Set along the Albertine Rift Valley, Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Virunga National Park is undoubtedly one of Africa’s most biodiverse and the ancient conservancy area which makes it a premier safari destination. This park was founded in 1925 making it the first protected area to be established in Africa and in 1979, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It sits at elevation of about 680 meters on the Semiliki River Valley and 5109 meters in the Ruwenzori Mountains.
Virunga National Park occupies an area of about 7800 Square kilometers and comprises largely of a tropical rain-forest. Its establishment was majorly to inhabit some of the rare mountain gorillas which make up a total population of about 1004 on earth today and exist only in Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC.
Wildlife in the Virunga National Park
Visitors on Congo safari in the Virunga National Park stand a chance to explore and experience diverse wildlife species in this protected area. This park is a popular habitat for mountain gorillas that make up a total of about 300, chimpanzees, golden monkeys, blue monkeys, dent’s mona monkeys, mantled guereza, olive baboons, grey cheeked mangabeys, red colobus monkeys, red tailed monkeys; African bush elephants, blue duikers, African buffaloes, hippos, leopards, lions, waterbucks, okapi; reptiles such as the Nile crocodiles on the Semiliki River side.
Over 2077 distinct plant species are confined within this park, 264 of which are tree species and 230 comprise of grass, shrubs and endemic plants. Virunga National Park also consists of montane forest, heath and alpine vegetation cover, vast grassland, woodland, swamp and wetland vegetation around water bodies.
Bird species in the Virunga National Park
Over 700 distinct bird species call Virunga National Park their home making it a prime birding safari destination. Virunga National Park is DR Congo’s significant bird watching site worthy exploring on Congo birding tour. The birds to look out in this park include numerous Albertine rift endemic avifauna especially, the Ruwenzori Turacos, Rwenzori batis, red throated alethe, collared apalis, mountain masked apalis, archer’s ground robin, strip breasted tit, regal sunbird, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, handsome francolin, blue headed sunbird. Other birds to identify on Congo safari in the Virunga National Park include African goshawk, common buzzard, Wahlberg’s eagle, grey crowned crane, mountain buzzard, charrier hawk, African hobby, blue spotted wood dove, red eyed dove, black billed turaco, red chested cuckoo, diederik cuckoo, Angolan swallow, yellow rumped tinkerbird, olive woodpecker, speckled mouse bird, grey throated barbet, Chubb’s cisticola, brown woodland warbler, bronze sunbird, narrow tailed starling, Sharpe’s starling, black and white mannikin, black head waxbill, African citril to mention but a few.
Other attractions in the Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park is also known for other iconic attractions including 2 active volcanoes; Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira. These volcanoes are believed to have shaped this protected area’s habitat and wildlife.
Activities to do in the Virunga National Park
Mountain gorilla trekking
Congo safaris in the Virunga National Park are complete only if you have included gorilla trekking adventures in your travel plan. This park inhabits 300 of the 1004 mountain gorillas that thrive on earth today thus making it one of the premier gorilla safari destinations in Africa. About 8 gorilla families have been habituated and set for trekking in this park alone and each gorilla permit costs $450 per person. You can secure your gorilla permit with our reservation team or contact the park authorities. Because the process is tedious, we advise our clients to deal with a trustworthy tour operator and that is why we are readily available to make you realize your dream.
Bird watching is another most exciting and significant safari activity offered to visitors on Congo safari tour in the Virunga National Park. This park boasts of its over 700 bird species and birders won’t be left in regret. The birds to identify in the Virunga National Park include among others the Narrow-tailed starling, African hobby, blue spotted wood dove, red eyed dove, black billed turaco, red chested cuckoo, diederik cuckoo, Angolan swallow, yellow rumped tinkerbird, olive woodpecker, speckled mouse bird, grey throated barbet, Chubb’s cisticola, brown woodland warbler, bronze sunbird, Madagascar bee-eater.
Guided nature walks
Guided nature walks are exceptional way to explore different habitats and wildlife species in and around the Virunga National Park while on Congo safari tour. On a nature walk, you will explore different parts of the park including the grassland, woodland, swamp while spotting unique birds, plants of medicinal use.
Nyiragongo volcano hike
Adventure enthusiasts on Congo tour are also never left out. A hike to the magical summits of Nyiragongo Volcano offers unforgotten experience. Nyiragongo volcano is one of Africa’s active volcanoes and it stands at altitude of 3470 meters.
Explore the unique landscape
Virunga National Park features a unique landscape, offering visitors on Congo safari with breathtaking views over the scenic snow peaks of Rwenzori Mountain ranges, craters, rift valleys, Nyiragongo and many surrounding areas.
Best time to visit Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park is open to visitors on Congo safari all year-round. However, it is ideal to explore this magical protected area during the dry season which occurs in June, July, August, early September and December, January, February. These months are usually drier and it is easier to trek mountain gorillas or go for nature walk.
The wet or rainy season is perfect for birding. The wet months of the year in the Virunga National Park begin in March, April, May and late September, October, November.
Where to stay in Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park features variety of accommodation options right from budget to luxury. They include Mikeno Lodge, Bukima Tented Camp, Tchegera Island Camp, Nyiragongo Summit Shelters, Kibumba Tented Camp and Lulimbi Tented Camp.
How to get to Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park is situated in Eastern DRC and it is reachable by road or by air. By road, you can get to this park through Goma Town which is 32kms drive away. From Gisenyi about 2 hours to Bukima Ranger Post. From Uganda, drive via Kisoro and visitors need 4×4 drive safari vehicle.
By air, fly from Kigali International Airport to Goma airport then drive to Virunga National Park about 32 kms.