Virunga National Park
We do not run trips into this park at present as the security situation is not stable at this time. It is important to describe this park, its resources and its problems in the hopes the situation may change in the future.
Virunga National Park was formerly Albert National Park and stretches from the Virunga Mountains to the Rwenzori Mountains in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, bordering Parc de Volcans (Volcanoes National Park) in Rwanda and Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda. Established in 1925 it covers an area of 7,800 square kilometres and was Africa’s first national park. It was classified as a world heritage site in 1979 and is managed by the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) – Congolese National Park authorities.
The park is absolutely stunning, lying along the western shores of Lake Edward with miles of marshland, grassy plateaus and wide, open plains. The Rwenzori Mountains rise to glaciers and alpine meadows and marshes, whilst there are two active volcanoes; Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira with associate lava plains.
The extremely rare mountain gorilla population has been fairly successfully looked after and the population actually increased during the Civil War (1994 to 2004). Occasional sightings of chimpanzees and both savannah and forest elephants along with Okapi, giraffe, buffalo and many endemic birds are reported. Almost 120 rangers have been killed since the start of the Civil War but have remained active throughout. The wildlife has been seriously damaged during the Congo Civil War.
Other Congo national parks with small populations of Mountain Gorillas:
- Kahuzi-Biega National Park – 6,000 km² of 2 distinct volcanic peaks supporting eastern lowland gorilla and mountain gorillas
- Maiko N.P. – about 9,000 km² of lowland forest and low mountains, north of Kahuzi-Biega National Park
We all hope for the day when real peace returns and it is once again safe to visit this very special first national park of Africa.
Safe alternatives for similar experiences can be found in Mahale Mountains of Tanzania, and Gabon’s primate safaris are something we’ve tried and tested personally – definitely for the experienced traveller but incredibly rewarding.
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