Virunga National Park of Congo is the oldest National Park of Africa founded in 1925 by King Albert 1 of Belgium and currently running under the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN), a government agency.
Until 20 years ago, Virunga National Park had the largest number of land animals of any park in Africa, but war and poaching have reduced the park’s wildlife population by 90%. Despite such a daunting figure, Virunga still contains the greatest biodiversity of any park in Africa. Virunga’s most famous inhabitants, the mountain gorillas, live on the slopes of Mount Mikeno in the southern sector. The mountain gorilla population in the Virunga, although still very low in terms of total worldwide (~1000), has actually grown over the last two decades thanks to a dedicated ranger force that has literally laid down their lives to save these incredible animals.
Top Things to See in Virunga
The Virunga National Park is a homely paradise as it is a land of biodiversity covering nearly half of African wildlife species, with various altitude and rainfall variations on its Albertine Rift. The park is also habituated by lava plains, tropical forests, marshes, savanna grasslands, glaciers, mountain snowfields, and Nyiragongo- active volcanoes with an open air lava lake.
The Virunga National Park of Congo is inhabited by lots of wildlife (flora and fauna) and these include among others, lions, hippos, chimpanzees, elephants, giraffes, and with about 200 mountain gorillas of the Virunga ranges (basically at the lower slopes of the extinct volcanoes). These are part of the world’s 1000 surviving mountain gorillas that are shared between Uganda (Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park), Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park) and Congo with The Virunga National Park.
The Virunga National Park is one of the best places for primate safaris in Africa. You can track both the mountain gorillas and chimpanzees within this national park.
There are seven habituated mountain gorilla families (habituated to humans) that are visited by tourists regularly, an experience that is considered by all to be among the most memorable in their respective life times.
The Virunga National Park also has a rare variety of habitats, from the high mountains to the north (Rwenzori Mountains 5000m high, the rain forest which is home to lowland gorillas and okapis, the savannah with its typical animal population such as buffaloes, antelopes, elephants and big cats, rivers and the vast Lake Edward with its famous hippo populations and south to the volcanoes and virgin mountain forest with its world famous population of mountain gorillas.
Current Security Situation
Due to the previous situation of political unrest in Congo, The Virunga National Park became disturbed and also a fear for several travelers. But the ICCN together with rangers and conservationists have fought so hard to protect and conserve the lives of the mountain gorillas despite the previous raids by the rebels through the region.
As a matter of fact, lots of security have been reinforced within the area after its reopening in 2008, where game rangers and tour guides are always available to provide security to the visitors (these – armed game rangers do ensure your safety throughout your trip as they be with you in the vehicle and even at the other adventures in the field / within the forest). The human inhabitants of DRC too are becoming warm and welcoming due to the ongoing campaigns by the tourism industry to encourage more visitors and also the process of sensitizing the mass on the advantages obtained from protecting and conserving wild life by the locals.
This has tried to promote friendliness from the country natives before their several visitors (this makes the visitors feel welcome and can always come back to the country and more so to the park). All this makes you feel very safe and welcome while at a visit since the Virunga Park staff ensures tight security for all its visitors due to fear of its destruction, and once good reports are provided ,the better than a bad report on it. This therefore emphasizes ,the safety measures undertaken and provided with in the park premises for the travelers.