DR Congo’s Virunga National Park Reopens
For the first time since its closure in June 2018, the Virunga National Park in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s remarkable protected now re-opens again. This means that tourism now resumes in this spectacular destination. This park is one of the 4 world’s incredible parks where the rare mountain gorillas thrive from and also features as the oldest in Africa. It was closed due to war and political conflicts which have continuously hit the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
This magical forest park is has been affected by on and off civil wars that have also had an impact on conservation of the mountain gorillas. The park reopens after 8 months of closure after an ambush was made on a tourist vehicle taking tourists. The ambush led to the death of a ranger and abduction of 2 British tourists by Congolese militia. With about 180 park rangers who have so far lost their lives in the hands of rebels, poachers or smugglers just in the last 2 decades, Virunga National Park remains
However, the director of Virunga National Park pointed out that visitor safety and security is a major concern by park management. It is clear that the park is intensively affected by insecurity issues and that this will be a case for some time. To explore it safely, strict measures are needed today compared to even the previous days.
As it has now re-opened, the park management has promised to do things in a unique way, providing a set of packages that offer travelers a chance to explore the park’s most famous offerings for instance the Nyiragongo and mountain gorilla treks. This in addition to booking options, transport to, from and inside the park will be conducted exclusively by the Virunga National Park and is included in the package rates. Visitors will be required to first meet at the tourism office at the Grande Barriere before they set off to the park.
Virunga National Park is situated in eastern DR Congo and it is bordered by Uganda. It is a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts of its biodiversity. This park spans for over 7800 square kilometers which is approximately 3000 square miles. It features mainly the savanna grassland, thick rainforest, erosion valleys, active volcanoes, Rwenzori Mountain ranges and lava plains.
Virunga National Park is a home to rare mountain gorillas that thrive in two distinct regions; the Virunga Region and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Within the Virunga Region, there are three gazetted national parks; Virunga National Park in DR Congo, Mgahinga National Park in Uganda and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. This park was gazetted in 1925 to offer refuge to its unique natural wonders. It is a home to over 706 bird species, 78 amphibian species, 109 reptiles, 218 species of mammals and others.
Other special attractions that are available at this park include chimpanzees, hippos, birds, elephants, okapis a mention but a few. It is aligned within 3 sections-the Rwenzori Mountains in the north which is at the border of Uganda that stands at 5000 meters on DR Congo side.
The Rwenzori Mountains range feature as the 3rd highest in Africa and has snow capped peaks. It is Glaciers Mountain that resulted into the scenic Semuliki River which flows to pour its water into Lake Albert. There is also the middle section which comprises of Lake Edward features 50 species of fish, the Ishasha River Valley that comprises of hippos and the Rwindi plains that inhabit mainly elephants, buffaloes, warthogs, topis and others.
Finally, there is the Virunga Mountain section that is third and mainly covers the southern side of this national park. This part comprises of mountain gorillas which thrive within the slopes of Mikeno Volcano-4380 meters. In addition to primates, this park also features other exceptional tourist attractions including the scenic Nyiragongo Volcano which stands at altitude of 3470 meters and also features among a few most powerful volcanoes in the world. The other active volcano in the Virunga National Park is Mount Nyamuragira which is equally the most active in Africa.
The notable activities to take while on gorilla safari in this park include mountain gorilla trekking and permits for this adventure in DR Congo can be obtained at $400 per person, bird watching, Nyiragongo Volcano hike, visiting the Tongo chimpanzees and others.
In conclusion, Virunga National Park is one of Africa’s most endowed parks. If you are interested in gorilla safaris, it is one of kind destinations. Visit this magical forest park and get the best of mountain gorilla adventures.