Virunga National park is one of not the best with diversity in Africa. Almost more than half of what’s in Sub Saharan Africa in concentrated in this park.  This park also boosts of two active volcanoes.  Virunga national park though has for a long time been threatened by political conflicts in DRC but somehow its still surviving and was recently reopened. Established in 1925 by the then King of Beligium King Albert 1 and it was first called Albert national Park. It was primarily gazetted to protect the endangered Mountain Gorillas which can also be found in Uganda and Rwanda Only. After 1960 when Congo had gotten independence the park deteriorated just like the country and it was not until the early 70s when the president picked interest in conservation that the park was revived and renamed Virunga National Park. The park is about  7800 sq km and stretches from Virunga Mountains  in the South to the Rwenzori in the north. The park is well known for its bird, mammal and reptile concentration more than any other protected areas in Africa.  Some of the notables include the chimpanzees, mountain gorillas, giraffes, buffaloes and many others.

Virunga National Park is the oldest wildlife protected area on the African soil created to protect and conserve the unique wildlife species therein, for science and research purposes and protecting an indigenous threatened fruit-gathering community; the Twa. The Virunga wildlife conservancy is the joint where the West African rainforests meet with the East African savanna grasslands and runs more than 300 km (190 mi) along the Albertine rift that splits the African continent from north to south.

The vestiges of Virunga’s rich diverse ecosystem that includes block mountain, volcanic mountains, the Albertine rift, craters and crater lakes, rainforests, woodlands, open grasslands, swamp and wetland vegetation amongst others extend into Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable, Queen Elizabeth, Semliki, Rwenzori and Mgahinga National Park as well as Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

Of recent mountain gorillas in Virunga have been the major attraction in this park given the fact that this is among the few parks in the area with these endangered gorillas. People prefer to track the gorillas here also because the cost is low and the park is also less congested compared to other tracking centers like PNV and Bwindi. This park is still fresh for new discoveries since it has not had a lot of tourism activity for a long time since its inception and it would be a good idea for those who want research and adventures in the same line. For some good time the area has been free for rebel activity and it is safe to travel, there is of course propaganda that the place is not safe but what of the influx of tourist coming in every day.

In 1979, the Virunga was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of her ecological importance though political upheavals have had negative implications on the conservancy. The 1990’s war period in the Rwanda was so challenging to the Virunga because of high influx of refugees into the Virunga conservancy who encroached on wildlife resources. In 1994, the Virunga conservancy was declared World Heritage in Danger and later became a Ramsar site of international importance in 1996. The Virunga is still rated a strong ecological pillar for the entire east and central African ecosystem.

Activities in Virunga National Park

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Mountain gorilla trekking; Note that Virunga massif that extends into Rwanda and Uganda is the only habitat for Mountain gorillas on earth. Mountain gorilla trekking safaris to Virunga are the most popular of tourism activities in DR Congo. There are not so many Mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park despite the large size of the habitat and six families are open for tourism activities. Kabirizi family is the popular to many travelers on gorilla trekking safari to DR Congo. Kabirizi is a dominant polygamist silverback with the largest of the gorilla family that has close to three dozen members.

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Chimpanzee tracking /habituation; Chimpanzees tracking safaris are the second most popular tourism activity in the Virunga that started in 1987 by Frankfurt Zoological Society for research study purposes. Travelers walk into and explore the rainforests on the lookout for families of chimpanzees that are less bothered by curious eyes of adventurers. Travelers tracking chimpanzees are restricted to one-hour interaction with the chimpanzees. Chimpanzee habituation exercise is an exciting travel activity that gives travelers an entire day unlimited interaction with families of chimpanzees. The chimpanzee habituation teams set out early morning and wander into the rainforests looking for chimpanzees before they leave their nests, spend entire day observing and discovering their habits until evening when they make nests for the night.

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Nature walks; Virunga National Park is a majorly tropical rain forest with dense vegetation. However, some parts are woodland, grassland and swamp. Adventure travelers on safari to Virunga set out in the morning and walk into the wilderness to explore and discover the breathtaking beauty of the landscape and entire wilderness. A defined trail system leads travelers to secret corners with unbelievable sightings and unique sounds from the wilderness.

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Nyiragongo hike; Virunga National Park is a travel destination blessed with natural beauty in abundance. Nyiragongo is an active volcano where volcanic eruption goes on in a lava lake all year round. Hiking to the summit of Nyiragongo and observing the natural geographic force as boiling molten lava gush out of the earth crust is an experience that is so rare and for the stonehearted. Nyiragongo hiking safari is a test for travelers’ bravery and a very rare opportunity that awakens travelers’ adventure senses.

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Landscape viewing; Virunga National Park is a travel destination with eye-catching landscapes that appeal to many travelers. From snow peaked Rwenzori Mountains, Nyiragongo active volcanic mountains, extinct volcanicmountains, craters, rift valley, clear water bodies, rainforests, savanna grassland and many other, Virunga is every nature lover’s dream destination. Hiking, photography and sightseeing safaris are very popular and give travelers wonderful experiences than ever before.

attractionsBirding watching; Virunga has varied habitats that range from mountains, rainforest, open grassland, swamp and marsh, water bodies and rift valleys. These attract different species of birds with more than 706 record sightings. There bird watching expeditions in Virunga have very high potential but opportunities are not fully exploited as of now. Grey throated barbet, Madagascar bee-eater, Narrow-tailed starling, Ruwenzori turaco, African fish eagle and many others are often sighted.
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