Welcome to the Virunga National Park the Africa’s oldest National Park and home to mountain gorillas, chimpanzees and the incredible, active Nyiragongo volcano, which can be climbed on a thrilling two day expedition.
Having been the subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary Virunga in 2014, the park has been growing fast in popularity and its management team has risen to the challenge by impressively improving its accommodation facilities.
The Park stretches from the Virunga Mountains in the south, to the Rwenzori Mountains in the north, in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, bordering Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda.
The park was established in 1925 as Africa’s first national park and is a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site since 1979.
In recent years, poaching and the Congo Civil War have seriously damaged its wildlife population. The park is managed by the Congolese National Park Authorities, the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and its partner the Virunga Foundation, formerly known as the Africa Conservation Fund (UK). The current park director since 2008 is the Belgian Prince Emmanuel de Merode.
The Bukima Tented Camp in the foothills of Mikeno Mountain, home of the Congolese mountain gorillas. Therefore for tourists staying at this camp take short move to the starting point of gorilla trekking adventure compared to those staying at Mikeno Lodge or Kibumba Tented Camp and this is newly opened camp and very affordable to travelers and from here you can experience the vibrant local cultural performances of Democratic Republic of Congo.
Therefore, book a gorilla tour in Congo with us to come to Virunga National Park. Most tours begin and end in Goma, and due to the high cost of staying overnight in the park, many visitors base themselves in Gisenyi or Goma and do 2 day trips into the park.
There is no public transport to the park and you will need to arrange this adventure with local trusted tour operators who arrange safari logistics with the Virunga Foundation and providing you with 4WD vehicle and driver to take you in and around the park.
A visit with a mountain gorilla family is a life changing experience. Mountain gorillas are highly intelligent, good natured, and fascinating to observe. The silver back’s powerful presence is awe-inspiring, yet his calm clearly earns him the title, “gentle giant”.
People are equally struck by the tenderness and care that mothers show their young. And then, of course, there are the juveniles who spend most of every waking hour at play and never cease to make visitors smile.
We believe your time with Virunga’s mountain gorillas will leave you feeling changed for the better. All treks are led by park rangers and usually depart from Bukima patrol post. Treks usually require 2 – 4 hours of hiking in each direction, depending on where the mountain gorillas spent the previous night and the difficulty of the terrain.
The park is known for its exceptional biodiversity, containing more birds, mammal and reptile species than any protected area on the continent of Africa. Although mountain gorillas are now extremely rare and listed as one of the most critically endangered species, successful conservation work has helped to secure the remaining populations.
Their populations actually increased during the years of political upheaval in the region (1994–2004), and have continued to do so even throughout the difficult period of 2007-2008.
The 2010 mountain gorilla census has indicated that the conservation efforts of Virunga have been very successful regarding the gorilla population.
Both savanna and forest elephants as well as chimpanzees and low land gorillas can still be found in Virunga, along with okapi, giraffes, buffaloes and many endemic birds. The neighboring Mount Hoyo area was managed with the park and is home to a population of Bambuti pygmy people, caves and waterfalls.
Accessibility to the park
There are only two routes that a tourist can access to reach Virunga National Park and these include;
Via Uganda, cross the border in Bunagana, from where the Mountain gorilla sites Jomba and Bikenge are easily accessible within 1 hour.
Via Rwanda, cross the border at Gisenyi/Goma, the border crossing is easy if you pre – arranged a visa, if not it will be difficult or expensive.
Tourist attractions in the park
The mountain gorillas live in Virunga mountain ranges, which are shared by Volcanoes National park in Rwanda, Mgahinga National park in Uganda and Virunga national park in DR Congo. Mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park are a source of tourism attraction under ICCN.
In the process of conserving mountain gorillas, the other subspecies of eastern and western gorillas in DRC have also received conservation attention including other wildlife that share habitats with mountain gorillas which has made diversity of wildlife relevant besides gorillas.
Mount Nyiragongo is an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 3,470 metres in the Virunga Mountains associated with the Albertine Rift.
It is located inside Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, about 20 km (12 mi) north of the town of Goma and Lake Kivu and just west of the border with Rwanda. Lava flows through down town of Goma and reaches Lake Kivu, only to 150 km depth.
The most recent large eruption of Nyiragongo occurred in 2002 where 147 people killed. During this eruption lava flows moved through the city of Goma on the shores of Lake Kivu destroying 13% of the city and approximately 12,000 to 15,000 homes displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Experience the most interesting and amazing activities which include the mountain gorilla trekking, Mount Nyiragongo Hiking and the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience.
Congo Safari Lodges and Exclusive Camps:
This is a luxury lodge that is a 90 minute drive from Goma and offers large bungalows and a good restaurant. The lodge and restaurant are located within a forest and offer beautiful views of the rift valley and Nyiragongo and Mikeno Volcanoes.
Bukima Tented Camp
This is a mid – range lodge in the park and just outside the Virunga National Park boundary at the main starting point mountain gorilla treks. The camp was originally built for researchers, but is now used primarily by trekkers.
Lulimbi Tented Camp
The Camp is located in the heart of Virunga National Park and is home to a large percentage of the park’s elephants and hippos, Buffaloes, warthogs, giant forest hogs, topi, Ugandan Kob, crocodiles, and a wide variety of bird life also abound.
Kibumba Tented Camp
This 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 trail head 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 Tented Camp
This Camp is the perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of Goma or to relax after climbing Nyiragongo volcano and gorilla trek. Situated off the northern shore of Lake Kivu, Tchegera camp offers spectacular views of the Lake and spot birds along the shores of the banks and four Volcanoes.
Nyiragongo is a beautiful stratovolcano that features the world’s largest Lava Lake. The volcano’s forested lower slopes are home to a variety of animals, including chimpanzees, monkeys, and bush buck. Nyiragongo summit rim is largely devoid of vegetation and is frequently dusted with snow.