Virunga national park
Virunga national park is known to be the second largest tropical rain forest and is located on the eastern part of the Congo basin. The national park covers an area of 8,090kilometers. Its also known as the park of fire and ice because of its diverse habitats ranging from the Rwenzori peaks to savanna and volcanic plains. The national park is a home to a third of the worlds endangered mountain gorillas, a thousand mammal species, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
ATTRACTIONS IN VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK
This is the major attraction that attracts tourist for a safari in Congo. There are around six habituated gorilla families that are available for trekking. This include Kabirizi and is known to be the largest family with 32 family members including 10 babies, 4 sub adults, 1 black back, 11 adults, five juveniles and 1 silver back called Kabirizi. The other gorilla families include rugendo, munyaga, humba, mapuwa and lulengo families in the national park. This makes Congo safaris destination the most amazing place to visit.
This is also an amazing activity on the Congo wildlife safari in Virunga national park. The activity was started by a zoologist called Frankfurt in 1987. Chimpanzees were made familiar with human beings and since then tourists have been coming to visit the national park for the chimpanzee habituation experience. This helps the tourists to learn more about the chimpanzees as they interact.
Besides the chimpanzee and mount gorilla trekking, tourists also tend to enjoy hiking the nyiragongo volcanoes while on their safari. Virunga national park has a very attractive nyiragongo volcano in the center which harbors the largest lava lake in the world. The lava lake is active and record shows it has erupted 34 times and the last erupt was in 2002when it drained and lava flowed to the surrounding community. So, while on a safari tourists hike up to the summit of the volcano where a clear view of the lake with fumes coming out of melilite nephelinite.
WILDLIFE IN VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK
Virunga national park boosts with over 218 mammal species, 109 reptiles and 78 amphibians and its also a refuge camp to over 22 primate species which include three great ape,mountain gorilla, eastern plain gorilla and the eastern chimpanzee. Other animals include elephant, hippopotamus, buffalo, antelope, warthog, lion among others which are found in the rwindi area whereas pelicans are found in the lower rutshuru, gorillas, chimpanzees and okapi are found in the semiliki valley and on the slopes of Virunga mountains.
GLACIER ON THE RWENZORI MOUNTAINS IN VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK
While on the border of uganda the Rwenzori mountains are found in the north of Virunga national park. The Rwenzori snow capped mountain and the highest peak lies on the frontier and can be hiked from both uganda and Congo side. The trek can take 4 to 6 days.
ACTIVITIES IN VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK
In Virunga national park gorilla trekking is the most done activity and this involves tourists moving from one area to another in search of mountain gorillas. There are around 300 mountain gorillas and eight of gorilla families are habituated and these include rugendo family which was the first to be habituated, munyanga, mapuwa, lulengo, Kabirizi, bageni, nyakamwe and humba family.
The gorilla trekking process starts early in the morning around 6am at bukima patrol post and the tourists are guided by a ranger. This is usually done in a group of 8 individuals per day and it basically takes 1 to 2 hours.
This is also another amazing activity that is done within the national park. This is done in order to make the chimpanzee to get familiar with the human presence and this helps the visitors to get too close to them and also learn their habits and behaviors. The habituation process starts at 4;30am with the help of the park guides and later the visitors go at around 6;00am and this makes the tourists to enjoy the safari.
Just like gorilla trekking the chimpanzee trekking process is limited to around 4 people. Therefore, the tourists are able to get more time with the chimpanzees since they are given 4 hours in a day. The tourists are able to see the chimpanzees’ characters such as de-nesting at 6;00am, see them hunting, breastfeeding, playing with one another among others.
The volcano hike is an amazing and beautiful activity while on the wildlife safari. The volcano is 3470meters high above sea level and it’s covered with a lot of vegetation and it’s known to have the worlds largest lava lake. The volcano is known to be very active and it has erupted for almost 34 times and the last was sighted in 2002.
The hiking process starts at 10am at kibati patrol with a guide. Hiking equipment’s such as walking stick, rain gears, hiking boots, hand gloves, warm clothing’s like jackets, enough water and some snacks. This because the hiking takes 4 -6 hours or days depending on the tourist’s speed. At the top of the volcano there are tents and mattresses where the visitors spend a night, a camp fire and a cook to prepare them different dishes.
SENKWEKWE ORPHANAGE CENTER
The orphanage is found in rumangabo next to the park headquarters and it was established in 2010 in order to take care of the orphaned gorillas that were rescued from poachers. This was named after the silver back gorillas that were killed in 2007 within Virunga national park.
The senkwekwe orphanage center is a habitant for about 4 gorilla families that were rescued from being killed and these are ndakasi, ndeze which were the first to be rescued, matabishi, yalala, Maisha and kabook which died because of health conditions. Therefore, tourists who come to senkwekwe spend a great time with the gorillas by playing with them, interacting and also learning their behaviors, how they feed and play with each other.
This is an activity that is done with visitors as they follow the various trails in the tropical rain forest in order to view wildlife species. As they are engaging in nature walks, they are able to view endangered gorillas, lions, antelopes, buffaloes, okapis, elephants, baboons among others on the water shores of lake Edward plus also bird species among others.
This is also an interesting activity within the national park. Its also called a birders paradise because it’s a home to over 706 species. Therefore, tourists wake up so early with the park ranger to the forest in order to spot various bird species using the eyes or binoculars. These birds are sited in trees while singing therefore the tourists can follow their voices. Birds such as African olive pigeon, handsome francolin, white headed wood hoopoe, Angolan swallow, blue headed sunbird, strange weaver, tropical boubou, Rwenzori batis, grey throated barbet, double toothed barbet among other species. Therefore, as tourists are on a Congo wildlife safari, they can enjoy spotting the birds especially the bird lovers.
LAND SCAPE VIEWING
Virunga national park has one of the best views of landscape which has volcanoes in the conservation area, the Rwenzori mountains, afro alpine vegetation, eroded valley which is viewed in the Ishango and Sinda region, forest cover, the snow peaks which gives the tourist good photography as well as an amazing experience.
Virunga national park is one of the 4 national parks in the world with endangered mountain gorillas. Therefore, with the above activities’ tourists can engage in a number of many activities while on their safari as they view different wildlife species, birds among others which makes their safari memorable.