The Virunga National Park covers an area of 7,800 square kilometers stretching from the Virunga mountains to the Ruwenzori Mountains of Eastern DRC.
The northern sector of the park has lake shores, African savannahs, Riverine forests, alpine forest, and eternal snow. The central region has African savannah, marshland Riverine forests, and the lake shores.
In the southern sector, the old lava flows are still evident amidst alpine forests and Montane Tropical Forests. The park is home to the biggest bird, mammal, and reptile populations in a protected area in Africa.
Mountain gorillas, savannah and forests elephants, Chimpanzee, lowland gorillas, okapi, giraffes, buffaloes, and endemic birds live here.
During the civil wars in the country, the park suffered intense poaching and land invasion that ruined its vegetation and endemic fauna.
However, the last three years has seen the park regenerate, and tourism develop. The Virunga Foundation manages and protects the park from imminent invasion and excessive poaching that is driving the mountain gorillas and chimpanzee almost to extinction.
Although tourism in the national park was hindered by civil conflicts and wars that hit Democratic Republic of Congo in the past decades, the country has now stabilized and tourism takes place peacefully.
Mountain gorilla trekking
This is the most done tourism activity in the Virunga national park. There are six habituated gorilla families in the national park available for trekking.
Virunga national park is one of the four national parks in the whole world with the surviving mountain gorillas alongside the volcanoes national park in Rwanda, Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park both in Uganda.
Kabirizi is the largest family in the national park with approximately 32 members including 10 babies, 4 sub adults, I black back, 11 adults, five juveniles and 1 silver back named kabirizi. The other gorilla families in the national park are Rugendo, Munyaga, Humba, Mapuwa and Lulengo families.
This is yet another interesting wild life activity done in Virunga national park started by a zoologist named Frankfurt in 1987.
Chimpanzees were made familiar to human beings and since the travelers have been flocking into the national park for chimpanzee habituation and trekking experiences.
The chimpanzee habituation permit is sold at 100usd and allows travelers to interact with the chimpanzees learning more about them.
Virunga national park is a tropical rain forest with dense vegetation. There are various trails that travelers follow leading to different directions and sites.
Travelers encounter various animals during the walks, which include buffalos, elephants, and different types of monkeys, Thomas cobs and large concentration of hippotamuses approximately 20,000 living on the banks of Lake Edwards and other water in the national park.
The experience does not only stop at wild life but also include hiking the Nyiragongo volcanoes. Virunga national park has the very active Nyiragongo volcano in its center whose summit harbours the largest large lava lake in the whole world.
The volcano is very active in that records show that it has erupted over 34 times and the last one was in 2002 when the lava lake drained and lava flowed to the nearby communities.
Travelers hike up to the summit of the volcano and have a clear view of the dazzling lake with lots fumes coming out of melilite nephelinite.
Virunga National Park is the best site for viewing the spectacular montane landscapes in the neighbouring countries. These include the snow summits and the jagged relief of the Rwenzori Mountains, the volcanoes in the Virunga conservation area together with the Afro alpine vegetation of tree ferns and the dense forests.
More still, travelers see the eroded valleys spotted in the ishango and Sinda regions. The views provide travellers with extra ordinary experience since they do not need to travel to the places viewed while in the Virunga national park.
In conclusion therefore, Virunga national park situated in the Virunga conservation area in the democratic republic of Congo.
The national park is rich in unique and diverse features ranging from natural, cultural, historical and manmade resources a combination that provides travelers with a phenomenal experience.
Where to stay
Mikeno Lodge is a comfortable lodge placed in the forested hillside at the Headquarters of Virunga National Park, a good base for Trekking mountain gorillas or hiking a volcano. The lodge is well set between three major attractions in Virunga National Park.
This is just 1hour and 30 minutes’ drive from Goma. There is a plenty of bird life, as well as blue monkeys, colobus monkeys, and baboons. Chimpanzees are regular visitors to the area.
Mikeno Lodge provides grate experience among the wildlife and beauty of Virunga National Park. Mikeno Lodge has 12 bungalows, each with splendid views into the nearby forest.
Twisted with lava stone, mahogany and thatch, bungalows are settled in the thick green forest. The spacious bungalows boast of en-suite bathrooms with stone carved baths and showers.
The style involves Congolese culture and classic simplicity with decorated carpets, soft tones and sleek wooden furniture; while the private sundeck offers guests chance to experience the performance of Blue and Colobus monkeys in the forest.
The summit shelters at the top of mount Nyiragongo
Housing at the peak of Mount Nyiragongo is the smaller basic tents provided with a decent mattress and pillows. Each tent is meant for two people but since they are small, you will be in close quarters with your tent mate! There are eight cabins, each for two people.
Some are up closer to the crater’s rim, while others are down below. Housing in the upper cabins allows you to pop out of your tent for a look in the crater at a moment’s notice however even those sleeping in the lower cabins will also access the lave lake. The higher cabins are colder because of wind as compared to the upper cabins.
Kibumba Camp is an excellent choice for those seeking a more affordable way to experience the mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park.
The camp is conveniently located near the trailhead for Nyiragongo volcano, which makes it the perfect place to stay for those wanting to experience both gorillas and the world’s largest lava lake.
Tchegera Island Camp is good place to escape the hustle and bustle of Goma or to relax after climbing Nyiragongo volcano.
Situated off the northern shore of Lake Kivu, Tchegera camp offers spectacular views of the lake and four volcanoes. On clear nights, Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira volcanoes add to the drama by turning the night sky red with their glowing lava.
Bukima Tented Camp is a simple tented camp at the border of the park and one of the main starting points for gorilla treks in Virunga. The camp was originally built for researchers, but is now used primarily by trekkers.
Lulimbi tented camp
The latest string in Virunga’s bow, and operational since July 2016, Lulimbi Camp lies on the Ishasha River on the eastern edge of the park’s central sector. In fact, Uganda’s safari star Queen Elizabeth National Park lies just across the water.