Discover how to spend an unforgettable 5 days in the stunning Virunga National Park, situated in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Known as one of the last refuges for the critically endangered mountain gorillas, the park shares borders with Mgahinga National Park in Uganda and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Encompassing an impressive 8090 sq km of land, the park’s topography is dominated by volcanic features, with altitudes ranging from 680 m in Puembo River to 5109 m in Mountain Stanley.
Established in 1925 by King Albert of Belgium to protect the mountain gorillas, Virunga National Park has faced challenges due to civil wars and poaching, threatening the survival of these majestic creatures. Nevertheless, the park now boasts six habituated gorilla families for tourists to visit, including Kabirizi, Rugendo, Munyaga, Humba, Mapuwa, and Lulengo.
Aside from the mountain gorillas, Virunga National Park is home to various other primates, such as chimpanzees, red-tailed monkeys, De Brazza’s monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, Hamlyn’s monkeys, and blue monkeys, among others. Additionally, the park boasts an array of wild animals, including forest elephants, yellow-backed duikers, African buffaloes, okapi, blue duikers, giant forest hogs, water chevrotains, and red river hogs.
Begin your journey from Kigali airport in Rwanda, the shortest route to Virunga National Park. A driver-guide will accompany you through a picturesque drive with winding roads flanked by lush hills on either side. Enjoy the breathtaking views of green landscapes in Rwanda. After approximately 5 hours, you will reach the Ngoma border or Gisenyi, where you can stay overnight in one of the lodges, such as Paradise Malahide Hotel.
After a hearty breakfast, head to Kibati Petro post, the starting point for the Nyiragongo mountain hike. The ranger guide will provide essential instructions for the trek up this active volcano, which erupted in 2022, spewing magma over 30 km. It’s recommended to hire a porter to carry your belongings, directly supporting the local community. The ranger guide will accompany you to the top, where you’ll stay overnight in a modest wooden accommodation facility, offering a unique experience of hearing the sounds of the active volcano’s lava.
After breakfast, descend Nyiragongo and head to Kibumba Tented Camp or Bukima Tented Camp. At the bottom, you can relax at your chosen lodge or visit Kibumba market for a chance to experience the locals’ unique cultural performances. If you stay at Bukima Tented Camp, you may be lucky enough to have a visit from the gorillas.
Armed with your packed gorilla trekking gear and a mask, head to Bukima Patrol, where the gorilla trekking begins. Listen to the briefing from the ranger guide, who will escort you into the forest. Keep an eye out for other primates and wildlife, including De Brazza’s monkeys, Hamlyn’s monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, golden monkeys, forest elephants, okapi, duikers, giant forest hogs, African buffaloes, and more. Virunga National Park is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, with rare Albertine endemics to spot. Spend a precious hour with the mountain gorillas, taking photos to preserve these extraordinary memories. After the trek, you can opt to spend the night in Gisenyi, Rwanda.
After an incredible experience with the mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park and an unforgettable hike up Nyiragongo, drive through Kigali City in Rwanda to Kigali Airport for your departure.
You may choose to take a Kigali city tour on your way to the airport, visiting the genocide memorial to gain insight into the tragic history of the country. The memorial, with over 800,000 names of victims, serves as a somber reminder of the 100 days of ignorance and brutality. Some remains of the juvenile victims are preserved to pay respect to the innocent souls lost during the genocide.
Virunga National Park permits can be purchased on arrival, and each gorilla permit costs $400. The regulating boards for gorilla permits in D.R. Congo are the Institute Congolais Pour La Conservation (ICCN) and Virunga Foundation for mountain gorillas. The proceeds from selling the gorilla trekking permits go towards gorilla conservation and support local community projects.
Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park is restricted to those aged 15 years and above, as the topography of the area can be challenging for younger children. Additionally, encountering the massive mountain gorillas can be intimidating even for adults, making it potentially overwhelming for younger children.
Ensure you pack the following essential items for your gorilla trekking adventure:
Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park is open all year round. However, the drier months, June to September and December, offer more comfortable trekking conditions, with less soggy trails and undergrowth in the forest.
Trek Africa Tours has over 10 years of experience operating in the greater East African region, making them a trusted and reliable tour operator for mountain gorilla and wildlife safaris. They are committed to responsible travel, and their team of professionally trained office and field staff ensures a seamless and memorable experience for every traveler. With excellent reviews on TripAdvisor and Safari booking, they are the perfect choice for your 5-day adventure in Virunga National Park. Contact Trek Africa Tours for more details and to plan your extraordinary journey.