.
Birding in the Virunga offers passionate birders with a guaranteed exceptional experience as the park harbors over 706 birds species with more than 300 Albertine endemic species for example the Rwenzori double collared sunbird, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, stranger weaver, collared Apalis, regal sunbird, mountain masked Apalis, handsome spurfowl and Archer’s ground robin, Rwenzori batis, stripe-breasted tit, red-faced woodland warbler among others.
A visit to the park will automatically leave your bird list enhanced and appreciating one of the best birding sites in the world.
Virunga national park like most of its counterparts in Africa is an all-year tourism destination. But as in other destinations, a few of the months are more favorable than others and for the Virunga national park, the period of June to late August is the best time to visit as it’s the peak season. This time comes with the most comfortable conditions off less rain, favorable temperatures and the Democratic Republic of Congo is the only destination where it’s not crowded even at peak season.
Choose an adventure in the Virunga national park and get ready to experience a safari of lifetime in one of the oldest game parks on the African continent.