With a lot more that is readily available for you to see and explore while on safari in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Virunga National Park is remarkably a few African magical safari destinations you need to consider a must on your bucket list and you won’t be left in regrets. This spectacular rainforest protected area was established in 1925 by the Belgium first King Albert making it Africa’s oldest national park. Its creation was mainly to offer refuge to the critically endangered mountain gorillas and this is the oldest destination for gorilla safaris in Africa. It is one of the largest parks in Africa with an area coverage of about 7800 square kilometers and forms part of the Great Virunga Conservation Area that also covers areas of the Rwanda Volcanoes National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in southwestern Uganda. This park is largely composed of dense rain forests, savanna grassland, lava plains and erosion valleys, active volcanoes with glaciated peaks of the Rwenzori Mountain range, the Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira Volcanoes, swamps and others.
The Virunga National Park offers refuge to not only the unique mountain gorillas but also to variety of wildlife species including bird species, chimpanzees, hippos, forest and savanna elephants as well as over 2000 plant species 10 percent of which are highly endemic to the area thus an ideal habitat to vast wildlife species that thrive here and depend on different kinds of vegetation. However, the DR Congo is still recovering from political unrest and for any plans to pay a visit to this stunning conservancy area, you need to get in touch with the security organs or the Congo embassy to keep you up dated on the current security affairs in this area before embarking on the actual trip. But what is amazing is that, a visit to the Virunga National Park is very rewarding with variety of thrilling experiences and for any plans to spend your next holiday at this park, the following activities should be a must to do;
Mountain gorilla trekking
With fewer than 1004 rare mountain gorillas that still exist on earth today, the Congo Virunga National Park is that one unique destination that offers you a great opportunity to strike your imaginations with these dramatic, intelligent, humble and gentle creatures while in their natural habitat. Gorilla trekking is undoubtedly the most sought after primate adventure by holiday makers on DR Congo safari. It is such a life changing experience one needs not to miss while on safari in Africa. About 8 gorilla families have been habituated and readily available for trekking in Virunga National Park. The interesting part of it is that the cost of gorilla permits in the DR Congo is relatively cheaper compared that in Rwanda. Permits for gorilla trekking in this park cost $400 per person! Treks at this park kick start at Bukima Patrol station and you may spend 2 or more hours hiking in search of these fascinating creatures. To take part in this lifetime safari experience, you have to be above 15 years and a mask is a must for you to wear.
For nature lovers, nature walks in the Virunga National Park is incredibly the best way for you to explore what this natural wonder has to offer. This park is comprised of tropical rain forest and dense vegetation. Amazingly, it features many trails that take visitors to various magical sites. On nature walk at this park expect to see variety of primates, buffaloes, elephants, birds, Thomas cobs, hippos that thrive around the shores of Lake Edward and other water areas within the park.
The DR Congo is known not only for its vast primate species or mineral richness but also for vast bird habitats of which the Virunga National Park is undoubtedly that one unique birding area you need not to miss to explore while on birding safari in Africa. For any bird enthusiast, get your pair of binoculars ready to explore variety of bird species in this park including among others the double toothed barbet, yellow billed barbet, Madagascar bee-eaters, grey throated barbet, narrow tailed starling and others.
Nyiragongo volcano hike
For adventure seekers, a visit to Virunga National Park should be a must for you to challenge yourself with breathtaking hike to the glowing Nyiragongo volcano. This volcano is a few most powerful mountains with the largest lava lakes in the world. It is believed to have erupted for about 34 times with current one in 2002. A hike to the summit of this active volcano is breathtaking especially with fiery lava lake. On hike to the top of this volcano, you have a chance to catch a glimpse at varied wildlife species like monkeys, chimpanzees, bush bucks and incredible flora. Hiking through this volcano requires you to be physically fit as the hike may take you about 4 to 6 hours. Hikes start from Kibati patrol post about half an hour from Goma and an hour from Rumangabo. To be part of this adventure, you need to have your rain gear and good hiking boots then $300 for hiking permit. For any plans to visit this park, you can as well incorporate Nyiragongo hike with mountain gorilla adventures for ultimate adventure experience.
Chimpanzee habituation or tracking
If you are planning to spend your holiday in this park, then this is another most incredible primate experience you shouldn’t miss to take part. Chimpanzee habituation at this park was initiated by Frankfurt at a time when the Congolese team that was trained by Frankfurt zoological society began staying in the jungles at Rumangabo park headquarters in efforts to make chimpanzees get used to human presence. Permits for this experience costs $100 and it is restricted to only 4 visitors plus only 1 hour of magical encounters.
The other amazing thing you shouldn’t miss is landscape viewing. This park offers the best of landscape viewing given its breathtaking montane landscapes including the rugged relief of the magical Rwenzori Mountains, volcanoes within the Virunga Conservation Area.
Conclusively, Virunga National Park is suitably located in eastern DR Congo and it is one of the most endowed parks when it comes to ecosystems. A visit to this park rewards visitors with variety of exciting things right from natural wonders to cultural encounters. With the above listed activities, a visit to this park never leaves you out of choice while on your Congo safari!