Location. Virunga National Park is located in the Eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo popularly known to be the oldest National park in Africa formerly called Albert National park, Virunga stretches from the Virunga mountains in the south to the Rwenzori Mountains in the North, to the eastern part of Democratic Republic of the Congo this Park is bordering Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda, Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda.
Virunga National Park is characterised with Alpine forests, montane tropical forest, Riverine forests, marshlands, African Savannah, bamboo forests and swampy related areas where most of its Wildlife species are habited
History. This park was established in 1925 by King Albert I of Belgium and declared as the first National Park on the African Continent, it was established mainly to provide home for the mountain gorillas living in the forests of the Virunga Mountains controlled by the Belgian Congo which later expanded North to include the Rwindi Plains, Lake Edward and the Rwenzori Mountains in the North of Congo.
In the first 35 years, the boundary of the Park took shape which brought poaching to a minimum and sustainable tourism hiked due to the work of a large body of hand-picked Congolese rangers and dedicated wardens plus armed forces deployed.
When Belgium granted Congo independence in 1960 the new state deteriorated rapidly, and so did the Park. It was only in 1969 when President Mobutu began to take a personal interest in conservation programmes and this revived the Park. In the process of Mobutu’s Africanization campaign, it was renamed Virunga National Park, and the first Congolese Wildlife Authority was established to manage the park
Biodiversity. Virunga National Park provides habitat for different Congo’s Wildlife species which include Wild animals, Primates, different insect species, plant species, reptiles and different bird species including Africa’s uniquely spotted species. Some of the prominent species habited in Virunga National Park include both savannah and forest elephants as chimpanzees along with okapi, giraffes, buffaloes and many endemic bird species recorded sightable.
How to get there? All tourists heading to Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo land in Rwanda at Kigali airport and transfer from Kigali up to Goma border using suitable 4×4 wheel drive Safari jeep on Kigali- Ruhengeri- Gisenyi route, it takes about 3-4 hours for the drive from Kigali up to Goma border where you cross from after clearing with the customs presenting the required documents which include entry Visa, yellow fever vaccination card and Valid passport. From Goma border you will be transferred by Virunga Foundation using their suitable 4×4 wheel drive Safari jeeps up to either Virunga National Park offices or your hotel of residence.
What to do. Major exciting activities done while in Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park include Mountain Gorilla trekking which involves meeting with these shy endangered ground dwelling apes in the Jungles, this activity requires a permit and this permit costs $400 USD per person usually booked in advance through a local tour operator before your trekking dates, other activities done include Nyiragongo volcano hiking which is usually done in two days at a cost of $300 USD per person plus other prices of major requirements which include Mikeno package at $100 USD per person, hiking stick at a cost of $5 USD and porters to carry your luggage at a cost of $24 USD per person. Chimpanzee habituation walk is another activity to do while in Virunga National Park at a cost of $100 USD per person, this walk is usually done in Tongo forest which is part of Virunga National park.
Accommodation. Visitors to Virunga National Park mainly use two accommodation facilities available which include Mikeno lodge and Kibumba tented camp whereby Mikeno lodge is characterised to be a luxury facility and Kibumba tented camp categorised under midrange facilities.