Is Virunga national park reopen for y tourism? YES, Africa’s oldest national park finally reopens. After 8 months of non-operating, Virunga national park has finally reopened for gorilla trekking tours and Nyiragongo volcano climbing. Since May 2018, all gorilla safaris to Virunga national park were shut following the kidnap of two British travelers and the killing of their ranger guide. The park was closed purposely to make accurate security reviews and devise strategies to ensure the safety of travelers and rangers in the park. The good news is that security has been promoted and the park was reopened for tourism on 15th Feb 2019 as earlier announced. Travel operators can now book gorilla tours to Virunga national park with no fears. However, tourism in the park is limited to gorilla trekking and Nyiragongo volcano hiking as security investigations are still undergoing in other parts of the park.
Gorilla trekking in Congo
Virunga national park is one of the four national parks that shelter the remaining population of mountain gorillas in the world. The park covers Congo’s part of the Virunga conservation area and is home to 8 gorilla families namely (Rugendo, Munyaga, Mapuwa, Lulengo, Kabirizi, Bageni, and Nyakamwe gorilla families) habituated for trekking. The remaining population of mountain gorillas lives in Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park, Mgahinga gorilla and Bwindi forest national park in southwestern Uganda. Virunga is a home to roughly 350 gorillas, which is a quarter of the world’s mountain gorillas.
How much is a Congo gorilla permit
For budget travelers, Congo offers the cheapest gorilla permits in the world. A single gorilla permit in Congo costs $450, which is cheap compared to $1500 in Rwanda and $600 in Uganda. A gorilla permit is a pass to see mountain gorillas without which no traveler is allowed to see mountain gorillas. Gorilla permits in Congo are sold by the Institute Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) a semi-government authority responsible for tourism and conservation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
When to book a Congo gorilla safari
Like in other gorilla destinations, Congo gorilla permits require advance bookings to avoid disappointments at the last hour. Travelers are advised to book at least 6 months prior to the trekking date so as to timely secure gorilla permits, arrange transportations, secure hotel rooms and make other required preparations in time. Permits can be booked directly with the management of Virunga national park or alternatively book through any trusted tour agent selling related gorilla tour to Virunga national park.
About Virunga national park
Situated in the eastern province of Congo, Virunga national park is Africa’s oldest national park that was established in 1925. Virunga ark spreads over 8,090km2 and is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites since 1994 and also a Ramsar site of international importance. This is attributed to the national park’s rich in diversity and threats. The park shelters two active volcanoes (Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira), which make this park, make it an exceptional destination. Insecurity and poaching are the major threats that hinder tourism in Virunga national park. Regarding the vegetation cover in the national park, Virunga comprise of 2,077 species of plants, which include 264 tree species, 230 of which are endemic o the Albertine region, wetlands and grasslands made of papyrus sedge, jointed flatsedge, common reed, sacaton grasses, ambatch, Conkerberry, paper bank thorn, Kowai fruit, African paper, Wild cucurbits, African alpine bamboo, heather and mosses among others. The fauna species include 196 mammals, 706 bird species, 109 reptiles, and 65 amphibians among others. Animals found in the park include common chimpanzees, red-tailed monkey, Dent’s Mona monkey, Blue monkey, Hamlyn’s monkey, Central African red Colubus, olive baboon, grey-cheeked mangabey, Mantled Guereza, central African Red Colobus. African bush elephants, African buffalo, bay duiker, blue duiker, red river hog, common warthog, waterbuck, yellow-backed duiker, and mantled guereza.
For birders, expect to see Rwenzori turaco, Rwenzori Batis, red-throated alethe, Stripe-breasted tit, stranger weaver, red-faced woodland warbler, Collared Apalis, African goshawk, harrier hawk, alpine swift, malachite sunbird, black thirsted wattle-eye, black bishop, thick-billed seedeater, narrowed-tailed starling, olive, Sunbird, mountain oriole, Diederik cuckoo, white-headed wood hoopoe, black-billed turaco and black saw-wing among other birds.
Travel tips to Congo
Much as the government has done all it can to resolve insecurity in Congo, the country is still not very secure. Travelers are therefore reminded and advised to be extra careful and mind about their lives. Traveling in the late hours is tricky to your life, moving with large sums of money and exposing expensive gardens is discouraged. Traveler are therefore fully responsible for their lives in Congo. Mind about the people you talk to, the paces you visit and at what time. If you are going to see mountain gorillas, ensure to have appropriate packing list with rain jackets, hiking boots, hand gloves, sweaters, long pants and sunglasses among others. To ease local transactions, travelers are reminded to carry some Congo francs. Where possible, learn some local language for easy communication with local people.
In general, the reopening of Virunga national park for gorilla trekking and Nyiragongo volcano hiking is good news for travelers. A Congo gorilla safari to Virunga national park is a complete package that rewards you with a remarkable experience.
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