Virunga National Park offers extraordinary birding trips that will leave nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers in awe. Nestled in the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Virunga National Park boasts a vast expanse of diverse habitats. It shares borders with Semliki, Rwenzori, and Queen Elizabeth National Parks in Uganda, as well as Mgahinga Gorilla Park and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Stretching from the Rwenzori Mountains in the south to Lake Edward, the park encompasses an array of ecosystems, making it a haven for avian biodiversity.
The park’s landscapes are as varied as they are breathtaking, with altitudes ranging from 798 meters in the lower plains to 3,470 meters atop the Nyiragongo volcano, and even reaching 5,110 meters on Margherita Peak (Mount Stanley) in the Rwenzori range. Rainfall patterns are equally diverse, with averages ranging from 500 mm per year at Lake Edward to over 3,000 mm on the Rwenzori slopes.
Virunga’s diverse habitats include lakes, marshy deltas, peat bogs, grasslands, wooded savannas, lava plains, transition forests, montane rainforests, bamboo forests, high-altitude areas, glaciers, and snowfields. Notably, a portion of the Semliki Forest, known locally as the Watalinga forest, extends into the park and is shared with Uganda. The western slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains, meeting the Semliki’s alluvial plain, are among the wettest regions in the country, with frequent rainfall even during the so-called ‘dry’ season and an annual average rainfall exceeding 3,000 mm. The Rwindi plain features hot springs.
Virunga National Park is renowned for supporting a greater biological diversity than any other single protected area in Africa. This park is a precious habitat for various Albertine Rift endemics, including the handsome francolin, Ruwenzori turaco, Ruwenzori batis, Ruwenzori double-collared sunbird, and Archer’s robin-chat. It’s also home to bird species like the Grey-throated Barbet, Yellow-billed Barbet, Double-toothed Barbet, Narrow-tailed Starling, and Madagascar Bee Eater.
The park provides a haven for birdwatching enthusiasts, offering opportunities to witness the beauty of numerous bird species. The melodious sounds and calls of these magnificent birds start as early as 5:00 am, compelling visitors to rise early. The harmonious symphony of birdlife in Virunga is a rare and enchanting experience, drawing travelers from all corners of the globe.
In recent years, Congo has emerged as a popular birding destination, actively encouraging tourism to showcase its vibrant avian treasures. Bird enthusiasts will find Virunga National Park to be a captivating paradise, where the wonders of the avian world await discovery.