BEST Gorilla Trekking in Virunga National Park Congo
Lake Edward, which is shared between Congo and Rwanda occupies much of the park’s central region, while the soaring Rwenzori ranges occupy the northeast. Virunga national park was later declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 due to its ecological significance regardless of the occasional political upheavals that have had negative impacts on the conservation efforts. In 1996, the Virunga conservancy was later declared a Ramsar site of international importance, and till now the Virunga is ranked a strong ecological pillar for the entire African ecosystem.
Virunga constitutes, together with the adjacent parks of Mgahinga and Volcanoes in Uganda and Rwanda, one of the most prestigious and endangered mountain gorillas in the world. The park boasts of a few hundred endangered mountain gorillas that still call it home, as well as okapi – a species that was only ‘discovered’ in 1901 by European explorers. There are also a handful populations of straight-tusked and forest elephants, chimpanzees, buffalos and the occasional leopard. Virunga Park’s varied nature and climate, with large lakes, vast savannas, expanse forest areas, snow-capped Rwenzori Mountain, tropical wetlands, active volcanos and grass-covered plains, all providing effective habitats for the large mammals, primates and birds associated with Africa’s wild nature. The park as well encloses large vast of savannas, lava plains, peat bogs, eastern steppe vegetation, marshes and various forest types, including bamboo plantations and tropical rainforests.
Diversity of wildlife
The Virunga overflows with stunning beauty shown by high diversity in terrain, land features, vegetation and plant species. The Virunga National Park has ideal habitat conditions for any mammal species. The 2012 wildlife census recorded 218 mammal species of these 22 are primates, 706 bird species, 109 reptiles and 65 amphibian species. Visitors in Virunga national park have options of observing wildlife during forest / nature walks, hikes and trekking.
Remarkable mammal sightings in open grasslands or water include elephant, buffalos, warthog, waterbucks, bushbucks, hippopotamus, leopard, okapi, yellow backed duiker, bay duiker, red river hog, giant forest hog, aardvark, bongo, blue duikers and many others. Rainforests, montane forests and alpine vegetation are ideal places to spot primate species, including not only mountain gorillas and tracking chimpanzees in the rainforests have high opportunities to encounter red-tailed monkeys, blue monkey, Dent's Mona monkey, grey-cheeked mangabeys, Hamlyn's monkey, black and white Colobus monkey, De brazza’s monkeys and olive baboons.
Gorilla Trekking in Virunga NP
Virunga national park is one of the preferred destinations for intrepid travelers to visit the once more accessible southern region of the park for gorilla trekking adventure. Gorilla treks happen mainly in Mikeno and Bukima sectors, all located adjacent to the park headquarters about one and half hours’ drive from border town of Goma. Gorilla tours in Virunga national park here is excellent for travelers who love off-the-beaten paths experiences and those who love nature, escorted by experienced ranger guides in order for you to have an unforgettable gorilla trekking experience in the lush forests of Congo.
Visit Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage
Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage Center is a home of the orphaned mountain gorillas located about 10 minutes from Mikeno lodge in Rumangabo where the Virunga national park headquarters are situated. It is the world’s largest and single gorilla orphanage, currently home to 4 gorillas, aged between 5 and 14. Two of the gorillas, both aged nine years old were orphaned in 2007 during the gorilla massacre, and they are the only surviving members of their family. At 2 and 4 months old, these were too young to survive on their own so Virunga National Park management took them up in order to help raise and protect them during a particularly harsh poaching period in D.R. Congo’s history.
Climbing Mount Nyiragongo
At 3,470 meters, Mount Nyiragongo is an ancient strato-volcano located within the Virunga ranges associated with the Albertine Rift. It contains the largest lava lake on its summit with varying depth. Nyiragongo was previously recorded at about 10,660ft (3,250m) prior to the January 1977 eruption. It has been reported as Africa's most active volcano and has erupted above 40 times since 1885 together with sister volcano, the peerless Nyamuragira. The great Nyiragongo hiking is scheduled at 10:00am at the commence point ‘Kibati’ , it perhaps takes five hours on the hike, to get to the summit, it’s easy when the tourist spends a night at Gisenyi then crosses through Goma town as you drive towards Nyiragongo Park headquarters for an important briefing.
Chimpanzees tracking safaris are the second most popular tourism encounter in the Virunga after gorilla trekking. It was started in 1987 by Frankfurt Zoological Society for research and study purposes. Travelers walk into and explore the rainforests on the lookout for troops of chimpanzees that are less bothered by curious eyes of adventurers. Travelers on a chimpanzee trekking encounter in Virunga are restricted to one-hour interaction with the allocated troop. Chimpanzee habituation exercise on the other hand is an exciting experience that gives travelers an entire day unlimited interaction with a specific community of chimpanzees. A team of chimpanzee habituation sets out early morning and wander into the rainforests searching for chimpanzees before they depart from their nests, spend entire day watching and learning about their peculiar qualities, habits until night time when they make new nests.
Joining group tours to Virunga National Park
Virunga’s altitude, climate, and habitats vary remarkably. Both the highest and lowest recorded rainfalls in the entire Democratic Republic of Congo occur within the park’s boundaries. While the lowest rainfall amounts received occur near Lake Albert (500mm), the western slopes of Mount Rwenzori receive relatively highest rainfall amounts, of more than 3,000mm. It is also advisable to travel during dry seasons, which happen between June-September and December to February. The infrastructure especially roads are still poor and therefore rains tend to destroy roads and makes accessibility hard.