Top Activities in Virunga National Park
Top activities in Virunga National Park are those tourist activities that travellers who visit the park most definitely take part in. Virunga National Park is one of Africa’s oldest parks that dates over 120 years. The park was founded by the then Belgian King Albert 1. Virunga National Park is a haven to mountain gorillas that can only be found in three countries. Virunga National Park makes part of the great Virunga Massif Area and encompasses Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.
It is the mountain gorillas that travellers most often visit the park to encounter them. However, there are a number of other attractions in the park like the Nyiragongo volcano that has a lava lake at the summit, chimpanzees, and various monkey species as well as various bird species with a number of the Albertine Rift endemics. There are big mammals in the park like the forest elephants and buffaloes that blend with the giant apes, making a Congo safari the more enjoyable and adventurous.
There are a number of activities that tourists can do whilst in Virunga National Park. Below are the top activities in Virunga National Park that travellers can enjoy.
Mountain gorilla trekking
Mountain gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park is the most sought after activity that tourists take part in. There are 8 habituated gorilla families in the park that tourists can encounter while in a Congo gorilla trekking adventure. Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park starts as early as 7am with a briefing by the park officials at the park headquarters of Kiningi. Trekkers are given rules and guidelines to follow whilst gorilla trekking in Virunga. Thereafter, they are placed in groups of 8 and then allocated a gorilla family to trek. Gorilla family allocation is dependent on the physical fitness of the tourists. Gorilla trekking in Virunga is for persons that are 15 years and more. Given the terrain and the fact that gorillas change locations every single day, trekkers need to have a level of fitness to be able to successfully trek gorillas in Virunga. Carrying the right and essential gorilla trekking gear and actually using them is important. The activity can take anything between 30 minutes to 4 hours or more depending on the location of the gorillas and the terrain. Once the gorillas are encountered, trekkers spend only one hour with them. You can never be prepared enough to be awed by the sight of a silverback, or even a nursing and doting mother gorilla. The whole activity is done in the guidance of park rangers that are armed for your safety and protection. Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park necessitates one to have a gorilla permit, which can be pre-booked online or with your tour operator of choice. A single entry gorilla permit costs $400 only for foreign non-residents, the cheapest in the gorilla destinations as Uganda has a permit at $700 while Rwanda has it at a whopping $1500. Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park could therefore be the cheapest option.
Nyiragongo volcano hiking
The mesmerising, beautiful and the most wonderful sight at the summit of the Nyiragongo volcano is one to behold. Hiking the Nyiragongo volcano is therefore another of the most done activity in Virunga National Park, just to see the beautiful and the world’s largest lava lake. The scenery during the hike as well as spotting primates and other animals, birds and butterflies make the hike all the more rewarding. Nyiragongo volcano hiking is one of the most exciting activities anyone could ever do in Africa.
Chimpanzee habituation project
The chimpanzee habituation project is another activity that tourists in the park can take part in. The entire process is just like that of a gorilla trekking adventure. Chimpanzee habituation however has tourists being early since it starts early, to catch up with the chimpanzees as they rise. Travellers get to follow the chimpanzees in the company of chimpanzee experts and researchers who are habituating the chimpanzees so as they can accommodate human interaction. It is no doubt that extensive chimpanzee tracking in Virunga National Park could soon start. Travellers are given an opportunity to interact the chimpanzees.
Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage visit
The Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage centre is the one place in Virunga that all orphaned, hurt gorillas are taken to treated and given love and care. Most of the gorillas at the Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage centre are rescues from poachers and victims of rebel attacks in the park. Tourists staying at the Mikeno Mist Lodge get to visit for free, though prior booking is required.
Bloodhound anti-poaching unit visit
Visiting the bloodhound anti-poaching unit has tourists appreciating the role of the dogs found here in regards to tracing poachers in and around the park. With this unit, a number of poachers have been apprehended and therefore saving the gorillas as well.
Nature walks in Virunga National Park are a great way to explore the park. In the guidance of a knowledgeable guide, you will go through some of the most well-developed nature trails that will reward tourists with amazingly beautiful scenery, sights and hidden attractions like small rivers and falls.
With about 708 bird species in Virunga National Park and a number of endemics, bird watching in the park is one activity not to miss out. Clad with your pair of binoculars and in the company of an experienced bird guide, be sure to see a number of birds, up to 100 bird species if really keen at bird watching.
Virunga National Park is one park that still has its typical African wild nature despite it being one of the oldest national parks in the continent. The above top activities in Virunga National Park will surely keep you occupied for even more than 7 days just exploring the park in great detail. The Nyiragongo volcano hike should however not be missed, be sure to have it included in your African safari. You will be left amazed. Get in touch with a reputable tour operator to help you put together the most fulfilling Congo safari to visit and explore Virunga National Park.