The Virunga National Park, the oldest park in Africa is one of the few places where travelers for gorilla tracking. This national park was formerly called Albert National park and also covers an area of 7,800 sq km and also extends from the VirungaMountains in the south towards the Rwenzori Mountains in the north, in the eastern direction, there is the Volcanoes National park in Rwanda and Queen Elizabeth National park and the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda. The park is also managed by Congolese National park Authorities,
The southern sector of the park where the gorillas and volcano is easily accessible in many different ways and the commons include; the overland via Uganda as you cross the border in Bunagana from the mountain gorilla sites in Jomba and Bikenge which can be accessed within 1 hour. There is also an overland via Rwanda as you cross the border at Gisenyi/Goma, border crossing here is very easy in case you pre- arranged with the Visa, since the visa is also expensive at the border and totals to $280. The other option might be to fly into Goma from within DRC flights that connect to Goma from outside the DRC.
Visit the Virunga Gorillas
There are about 1000 mountain gorillas left in the world. Nearly half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas live in the Virunga Mountains of the central Africa, at the intersection of Uganda, Rwanda and the democratic republic of Congo. Unlike the gorillas you find in the zoos, there are no mountain gorillas within the zoos and if you are to see them, you have to visit them in the wild on a gorilla safari in one of the 3 countries in Africa; Uganda, Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire).
For long travelers have traversed the parks of Bwindi Forest, Mgahinga and Volcanoes National Park to see the mountain gorillas. The Virunga Gorillas however have been less covered given a multitude of problems that have been existing in the region. The park has been sand witched between the 1994 Rwanda genocide and the brutal on going civil war in Congo, poaching and more problems. has become a battle ground for the militia groups and the Congolese army. In addition, severe poverty in the region also pushes the poachers into the park to hunt the gorillas for either meat or sale. The locals also generate the income by cutting down the trees to create the charcoal, nearly $ 30 million trade that the wreaks havoc on the critical habitat. The gorillas are so good to experience and they have brought in many people to enjoy gorilla tracking safaris to Uganda. Today the park sits within a conflict where several oil companies seek to start oil exploration operations within the park.
Today the virunga National Park is home to nearly 200 gorillas, and is now safe for gorilla tracking in Africa. These unique species have greatly attracted many gorilla tracking safaris which has increased the amount of revenues to the country. The volcanic slopes here are lush with the tropical forests and the diverse mammals, birds and the reptile species; these are also in the heart of a region in crisis. Many travelers have visited the gorillas within the park, and the success rate is over 90%. There are a few lodges where travelers can stay for a night but they are up to the standards that one need.
With the help of the dedicated wildlife rangers, comprehensive monitoring and the community education programs, these endangered gorilla population in the Virungas also experienced a nearly 20 % increase in the early 2000s. However in 2007, at least ten gorillas in the Virunga National Park were lost to murder and the chaos which took place. Also with the help of the dedicated wildlife rangers, comprehensive monitoring, and the community education programs, the endangered gorilla population in the Virungas also experienced a nearly 20 % increase in the early 2000s.
The gorillas in Virunga parks are also faring a bit better, as it is the other half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population, which also lives in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, just 15 miles north of the Virunga Mountains. These virunga gorillas have greatly contributed to high revenues to the country due to the increased gorilla safaris.
Planning Your Trip
When organising a gorilla trekking safari and the Nyiragongo volcano hiking in Africa, the company gives complete information that allows you to visit the Virunga National park while you are on a Congo safari .Virunga national park is one of the most diverse places on this earth and home to the last remaining mountain gorillas. In the park, there is a charmed environment with small team of rangers that include the ex- child soldiers who turned into the rangers. There is also a care taker of the gorillas and also a determined conservationist who protects the UNESCO World heritage site from the armed militia and the poachers who will struggle to control the park resources.
The activities carried out in Virunga include; the Nyiragongo volcano climbing, this volcano is so famous for its lava lake and it’s easy to hike from the direction of Goma. A tour to the top of this volcano takes 6 hours and most of the climbers spend a night at the top. This can help you view the boiling lava by night, when it’s brighter.
Trekking the mountain gorillas, the gorillas are situated with in the Mikeno sector that is about 2 and half hour drive from Goma. These can be reached from Bunagana which is border to Uganda. The permits to trek the gorillas cost $400 per person. The visits are also more reliable and in smaller groups. The treks take 1 to 2 hours of hiking each direction and this also depends were the gorillas spent a night the previous day.
The Rwenzori mountain trek, these are known to be snow-capped mountain ranges that are found in the north of Virunga National park on the border with Uganda. Its highest peak also lies on the border and can as well be hiked from both countries. This trek has got glacier that can be made in a 4t 5 or 6 days and in order to begin, the hikers will need to travel to Beni by Airplane which is either from Goma or Entebbe.
The chimpanzee treks, the tourists that stay at Mikeno lodge will join the team on daily visits to see the chimpanzees. The day starts when a local trackers leaves the camp at 4:30 am to locate where the chimps spent their night, the visitors will then go out by 6:00 am to find the chimpanzees. The chimp groups are also limited to 4 people and time with these primates is one hour. These groups consist of 32 individuals.