Virunga National Park Facts, Things to Do, Gorilla Tours, Map, Animals
Virunga National Park Facts, Things to Do, Gorilla Tours, Map, Animals. The all-inclusive guide to Virunga National Park is a national park in the Albertine Rift Valley in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was created in 1925 and is among the first protected areas in Africa. In elevation, it ranges from 680 m (2,230 ft) in the Semliki River valley to 5,109 m (16,762 ft) in the Rwenzori Mountains. From north to south it extends about 300 km (190 mi), largely along the international borders with Uganda and Rwanda in the east. It covers an area of 8,090 km2 (3,120 sq mi) and is listed in the List of World Heritage in Danger since 1994.
Two active volcanoes are located in the park, Mount Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira. They have significantly shaped the national park’s diverse habitats and wildlife. More than 3,000 faunal and floral species have been recorded, of which more than 300 are endemic to the Albertine Rift including the eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei) and golden monkey (Cercopithecus kandti).
There have been several deadly attacks in the park by rebel groups, and several park rangers have been killed.
LARGEST Gorilla Found in Congo! | Brave Mission
Things to Do in Virunga National Park
Tourists interested in hiking with mountain gorillas flock to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park, which is one of Africa’s fortunate parks thanks to its unparalleled biodiversity.
Established in 1925 under the colonial rule of Belgium’s King Albert 1 as Albert National Park, the park was renamed to Virunga National Park in 1970 to better reflect the local DRC community. Originally designated as a gazetted zone to protect the endangered mountain gorillas, the park was later designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its ecological significance.
Despite the political instability that has plagued this region of Africa over the years, Virunga National Park has helped to establish the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a premier tourism destination. Join me on an adventure to Virunga National Park, where we may discover the top things to do while we’re here.
Mountain Gorilla trekking
The majority of visitors to Virunga National Park go on trekking safaris to see the mountain gorillas. The park takes pride in housing the endangered mountain gorillas and provides affordable mountain gorilla trekking safaris. The safari is even more thrilling because the park is less crowded.
Six families of mountain gorillas call Virunga National Park home, and each year, thousands of tourists flock to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to see them. Visitors to gorilla trekking safaris often visit the Kabirizi family, known for its polygamy silverback and largest gorilla family of at least 30 individuals.
Volcanoes & Gorillas: My Wild Adventure in Congo’s Virunga National Park
The second most popular activity in Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo, is chimpanzee tracking safaris, just behind mountain gorilla trekking safaris. The aloof behavior of chimpanzees in the rainforest has captivated tourists, who have grown to admire the animals.
A stroll under the canopy of thousands of trees is the most rejuvenating and calming activity imaginable. This is precisely what you’ll find in the verdant tropical rainforest of Virunga National Park.
Early morning expeditions into the park’s woodland are a worthy way for adventurers to learn about and appreciate its natural beauty. Embark on a beautiful journey through the forest as you follow the nature walk’s marked trail to various sections.
A bird watching expedition has documented approximately 706 sightings of uncommon bird species thus far, thanks to the diverse ecosystems and geography of Virunga National Park, which has drawn hundreds of bird species.
The Virunga Mountains in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are a must-visit if you have never seen the elusive and well-known Grey-throated barbet, Madagascar bee-eater, Narrow-tailed starling, Ruwenzori turaco, or African fish eagle.
Nestled in the heart of Virunga National Park, the most active volcano on Earth—Nyiragongo—is located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Visitors love to hike up Nyiragongo Peak because it gives them a bird’s-eye view of the lava lake, formed all year round by the constant outpouring of tons of molten lava.
But the Nyiragongo trip isn’t your typical hiking fantasy; it requires guts, adventure, and a willingness to take risks.
Democratic Republic of the Congo | Mount Nyiragongo Trek In Virunga National Park
History About Virunga National Park
In the early 1920s, several proponents of the European conservation movement championed the idea of creating a protected area in the northeastern Belgian Congo, among them Victor van Straelen, Jean Massart, and Jean-Marie Derscheid. When Albert National Park was established in April 1925 as Africa’s first national park, it was conceived as a science-oriented nature reserve with the aim of studying and preserving wildlife and so-called ‘primitive’ hunter-gatherer African Pygmies. In 1926, Derscheid headed the first Belgian mission to cartograph Albert National Park, which encompassed an area of 500 km2 (190 sq mi) around the extinct volcanoes Mount Karisimbi and Mount Mikeno. The protected area was extended in 1929 by Virunga National Park, which encompassed the Virunga Mountains, parts of the Rutshuru Territory and the plains south of Lake Edward. Its initial size of 2,920.98 km2 (1,127.80 sq mi) was enlarged step by step in subsequent years. Indigenous people lost their traditional land rights in this process and were evicted from the protected area. Between the late 1930s and 1955, an estimated 85,000 Rwandophone people were moved to nearby Masisi in North Kivu.
In 1934, the Institut des Parcs Nationaux du Congo Belge was founded as the governing body for national parks in the Belgian Congo. Between the early 1930s and 1961, several expeditions to Albert National Park were carried out by Belgian scientists, the second headed by Gaston-François de Witte. They studied and collected zoological specimens of wildlife for the Musée Royal d’Histoire Naturelle de Belgique; explored the ethnic groups in this area; studied volcanic activity, and fossils.
In the late 1950s, encroaching Tutsi herders and their cattle destroyed the natural habitat inside the park up to an altitude of 3,000 m (9,800 ft), threatening the food base of the park’s gorillas.
Land laws were reformed in the 1960s after Belgian Congo became independent as the Republic of the Congo, and the land was declared property of the state, much to the disadvantage of local people. Illegal hunting inside protected areas increased. In 1969, the two parks were merged under the name Virunga National Park, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Since the early 1990s, the protected area was impacted by political turmoil in the African Great Lakes region. Following the Rwandan genocide, thousands of refugees fled to the Kivu region, and the presence of the military increased. The First and Second Congo Wars further destabilized the region. Anti-poaching patrols inside the park were obstructed, and park personnel and wildlife were killed. About 850,000 refugees lived around the national park in 1994. Up to 40,000 people entered the park daily in search of firewood and food and deforested huge areas. In 1994, Virunga National Park was entered into the List of World Heritage in Danger. In 1996, the national park was enlisted as a Ramsar site of international importance.
In 2005, the European Commission (EC) recommended a public-private partnership between the country’s government and the British non-governmental organisation African Conservation Fund. The latter organisation is responsible for park management since 2010; about 80% of management costs are subsidized by the EC. Park protection efforts were militarized in the following years to deter armed rebel groups and poachers from operating inside the park.
In 2011, the British company Soco International was granted a concession for extracting crude oil in the surroundings of and in large parts of the national park. Government officials supported exploration activities by Soco International mission members, whereas park management opposed it. In the course of increasing tensions, the park’s chief warden, Emmanuel de Mérode, was assailed in April 2014. Following international protests, the company stopped exploring activities and consented to refrain from starting similar operations in the vicinity of World Heritage sites.
By 2016, four hydropower dams were constructed that provide electricity to small businesses and benefit more than 200,000 rural people.