Virunga National Park

Formerly called Albert National Park, Virunga covers a total area of 8090 square kilometers. It is near the Queen Elizabeth National Park and the Rwenzori Mountains.

Virunga National Park is the oldest protected area in Africa. It was gazzeted to protect and conserve the Wildlife species including the endangered Mountain Gorillas.

Virunga’s diverse ecosystem that include volcanic mountains, Albertine rift, crater lakes, rainforests, woodlands, open grasslands, swamps and wetlands provides habitat to a range of a diverse Wildlife. In 1979, this Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It was more affected during those times of the 1990 war period in Rwanda, thousands encroached the park’s areas seeking refuge. In 1994 the Park was declared a World Heritage Site under danger. It became a ramser site of international importance in 1996.

A blend of factors including pleasant weather, fertile soils rich in plant mineral content, less tourists and a range of Species make Virunga an exceptional spot to see.

Virunga area is not only good at Wildlife but also boasts a vibrant plant life totaling to about 2077 species including 264 trees and 230 species of grasses and shrubs.

Some of the plant species are endemic to the Albertine Rift. All these breathe life in an area that consists of swamps and wetland, grasslands, rain forests, alpine vegetation in the highlands and montane forests.

Besides plant life, Virunga National Park is home to over 218 species of mammals including 22 primates, 109 reptiles, 65 amphibian species and 706 species of birds.

Some of the mammals that are common in open grasslands, forests or water include buffalos, leopards, bongo, okapi, warthog, water-buck, bush bucks, blue duikers, bay duikers, red river hog, elephants, hippopotamus, lions, kobs and more.

Activities in the Park

Gorilla trekking.

Gorilla trekking tops the list among the main highlights for most trips to Virunga National Park. This Park has many Gorillas but only six habituated Gorilla families are open to tourism excursions in the Park.

Kabirizi Gorilla family is the most popular for tourists trekking Gorillas in Virunga. The family’s name was derived from the Silverback “Kabirizi” which heads the group. Gorilla trekking in Virunga start early in the morning after briefing.

After, you start the trekking journey into the jungle. When you discover their location, you are allowed to be in their presence for only one hour. After one hour you are required to start the Journey back to the pack offices.

Chimpanzee tracking /habituation.

Chimpanzee tracking usually grants tourists a chance to meet chimpanzees in the Jungles. You are only allowed to be in the presence of these primates for only one hour.

Then for chimpanzee habituation, you can spend the whole day with these primates in the Jungles while following their movements.

While in Virunga National Park, you can do this experience in the Tongo forest. The tracking sessions start very early in the morning. The time taken and distance moved in the Jungle depends on where these animals spent their last night.

Nyiragongo Hike

Mountain Nyiragongo is an active volcano in the Eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo. It lies in the Virunga massif.

Hiking to the top of this volcano and observe boiling molten lava gush out of the earth crust is an unrivalled experience to remember for the rest of your life.

The expedition is done in two days and it includes one overnight stay at the top. The journey to the top is strenuous but rewarding once you make it up to the top.