Virunga national park
Virunga national park contains one of the old forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it is one of the few places to find the critically endangered Mountain gorilla, to the northeastern corner of the country there lies the vast bio-diverse conservation area, it has multiple ecosystems each of which supports wildlife that exists in the national park, Virunga lies along the floor of the great Albertine rift valley region covering an area space of approximately 7,900 square kilometers, the park comprises most of Virunga volcanoes dressed in montane forest, these include both active and dormant volcanoes, Mount Mikeno, mount Nyiragongo, mount Nayumlagira, Mount Visoke, Mount Karisimbi, Mount Sabinyo, some of these Mountains are shared with Uganda and Rwanda.
The park is comprised of the several habitats including the savannah, plain lands, vegetation on the eastern steep slopes, tropical montane forest, and bamboo, these serve as home to abundant wildlife it hosts quite a number of species like the Mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, golden monkeys, African elephants, African buffaloes, antelopes, warthogs, topi, waterbucks, bushbucks, yellow-backed duiker, blue-backed duiker, hippos, among other species and over 605 bird species most of which are endemic to the destination. Travelers to the destination have the choice of how they want to view these animals, they can see them on game drives, on nature walks, or trek through the forest, this is one of Africa’s oldest forests that have grown over time, it is the first conservation area to be protected and gazette in 1925.
The animal population in the national park was high in the early days of the less human population, however basing on the increase in human activity in the national park, there was a great reduction in numbers which led to the area being protected, it was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979. During the 1990’s Virunga faced a challenge of an influx of refugees fleeing from the Rwanda wars, and internal wars in Congo, it highly affected the conservation area which led to it being announced an endangered UNESCO site, poaching was rampant, and clearing land for settlement, to date there have been Minimal wars and the forest being put at stake.
The park’s major attraction is the primates, notably the mountain gorillas, they live in the Highland areas of the park, popular activity of the park is Mountain gorilla trekking, which begins at the park headquarters where travelers receive their permits to head into the forest, there are few gorilla families in the park despite being big, habituated gorilla families are six for a client visit, trekkers report to the park center in the morning to begin the activity, time taken depends on the distance which the gorilla families have moved, Gorillas are gentle intelligent species, they spend most of their day eating lots of green vegetation, they rarely feed in the same place twice, they nest on the ground and also love to relax on the ground when in the trees they are mostly trying to find food.
Golden Monkeys are the other primates to track while on a visit to the Virunga national park, it being in the Virunga volcanic area, it is the only east African place to find them, there is no age limit in tracking Golden monkeys the activity just like the gorillas begins at 8:00 am, it takes a shorter time to find the monkeys, one hour is allowed to interact with them, they are very fast species and if you bare to take pictures advice for you is to set the Camera-ready on close approach.
Virunga national park hosts the two great apes including the Chimpanzee tracking. chimpanzees is famous in the Virunga, this started way back in 1978, researchers habituated chimpanzee families, they head into the forest to search for chimpanzees, and these are said to have the same human instincts as they share up to 98% of the Human DNA, you will encounter Chimpanzee an hour is allowed to be with them.
The fame of this national park is it having the active Volcano Nyiragongo, Hiking Nyiragongo mountain takes you through the forest areas of the park, all year boiling volcanic Lake is not to miss on a visit to the national park, it takes two days to and from the summit after the summit hikers love to relax at the beautiful shores of Lake Kivu. the landscape is among the amazing things to feed the eyes while at Virunga national park, you will have sights of the Ruwenzori snow-capped mountain, craters, mountains, and rift valleys.
Where to stay on a Congo Gorilla safari to the national park is available with facilities even on the Summit, examples include the Bukima tented camp, Kibumba tented camp, Mikeno lodge, these offer the best services to travelers providing shelter and food. The Park is best accessed from Rwanda from Rwanda Gorilla Safaris, a faster and easier route, by road to Goma.