Known for being the most biologically diverse protected areas in the world, the Virunga National Park is a geologic wonder and two of the most active volcanoes in the world are located here. It was established in 1925 by King Albert I of Belgium to protect the mountain gorillas living in the forests of Virunga Massif controlled by Belgian Congo.
Virunga National Park Location
Formerly named as Albert National Park, the Virunga National Park is the first national park in Africa and is located in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The park is spread across 7,800 square kilometer area stretching from Virunga Mountains in the south and Rwenzori Mountains in the north. It borders Rwenzori Mountains National Park as well as Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda apart from Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
How To Get To Virunga National Park
Kigali international airport is the nearest for foreign travelers to fly in for visiting Virunga National Park in Congo. The site is about a 3-hour ride by road thereafter to the border crossing at Gisenyi in Rwanda and taxis usually charge between $100 and $120. Most of the international flights arrive in the evening so it is better suggested spending the night in Kigali.
The Congolese wildlife authority has an agreement with Congolese immigration service to facilitate 2-week, single entry tourist visas for tourists coming from other countries provided they have purchased a mountain gorilla trek permit, a Nyiragongo trek permit, or book and pay for accommodation at the Mikeno Lodge. Registered tour operators also help in arranging tourism visa. The fee may be around $105 and is non-refundable.
The most important reason to visit Virunga National Park is trekking that is led by park rangers and depart from Bukima patrol post at most of the time and requires hiking of one or two hours in each direction. Below are some details:
Mountain Gorilla Treks
Undoubtedly mountain gorillas are highly intelligent and seeing them is really exciting. Visitors are suggested to wear surgical masks and maximum visit duration is just 1 hour. It costs about $400.
Chimpanzee Habituation Walks
Guests staying at Mikeno Lodge can spend time with the chimpanzees by joining Congolese team who is trained by Frankfurt Zoological Society to habituate the animal living in the forests.
Nyiragongo Volcano Treks
Nyirangongo stratovolcano is located here which is world’s largest lava lake. From Nyiragongo’s summit rim tourists can peer down into a churning lava lake. The climbs start at 10 a.m.
Rwenzori Mountain Treks and Climbing
Known as Mountains Of The Moon, the northern part of the park is Rwenzori mountains. It is 5,109 m high and contain largest glaciers left in Africa. It is equipped with stunning variety of landscapes including alpine meadows, bamboo forests, lakes, and snow copped peaks.
Tchegera Island Camps is the perfect place to relax after climbing Nyiragonga volcano. Spectacular views of the lake and four volcanoes are what attract tourists here. On clear nights the night sky turns red with the glowing lava.