Virunga National Park Congo
The Virunga National Park originally known as Albert National Park lies in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the frontier with Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains in the North and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park in the East. The park is part of Lake Edward, the Semliki River valley, parts of the Rwindi, Ishasha and Rutshuru valleys south of the lake, the Virunga area within the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and part of the Rwenzori range.
The park was founded/established in 1925 by King Albert I of Belgium and designated UNESCO- World Heritage Site in the year 1979.It was primarily established to protect the mountain gorillas thriving in the forests of the Virunga Mountains controlled by the Belgian Congo, Today ,the park is under the management of the Congolese National Park Authorities; the Institute Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and its partner the Virunga Foundation, formerly called the Africa Conservation Fund (UK).
Tourist Attactions in Virunga National Park Congo
Bird species or Avifauna Virunga national park; The park is very diverse with over 706 bird species that are protected in the park and of which 24 are considered to be endemic to the Virungas. The wetlands species include herons, ibisis, egrets, bitterns, duck, geese, darters, cormorants, skimmers, shoebills, open bills, ospreys, gulls, francolins, warblers and weavers and there are large numbers of pelicans on the lower Rutshuru River. The papyrus yellow warbler may exist in the far north. Rare birds in the volcanic highlands are Grauer’s swamp warbler in highland swamps, and Rockefeller’s sunbird Nectarinia rockefelleri in bamboo, forest and heath stream thickets; in the Ruwenzori mountain forests, Shelley’s crimsonwing Cryptospiza shelleyi and Stuhlmann’s doublecollared sunbird Nectarinia stuhlmanni in the bamboo and alpine zones. Notable mountain forest birds are the Rwenzori turaco, Musophaga johnstoni and the handsome francolin, Francolinus nobilis; also the forest ground thrush Turdus oberlaenderi and the shoebill Balaeniceps rex.
Fauna/Wildlife in Virunga national park; In terms of wildlife, the Park boasts of 218 mammal species, 109 reptile species and 78 amphibian species. It also serves as refuge to 22 primate species of which three are the great ape – mountain gorilla the eastern plain gorilla and the eastern chimpanzee, with a third of the world population of mountain gorillas. Some of the largest wild animal concentrations in Africa occur along the rivers of the Virunga National park. The interesting Mammals in the savannah of the Rwindi area include: elephant, hippopotamus, buffalo, numerous antelope including kob, defassa waterbuck and topi, warthog, lion and various monkeys. Large numbers of pelicans occur on the lower Rutshuru. In the Semiliki Valley and on the slopes of the Virunga mountains are gorilla, chimpanzee and okapi.
Flora/Vegatation in Virunga national park; Virunga’s strategic location at the frontier between various biogeographic zones offers it an upper hand to protect both tropical rainforest and eastern steppe species and its range of altitudes adds to the habitat variety. The diversity in flora includes: bamboo and Hagenia forest on the mountains; equatorial forest along the Semiliki; wooded savannah of the Rwindi; steppes; various low savannahs; swamps and transitional habitats; dry thick forest; Neoboutonia macrocalyx forest on the lava plains; wet thick forest; alpine forests; and sparse vegetation above 4,300 m comprising mainly lichens and spermatophyta, although Graminae have
been found growing at over 5,000 m
Mountain gorillas; live on the slopes of the Virungas. Out of a total mountain gorilla population of 880 animals, 480 are considered to be thirving in the Virunga Massifs. Eastern lowland gorillas Gorilla g. graueri live on Mount Tshiaberimu northwest of the lake and in the Semliki valley forests, threatened by illegal farmers and tree fellers. In famous Virunga National Park, the Mountain Gorillas are situated in the Mikeno Sector, about a two and half our drive from Goma. They can also be approached from Bunagana (border of Uganda). The permit is $400, so slightly cheaper than the two countries of Uganda or Rwanda. The visits are also a bit more authentic and in smaller groups. There are several operators who can organize this, but all book via the ICCN (Congolse Wildlife Authority) sales office in Goma.
Other Tourist Attactions in Virunga National Park Congo
Nyiragongo Volcano; Nyiragongo is a wonderful strata-volcano that has the world’s enormous or huge lava lake. The volcano’s forested lower slopes are habitat to various wildlife species including the rare chimpanzees, monkeys, and bushbuck. Nyiragongo’s summit rim is largely devoid of vegetation and is frequently dusted with snow. From the rim, toursits can peer down into a churning lava lake and see and hear hot gases exploding up though a mosaic of molten lava. Although predictable and therefore safe for tourists, Nyiragongo is greatly feared during eruptions. Because of the low silica content of its lava, Nyiragongo’s lava flows are extremely fluid. During the 2002 eruption, some of Nyiragongo’s lava flows were clocked at 100 km/hr (62 mph) and reached all the way to Lake Kivu.
Treks to the peak/summit of Nyiragongo volcano begins at the Kibati patrol post, which is approximately 30 minutes by car from the nearest Goma town. The patrol post is less than a one hour drive from the Mikeno Lodge in Rumangabo. Park rangers lead all treks and porters (unaffiliated with the park) are available for hire. The time required to reach the summit depends on the average fitness of each group, but typically takes 4 – 6 hours. Altitude sickness can be an issue for some visitors because the climb starts at 1989m (6,525 ft) and ascends to 3470m (11,382ft) in a short time. Proper hydration is the best way to adapt to the change in altitude. People prone to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) should speak to their physicians about taking preventative measures before making the climb. It is possible for fitter people to climb up and descend in one day, but most groups choose to overnight in basic accommodation available at the top/summit.
Glacier of the Rwenzori Mountains in Virunga National Park; Situated in the north of Virunga national park on the border with Uganda, Rwenzori Mountains is a snow capped mountain range. The highest peak /summit in the range lies on the frontier and can be hiked from both Ugandan and Congo’s side. The trek to the glacier can be made in a 4-5 or 6 day trek. In order to start the trek visitors will need to travel to Beni by airplane (either from Goma or Entebbe).
Lake Edward (Rutanzige); The lake also lies with the range of Virunga national park. The lake’s shallow has an impoverished fish fauna, with many cichlid species, and quite a rich invertebrate fauna. Recently crocodiles have returned to the upper Semliki River. The monitor lizard and snakes are common including python, puff adder, cobra and green mamba among others.All these can be encounter when on safaris to Virunga national park in DR Congo.
Tourist Activities Virunga National Park Congo
Mountain Gorillas Trekking; Mountain Gorillas in the famous Virunga National Park are located in the Mikeno Sector, about a two and half hours’ drive from Goma. They can also be approached from Bunagana (border of Uganda). The permit is $400, so slightly cheaper than in Uganda or Rwanda. The visits are also a bit more authentic and in smaller groups. Gorilla trekking permit is booked via the Congolse Wildlife Authority sales office in Goma or alternatively, you can also book directly with ICCN.
A visit to habituated mountain gorilla family in Virunga is a life changing experience. Mountain gorillas are highly intelligent, good natured, and luring to observe. The silverback’s powerful presence is awe-inspiring, yet his calm clearly earns him the title, “gentle giant”. Visitors are equally struck by the tenderness and care that mothers show their young. And then, of course, there are the juveniles who spend most of every waking hour at play and never cease to make visitors smile. We believe your time with Virunga’s mountain gorillas will leave you feeling changed for the better.
All treks are led by park rangers and usually depart from Bukima patrol post. Treks usually require 1-2 hours of hiking in each direction, depending where the mountain gorillas spent the previous night and the difficulty of the terrain.
To protect the health of Virunga’s gorillas, tourists are required to wear surgical masks that are provided to trekkers when they confronting the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat of Virunga National Park. Time with the gorillas is strictly limited to one hour. If you don’t feel well, have a fever, diarrhea, or persistent sore throat – please do not go on the trek. Mountain gorillas are extremely susceptible to human illnesses. Gorillas have died after being exposed to human respiratory viruses and other common ailments.
Nyiragongo Volcano Hike; This volcano, famous for its lava lake is worth exploring. A hike to the summit or peak of the volcano is a technically easy especially from the direction of Goma. A Hike to the top /peak of the Volcano usually takes 6 hours; most climbers spend the night at the top. This also makes it possible to see and enjoy the boiling lava by night, when it becomes even brighter.
Treks to the summit of Nyiragongo volcano begin at the Kibati patrol post, which is approximately 30 minutes by car from Goma. The patrol post is less than a one hour drive from the Mikeno Lodge in Rumangabo. Park rangers lead all Hikers and porters (unaffiliated with the park) are available for hire. The time required to reach the summit depends on the average fitness of each group, but typically takes 4 – 6 hours. Altitude sickness can be an issue for some because the climb begins at 1989m (6,525 ft) and ascends to 3470m (11,382ft) in a short time. Proper hydration is the best way to adapt to the change in altitude. People prone to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) should speak to their physicians about taking preventative measures before making the climb. It is possible for fitter people to climb up and descend in one day, but most groups choose to overnight in basic accommodation available at the top (included in the permit fee). Trekkers are advised to bring raincoats and cold weather gear. Rain showers are a common occurrence on the climb up during the rainy season and temperatures at the summit can dip below 0°C/32°F.
Rwenzori Mountain Trek; The Rwenzori Mountains are a snow capped mountain range located in the north of Virunga National Park on the frontier with Uganda. The highest peak in the range lies on the border and can be climbed from both countries (Congo and Uganda). The trek to the glacier can be made in a 4-5 or 6 day trek. In order to start the trek visitors will need to travel to Beni by airplane (either from Goma or Entebbe).
Virunga National Park also offers spectacular trekking and climbing trips to the Rwenzori Mountains in the north of the park. Known also as the “Mountains of the Moon,” the Rwenzoris reach a height of 5,109 m (16,761 ft) and contain the largest glaciers left on the African continent. Those who trek and climb in the Rwenzoris will experience a stunning variety of landscapes, including bamboo forests, alpine meadows, lakes, and snowcapped peaks. The flora and fauna of the Rwenzoris is equally diverse. Forest elephant, Okapi, chimpanzees, and numerous bird species make the Rwenzoris their home. The best weather in the Rwenzoris usually happens from January through mid-March and June to late August.
The cost of a permit for the Rwenzoris is $232 for both trekkers and climbers. For an additional $116, visitors are welcome to overnight in the huts along the track. At this time, the park is not able to supply gear or food for guests, so please come prepared. Trekkers wanting only to reach the summit hut will need good hiking boots, rain gear, and a warm base layers. Those wanting to climb Margherita Peak or any of the other summits will need to bring their own climbing hardware, crampons, and ice axes. Bivouc gear is also a good idea. A Virunga ranger accompanies all trekkers and climbers and independent porters are available for hire. Porters negotiate their prices on the spot, but the cost is typically less than a dollar per kilogram with a maximum of 15.
Visit the Tongo Chimps; Virunga National Park has a habituated Chimpanzee group in the stunning hills of Tongo, situated in the southern part of Virunga National Park, west of the park headquarters of Rumangabo, Tongo is a unique forest island and home to a small population of chimpanzees. The forest lies on one of the lava flows from Nyamulagira Volcano and is estimated to be 300 years old. NB Tongo is not yet open for visitors due to safety issues.
Getting to Virunga National Park Congo – How to Virunga National Park Congo
The southern parts of Virunga National Park are easily accessed in a number of different ways the most common are:
Overland journey via Uganda, cross the border in Bunagana, from where the Mountain gorilla sites Jomba and Bikenge can be reached within 1 hour. The border crossing is easy, and a local visa can be bought at the border for only 50$, however this visa is not a fully recognized visa and can only be used to visit the park and subsequently leaving the country at the Bunagana border post again.
Overland via Rwanda, cross the border at Gisenyi/Goma, the border crossing is easy if you pre-arranged a visa, if not it will be difficult or expensive (280$ if bought at the border).
By Air: Fly into Goma, from within the DRC many flights connect to Goma, from outside the DRC Entebbe is the only city connected by TMK. Once again make sure you have a pre-arranged visa.
Accommodations with in Virunga National Park Congo
Mikeno Lodge is a hidden gem within Virunga National Park. The lodge is 90kms about 1-2 hours’ drive from the famous Goma town. The bungalow accommodation is spacious, luxurious & very private, each with fabulous tree or valley views. Each bungalow has its own fireplace, which the staff light every evening while visitors are out enjoying the scrumptious dinner.
The lodge‘s restaurants are located within a forest and offers beautiful views of the rift valley and Nyiragongo and Mikeno volcanoes.
Mikron Lodge offers access to local community walks and a number of wildlife activities like tracking the endangered mountain gorillas or the chimpanzees, Blue monkeys, baboons, and colobus monkeys.
Note that at the lodge, accommodation prices include 16% Gov’t VAT
|Room Occupancy Rate||Rates in USD|
|Single person||$244 (including breakfast)|
|Double occupancy||$325 (including breakfast)|
Bukima Tented Camp-Mid-Range
Just outside the Virunga National Park boundary lays the Bukima tented camp, which is one of the main starting points Virunga mountain gorilla treks. The camp was originally built for researchers, but is now used primarily by trekkers. As the name suggests, overnight guests at Bukima sleep in platform tents, but by camping standards they are quite plush. Each tent features an adjoining bathroom with running water and a nicely appointed bed and dresser for clothes. The views from the tent sites – or anywhere in camp for that matter – are spectacular. To the south, the view is dominated by Mt. Mikeno, whose 4437m (14,560’) summit towers over the gorilla sector. Across the valley is Nyiragongo volcano, whose lava lake colors the night sky with a red glow. Every few years, Nyamulagira volcano erupts and steals the nighttime show by spewing hot lava hundreds of feet into the air. Occasionally, the mountain gorillas themselves wander into the Bukima tented camp. Although this is highly frowned upon by park staff, it never ceases to impress the guests.
Prices for the camp are based on double occupancy and include breakfast. Lunch, dinner, and drinks are available for an additional charge. Of the six tents, four feature double beds and two are outfitted with twin beds.
Note that the Tented camp prices include 16% Gov’t VAT
Bukima Tented Camp cost per day:
|Room Type||Rates in USD|
|Single:||$244 (including breakfast)|
|Double||$325 (including breakfast)|
Nyiragongo Volcano Summit Shelters-Budget
Each of the twelve summit shelters contains two single beds on which visitors can put their sleeping bags. Although these shelters aren’t plush, they offer a welcome escape from the elements. Note that the cost of staying in a summit shelter is included in the Nyiragoongo Valcono permit fee.
Nyiragongo volcano trekking permit:
|Tourists Type||Rates in USD|
|Non –International Adults||$90|
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Accommodation places in Goma town.
Lac Kivu Lodge-Luxury
Lac Kivu Lodge situated on plot 162 Avenue Alindi – Quartier Himbi, Goma, North Kivu, is a beautiful lodge extensively established in lush tropical grounds on the shore of Lake Kivu .While in Goma or Visiting Virunga national park,, this lodge with its family atmosphere will delight you.
The lodge has beautiful rooms that are distributed as Economic, Budget Room, Standard Room, Standard Plus, Classic Room, and Deluxe Room. From Budget to Deluxe category, espresso coffee machine, locally made rocking chair on each balcony are offered in each room. Lac Kivu Lodge has recently extended and now 13 more rooms which are available with access through the actual Lac Kivu Lodge 1. There, the typical architecture of three houses turned into bedrooms are very fascinating to each and every visitor staying in the rooms.
The restaurant in the lodge is reputated for being the best table in Goma and it serves both local and international dishes.
In regard to events and conference, the lodge has two conference rooms are which are at visitor’s disposition, for seminaries or meetings.
Hotel Amenities and Facilities
- Breakfast in the Room
- Hair Dryer
- Honeymoon Suite
- Snack Bar
- Ironing Service
- Water Sports (Non-Motorized)
- Airport Transfer
- Taxi Service
- Internet -Free WiFi in selected areas in the hotel
- Free Wifi inside the room
- Wi-Fi in Public Areas
- Free Private Parking Area
- Food and Beverages ie Breakfast, European Food and Light Snacks
|Room category||Rates in USD|
|LKL 2 Budget||USD 70|
|Budget Room||USD 70|
|Standard Room||USD 130|
|LKL 2 Standard||USD 130|
|Classic Room||USD 150|
|Deluxe King||USD 200|
Ihusi Hotel Goma-Luxury
Ihusi hotel is popular top-end hotel in the Centre of Goma overlooking Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in North Kivu province. It is situated some 500 meters inside the border with Rwanda, capital tourism. Ihusi hotel offers a splendid panorama of Lake Kivu and Virunga mountains. The hotel has a charming beautifully architecture built in Greco-Roman style.
Relaxed yet elegant, the hotel features an executive restaurant overlooking Lake Kivu. The restaurant gives visitors to select from the variety of the cousins they serve
Amenities at hotel Ihusi include the following:
- 24hr reception,
- Breakfast only,
- Business Centre,
- Children welcome,
- Cocktail bar,
- meeting facilities,
- Continuous news channel,
- Currency exchange,
- Laundry, valet, dry cleaning,
- Meals provided, Parking, Pool,
- Restaurant, Satellite,
- cable TV, Secretarial services,
- Smoking allowed,
- Tennis court Rooms have:
- Air conditioning, Coffee, tea,
- Nonsmoking rooms, Room service,
Hotel Linda is 3 star hotel, located in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo; It is constructed in modern architecture, meeting international standards .It’s just 4kms from Goma International Airport just. It’s a perfect place to base while visiting Nyiragongon volcanic sites visoke or when trekking the mountain gorillas Jomba Bukima Mountains in Virunga National Park.
The hotel accommodation rooms offer a direct view of Lake Kivu and they are equipped with fridges, TV’s (DSTV, CANAL SAT,), Intercom, internet connection WIFI.
The a gourmet restaurant at the lodge serves fresh food: giant Tilapia from Lake Kivu, Fish captain Ituri, the vegetables from the vegetable Kibumba and Masereka, livestock meat Masisi, etc. In addition to the Restaurant is a modern bar where you can easily find both local and foreign drinks, respecting hygienic conditions and international standards, and in all their varieties (Beers, Sweet, Juice, Spirits, Liqueur, Aperitif, Digestive, Vin).
For planning to organize meeting in Goma, the hotel has 3 rooms for meetings, conferences and ceremonies .These include; one with a capacity accommodating ± 600 seats, the 2nd with a capacity equal to ± 75 places and 3rd with a capacity of Home of ± 50 seats.
|Room type,||Rates in USD|
|Semi Apartment||USD 80|
Located in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, in eastern of Democratic Republic of Congo, Caritas Hotel offers an exclusive view of the Lake Kivu.
It has a capacity of 37 rooms that offer budget accommodation to visitors staying in the lodge.
$ 40, $ 50 and $ 60 per night, breakfast included. For NGOs all rooms are for $ 50 per night.
The lodge also has restaurant and bar which are open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. They serve local and some international wines, dishes or cousins.
The budget facility offers two types of Conference rooms; one with capacity of 100 seats at USD $ 100 per day and the second with capacity of 25 seats at USD $ 50 per day.