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Virunga National Park

About Virunga National Park

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Brief Overview

The Virunga National Park is 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 Institute Congolese pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and its partner the Virunga Foundation, formerly known as the Africa Conservation Fund (UK).

It besides the equator, stretching from the lowlands at the bottom of the Rift Valley (680m) to the highest peak of the Rwenzori Mountains at 5119m. Its vast range of habitats includes rift valley lakes, swamps, and acacia savannas, woodlands and forests, active volcanoes and rugged mountain slopes all in the same forest.

Virunga Mountain Goorillas

Where is Virunga National Park Located?

Virunga National Park is in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The park is shared by Rwanda and Congo. Created in 1925 the park is among the first protected areas in Africa. It has an altitude of between 680 m in the Semliki River valley to 5,109 m in the Rwenzori Mountains. Source: Wikipedia
Address: Kivu Nord, Democratic Republic of the Congo

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THINGS TO DO IN VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK

Virunga National Park is a sensational place to visit as it harbors a number of other animals like chimpanzees, hippopotami, bird species, forest and Savannah elephants and lions.

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Gorilla Trekking in Congo

Virunga National Park is a natural habitat to about 300 of gorillas living mostly in the southern areas of the park. The national park is managed by the  Congolese National Park Authorities, together with the Institute Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and its partner the Africa Conservation Fund though it is shared by Rwanda and Congo.

Gorilla Trekking is a magical experience of a lifetime that is worth to take due to the presence of these primates in Virunga National Park that are charming intelligent, smart and friendly to interact with.

All treks begin at Bukima Patrol post in Congo taking 1-2 hrs.

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Birding in Virunga National Park

Virunga National park has a number of different bird species that inhabit the thick forest vegetation. You will hear sounds and noise from the various bird species which usually rise up very early and sing within the trees at around 5:00 am You will be compelled to get out of bed since the sound that comes from the birds is extraordinary and persuasive. This will be an exceptional experience as you wouldn’t find it any where else other than here at Virunga National Park.

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Virunga Game Drive & Nature Walks

At Virunga National Park, there are different places you can go to like the Gorilla Orphanage center at Senkwekwe situated in Rumangabo near the park headquarters. Here you get to see four gorillas that were saved from being trafficked by the poachers who hunt them in their natural habitat for exportation and trade. These include Maisha, Ndeze, Ndakasi, and Matabishi who enjoy their home. these gorillas play, interact peacefully without fear of any harm since they are protected and secured by the park rangers who ensure these are safe annually for trekking by the visitors.

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Chimpanzee Habituation Experience

This is a process where by a trekker spends more hours or even the whole day with the chimpanzees deep in the forest.Chimpanzee habituation started in February 2014 by a Congolese team trained by Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and these formerly lived in the thick forests near the park headquarters in Rumangabo. They were habituated in Tongo forest a safeguarded area by the park rangers with a total number of 32 members hence making trekking them easy and simple annually by visitors worldwide. This process involves removing the fear of humans from the chimpanzees.

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How to Reach Virunga National Park

This national park is 32 km west of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. Transport from Goma to the park can easily be arranged with the Visit And Tour Rwanda.

ACCOMMODATION IN VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK

There are a number of lodges and hotels in Rwanda where you can stay for the duration of your safari in Virunga National Park

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The Mikeno Lodge

The Mikeno Lodge is a 90-minute drive from Goma and offers big bungalows and a good restaurant. The lodge and restaurant are located within a forest and they give a beautiful view of the rift valley and Nyiragongo and Mikeno volcanoes. There is an abundance of bird life, as well as resident blue monkeys, colobus monkeys, and baboons. Chimpanzees are also frequent visitors to the area.

Mikeno Lodge is a hidden gem within Virunga National Park that will not take long to be discovered. The bungalow accommodation is spacious, luxurious & very relaxing, each with fabulous tree or valley views. Each bungalow has its own fireplace, which the staff light every evening while you are out enjoying the scrumptious dinner.

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Bukima Tented Camp

The camp is outside the Virunga National Park boundary, which is one of the main starting points Virunga mountain gorilla treks. The camp was originally built for researchers because it is near the park but is now used primarily by trekkers. As the name suggests, overnight guests at Bukima sleep in platform tents, of camping standards, they are very plush. Each tent has a bathroom with running water and a nice bed and a dresser for clothes.  To the south, the view is dominated by Mt. Mikeno, whose 4437m (14,560’) summit towers over the gorilla sector. Across the valley is Nyiragongo volcano, whose lava lake colors the sky with a red glow. Every few years, Nyamulagira volcano is still an active volcano and it erupts and steals the nighttime show by spewing hot lava hundreds of feet into the air. Occasionally, the habituated mountain gorillas themselves wander into the Bukima tented camp. Although this is highly frowned upon by park staff, it never ceases to impress the guests.

Prices for the camp are based on double occupancy and include breakfast. Lunch, dinner, and drinks are available for an additional charge. Of the six tents, four have double beds and two are outfitted with twin beds.

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Nyirangongo Summit Shelters

Nyiragongo is a beautiful strato-volcano 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’s summit rim is largely devoid of vegetation and is frequently dusted with snow. From the rim, visitors can peer down into a churning lava lake and see and hear hot gases exploding up though a mosaic of molten lava.

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Tchegera Island Tented Camp

Tchegera Island Camp is the perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of Goma or to relax after climbing Nyiragongo volcano. Situated off the northern shore of Lake Kivu, Tchegera camp offers spectacular views of the lake and four volcanoes. On clear nights, Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira volcanoes add to the drama by turning the night sky red with their glowing lava. There is also an abundance of bird life on the island, including African eagles, cormorants, herons and gulls. Whether one chooses to relax on the beach or explore other parts of the island in a sea kayak or by paddle board, Tchegera is the perfect place for rest and relaxation.