The Virunga National Park in D.R. Congo is the gorilla trekking haven amongst the only four mountain gorilla sanctuaries in the world but here is why D.R Congo is considered unsafe for gorilla trekking in Africa. Uganda has Bwindi impenetrable National park, Mgahinga National park and Volcanoes National park In Rwanda are the other only mountain gorilla habitats celebrated all over the world.
Virunga National park has about 6 gorilla trekking families meandering through an area of about 8090 sq. km. The park is one of the oldest conserved parks in Africa as it was gazette in 1925 by King Albert of Belgium. Some of the gorilla trekking families in the park include Lulengo gorilla family, Rugendo gorilla family, Munyaga gorilla family, Humba gorilla family, Kabirizi gorilla family and Mapuwa gorilla family
Several other primates spend there day in the parks and during gorilla trekking, you may get the chance to see them. Some of the primates in Virunga National park include chimpanzees, Hamlyn’s monkeys, De Brazaa’s monkeys, olive baboons, Dent’s Mona monkeys, blue monkeys and so many others.
Numerous wild animals also spend there life in Virunga National Park like blue duikers, yellow-backed duikers, aardvark, giant forest hogs, elephants, buffaloes, okapi, warthogs and others.
A number of birds especially the renowned Albertine endemics may be spotted by keen birders.
The famous Nyiragongo active Volcano which last erupted in 2022 attracts many tourists to have at least a day or night at the top of the mountain.
Despite the fact that Virunga national park has the cheapest gorilla trekking permit in Africa costing about $ 450, the unrest in the area is contributing a lot to it’s under development.
Since 1996, D.R.Congo has under gone a series of unrest in the eastern part. This result from fighting for power control over this area. This mineral rich area is feted with different rebel activities which have claimed lives of rangers. A sample in questing is the 24th April 2020 ranger guide ambush and killing of about 12 rangers and wardens
The mountain gorilla population in the Virunga National Park is lower compared to the other counter parts in Uganda and Rwanda. The Congolese also eat these primates which puts the mountain gorillas in this area at a risk of poaching.
The Virunga National Park gorilla trekking permit is bought on the day of trekking therefore you have no confirmation about availability and deposit your money for securing a permit. One is uncertain about acquiring a gorilla permit since they are limited to only 8 permits per day per gorilla family.
Other areas like Bwindi impenetrable national Park in Uganda or Volcanoes National park in Rwanda, you are confident to ask for availability. You are sure that you will do gorilla trekking safely.
Virunga National park has limited accommodation facilities because of the unrest in the area. You are not sure that you will sleep soundly and wake up without any attacks from the rebels.
You need to check on the security of the lodge where you are booked for overnight. Travelling with some valuables to Virunga National park is a no attempt as you are not sure of there security while at the lodge.
The D.R.Congo is vast and so flying to Ndjili International Airport or Lubumbashi International Airport or Mbandaka Airport to catch up with gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park may take some days. The D.R.Congo roads from the Airports to Virunga National park are still not well developed to facilitate a smooth drive.
Alternatively, you can land in Kigali Airport in Rwanda and drive for at least two days to get to Volcanoes National park depending on the time you arrive. This requires you to pay for border crossing twice to and fro Virunga National Park.
The ranger and wardens of Virunga National park have faced a number of attacks over the years. This has reduced on the number of those available to protect tourists from untimely attacks from rebels.
Even the knowledgeable rangers in Virunga National Park to make the gorilla trekking experience for you exceptional are few.
Communication with the park rangers is quite challenging during gorilla trekking because they speak mainly French. A few speak English yet most tourists understand English explanations better. The language barrier reduced on the level of confidence between you the tourists and ranger guide.
The more people you are in the wilderness the better the security but a few clients regularly visit Virunga National Park. This thick pristine forest has huge trees that may be quite scaring if you are just few. You need some extra company to feel secure and have fun in the wilderness as you search for the mountain gorillas.
The trails of a less visited national parks are normally covered by creeping plants or undergrowth which are quite scary. You need a machete to trim them down which wastes a lot of time. Virunga National Park has thick creeping draping plants handing from huge tree trunks that have to regularly be trimmed.
The Nyiragonga volcano is one of the still active volcanoes in the world. This mountain spits hot red magma over a certain period of time. It last erupted for a number of days in 2022 covering over 20 km of land.
A number of tourists and local people were displaced and it created fear in the area amongst the survivors. The Volcano Nyiragonga has a beautiful caldera through which you can see red hot magma but one with a fait heart is advised not to attempt this.
Because of the absence of proper security in the Virunga area, locating close by health centers in this area is challenging. Because of fear of attacks from the rebels in the forest, a number of business closed off including health facilities which makes the Virunga National Park quite unsafe for now.
Congolese love hunting and eating wild meat which is thought to be one of the cause of the regular outbreak of diseases like Ebola. To do gorilla trekking in Virunga National park, you must be aware of the prevailing health conditions of D.R.Congo at that time.
This is because of sometimes outbreaks of infectious diseases like cholera, Ebola and others. You need to immunize against them and mind your hygiene while on gorilla trekking safari
Chimpanzee trekking was started in 1987 by Frankfurt Zoologist and chimpanzees were habituated for tourists viewing in Virunga National park. Chimpanzees are some of the closest human relatives with DNA of about 98% human. They live in communities under the leadership of an Alpha male.
They are mainly vegetarian but during times of drought, they may feast on monkeys. Chimpanzees are more active compared to the bulk mountain gorillas. Get ready to keep on your feet when you locate them. They need to feed to satisfy there bodies for the day and through night time.
Birding in Virunga National Park
The Africa birding haven is in Virunga area and so is Virunga National park. A number of Albertine endemics find comfort in spending the day feeding and nesting in this pristine tropical forest.
Some of the birds you may get to see include Collared Apalis, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Mountain and Yellow Steaked Greenbuls. Red faced Woodland Warbler, Handsome Francolin the list is endless.
Hiking Nyiragongo Volcanoes
Hiking Nyiragongo Volcanoes is every adventurer’s dream just to watch and listen to the unique sounds of magma below as you close off your day. You have a chance to have a look into the huge caldera with red hot magma especially in the night when its dark.
A nature walk in Virunga National park
A guided walk in the more secure parts of Virunga national park provides beautiful landscape views of jagged mountain Rwenzori, the Albertine rift valley, the beautiful greenery on the Virunga ranges, and so much more. Just have an open mind of what this area offers and you will have the best experience of this virgin untouched ancient forest.
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