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Visit Virunga National Park Congo – Photos, Map & Tourism

Virunga National Park, also known as Albert National Park, was the first national park to be established in Africa in 1925, covering 7,800 square kilometers. The park was created to protect the endangered mountain gorillas during the civil wars in Congo. Virunga National Park is characterized by active volcanoes, savannah plains, rainforests, erosion valleys, swamps, lava plains, and the magnificent Mountains of the Moon. The park was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1979.

Most of the popular Congo safaris and gorilla trekking Congo tours take place here.

Virunga National Park

Virunga National Park is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes, with the night glow of the lava lake at Mount Nyirangongo visible from miles away. The park is also home to various species of mammals, primates, birds, and much more, including the largest concentration of hippos in Africa.

Virunga National Park Photos

Gorilla Trekking in Virunga National Park

Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park is the major activity for tourists. There are approximately 300 mountain gorillas living in the southern sectors of the park, with over 8 habituated gorilla families that tourists can trek to and spend 1 hour with.

A gorilla permit in Virunga costs $400 per person, and children under the age of 15 years are not allowed to trek mountain gorillas. While trekking with gorillas, it’s essential to follow the gorilla trekking rules and regulations.

The gorilla families you can trek while at Virunga National Park include Mapuwa gorilla family, Rugendo gorilla family, Kabirizi gorilla family, Lulengo gorilla family, Munyaga gorilla family, Nyakamwe gorilla family, Bageni gorilla family, and Humba gorilla family.

Chimpanzee Trekking & Habituation

Chimpanzee habituation involves making chimpanzees accustomed to human presence. This process allows a maximum of four people to visit a chimpanzee family in a day and spend four solid hours in their presence. This activity started in 2014 and provides a fascinating encounter with these primates, much like mountain gorillas.

Virunga Animals & Wildlife

Virunga National Park is not only home to mountain gorillas but also eastern lowland gorillas and other primate species, including chimpanzees, black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons, blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, De Brazza monkeys, vervet monkeys, bush babies, and many more. Other animals in the park include okapi, zebras, hippos, forest elephants, topis, buffalos, warthogs, and various antelopes, to name a few.

Bird Watching in Virunga

Virunga National Park hosts various species of birds, some of which are endemic to the Albertine region. Examples of birds found in the park include the Double-toothed barbet, Grey-throated barbet, Narrow-tailed starling, Madagascar Bee-eater, Rwenzori Batis, African olive pigeon, Mountain illadopsis, Tropical boubou, White-headed wood hoopoe, Handsome francolin, Alpine swift, Thick-billed sea-eater, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Black-headed waxbill, Mackinnon’s shrike, Mountain greenbul, Blue-spotted wood dove, Angolan swallow, Black and white manikin, Barred long-tailed cuckoo, Chubb’s cisticola, Green sandpiper, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Blue-headed sunbird, Strange weaver, African dusky flycatcher, and Harrier hawk, among others.

Climbing Mount Nyiragongo & Mount Nyamuragira

Mount Nyiragongo is one of Africa’s most active volcanoes, featuring the world’s largest lava lake. The mountain stands at an elevation of 3,470 meters above sea level, with the most voluminous lava lake known in history. It has erupted at least 35 times since 1882, and it’s not known how long the volcano has been active. Tourists can hike to the top of the volcano for an unforgettable experience and spectacular views. Nights at the top of Mount Nyiragongo are incredibly scenic with the glowing lava lake.

Mount Nyamuragira, much like Mount Nyiragongo, is one of the world’s active volcanoes. It has erupted at least 40 times since 1885. The volcano erupts not only from the summit but also from the flanks, creating small volcanoes that disappear after a short while. Recent eruptions occurred in January 2010 and November 2011. The mountain can also be hiked and offers stunning views that exceed what you can capture in a camera.

Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage Center

The Senkwekwe center, located near Mikeno Lodge at the headquarters of Virunga National Park, is home to orphaned gorillas. The orphanage was established when two orphaned young gorillas were rescued from a massacre that took place with the park rangers and rebels in 2007. The orphanage was named after the group leader of the orphaned gorillas, Senkwekwe, who was killed during the massacre. The gorillas have adapted to living in the orphanage and have formed their own group. Visitors can observe how closely they interact with humans.

Map of Virunga National Park

Map of Virunga National Park

Best Time to Visit Virunga

The best time to visit Virunga National Park is during the dry season when the park’s roads are easily accessible, and the hiking and trekking trails are not muddy or slippery. If you’re going for wildlife watching, you’ll have a better chance of spotting wildlife in the dry season when the vegetation is shorter and less dense.

The things to pack for a visit to Virunga National Park will vary depending on the activity and season you are visiting. During the rainy season, whether you are trekking gorillas or hiking volcanoes, you will need hiking boots, gardening gloves, warm clothes, raincoats, insect repellent, energy snacks, drinking water, and more.

Porters are also available to assist visitors with their backpacks.

There are several lodges and hotels where you can stay while at Virunga National Park, including Mikeno Lodge, Tchegera Tented Camp, Bukima Tented Camp, Nyiragongo Volcano Summit Shelters, and many others.

Virunga National Park can be easily reached from Kigali International Airport. Most visitors to the park fly into Kigali and then drive to the border of Congo and Rwanda in Gisenyi/Goma, which takes about 3-4 hours.

The border crossing is relatively straightforward if you have a visa and a yellow fever vaccination card.

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