Virunga National Park is the most spectacular park in Congo and possibly in Africa! The inspired Journeys team has been working in, with or for Virunga for the last 6 years, and we would love to show you its wonders. It boasts some of the highest biodiversity of any National Park, including Mountain Gorillas, Lowland Gorillas, Chimpanzees and much, much more. You will be inspired for sure!
Gorillas, Chimpanzees and Active Volcanoes
OLDEST NATIONAL PARK IN AFRICA
Virunga National Park is the Oldest National Park in Africa. It is one of the most diverse areas in Africa, encompassing savannas, swamps, lakes, rivers, lowland forests, highland forests, African alpine habitats, lava fields, glaciers and the list goes on endlessly.
It is home to some of the most famous and elusive animals in Africa, including the three great apes of eastern Africa (Chimpanzees, Mountain Gorillas and Lowland Gorillas). Lions and leopards once roamed the savannas with the greatest single population of Hippos numbering approximately 20.000. The turbulent years around the turn of the century depleted the savanna areas significantly and although the wildlife numbers have been recovering, there is still a long way to go to get back to historic figures.
Virunga national Park has started on an ambitious path to revolutionize conservation and are focussing on lasting impact and long term financial stability and independence for the park. This is to be powered by what is called the Virunga Alliance (read more here).
Two of inspired Journeys’ founders worked for Virunga National Park for years and are still very proud to have played a small role in the enormous achievements of the park over the past years. Virunga is a magical place and has so much to offer to travelers as well as to those who want to see that even in the most difficult parts of the world conservation success is still possible. if there ever was a place to feel inspired by, Virunga is it!
We understand some people may have safety concerns when travelling to Virunga/DRC. We operate very closely with Virunga National Park and their professional security team to ensure that we only travel to areas that are considered stable and safe for visitors. However we urge all travelers to read up on the current situation and to contact us if you would like to know more about the current situation and measures in place for your security.
WHAT TO DO?
The mountain gorillas are the stars of Virunga, they are easy to visit either from Mikeno Lodge or Bukima camp. Although your chances of seeing them are nearly 100%, we normally do advise people to book two trips, as this gives you the peace of mind to enjoy not only your visit to the Gorillas but also your search for them. Also in case of bad weather, you have another shot of a better picture.
The Gorillas might be the stars of Virunga, the Nyiragongo is the beating heart. It will be one of the first things you see upon entering Goma. As the mountain looms ominously over the city it has engorged various times already, for the last time in 2002, of which the scars are still visible in the city.
It is about a 5 hour hike to the summit, depending on the fitness level of the group. Upon arriving at the summit you will be welcomed by the radiating heat of the lava lake in the crater. The real spectacle starts at night when the light starts to dim and the orange glow of the lava truly comes alive.
LULIMBI CAMP & SAFARI
Very recently Virunga opened Lulimbi camp on the shores of the Lulimbi river, which separates Virunga National Park in Congo from the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda.
It gives visitors a chance to do a safari add-on to their gorilla trekking and volcano hiking. Chances of seeing elephant, hippo, kob, topi, buffalo and various other plains game are good and it is s true heaven for birders, with a prize sighting being the elusive shoebill stork. Enquire now for more details.
There are two groups of Chimpanzees in the process of being habituated. The first group is located in the forests around Mikeno Lodge, and can be visited if they are in the area. The second group is in Tongo about 1.5 hours away from Mikeno Lodge, they live on an isolated forested hill in a landscape of old lava flows.
At this point the Tongo chimpanzees are not yet open to visitors, but watch this space for when it opens for visitors!
The Virunga Head Quarters near Mikeno Lodge, offers a unique perspective for visitors to get a feel for what happens in National Park management on a daily basis. You can meet the Rangers, the gorilla orphan care takers, the anti poaching dog unit and much more.
Virunga National Park owns and operates a number of lodges and camps, travelling to these camps is not only great fun and very exciting, they have the enormous added benefit that all profits of these properties go directly into financing the park’s conservation efforts! So by travelling to these places you are also contributing directly to the National Park.
Mikeno Lodge was the first and most elaborate lodge in the collection of Virunga. It is built near the Virunga National Park head quarters and is located in a beautiful forest full of primates. Because of the vicinity to the Head Quarters, it is possible to interact with Virunga National Park staff, as they often come to the lodge bar at the end of the day for a beer and a chat.
It is also possible to have a tour of the head quarters and get a feel for what is involved in managing a national park in Congo. You can visit the Anti Poaching blood hound team (if they are not in the field). A highlight to your visit to Mikeno Lodge is visiting the Senkwekwe Center, which houses 4 Mountain Gorilla Orphans, which are the only Mountain Gorillas in captivity in the world! and therefore very special. Those of you who have seen the documentary “Virunga” will recognize this area as a central part of the movie. Mikeno Lodge is an excellent base for your adventures into Virunga, as it offers easy access to Volcanoes, Gorillas as well as Chimpanzees (if they are around).
The Little sister of Mikeno Lodge is located on the edge of the Gorilla forest to facilitate easy and early departures for Gorilla enthusiasts. It is a comfortable albeit simple accommodation, but its location makes it special. Besides the vicinity of the forest, the views make the camp extra special. At night the two active volcanoes of Virunga cast their orange glow from their craters, making this a very surreal place on earth.
TCHEGERA ISLAND CAMP
Tchegera Island is a great secret of Virunga. Only 20 minutes by boat from Goma, it offers a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of the town and more authentic accommodation option. Peaceful and tranquil it is a great spot to swim, kayak, or just relax. Evening views of Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira make for a great backdrop to have a drink or two. This is a particularly good option if you have an extra day after climbing Nyiragongo or arriving in Goma.
Lulimbi camp is the latest addition to Virunga’s camps and lodges. it is situated in the savanna area along (almost in) the Lulimbi river, which means you will be sharing the camps with the hippos! From camp you will have the opportunity to go on game drives and game walks, making this camp a great addition to your gorilla treks and volcano hikes, as it will show you a completely different habitat of Virunga National Park, with a chance to see elephant, lion and other plains game.