Democratic Republic of the Congo
Virunga was founded in 1925 by King Albert I of Belgium as the first national park in Africa. Founded primarily to protect the mountain gorillas living in the forests of the Virunga Massif, the park was expanded north to include the Rwindi Plains, Lake Edward, and the Rwenzori Mountains.
In 1979, UNESCO designated Virunga National Park as a World Heritage Site. In the mid-1980s poaching depleted the park’s large mammal populations and UNESCO changed its World Heritage Site status to “endangered.” Over the twenty-five years that followed, the park endured an uninterrupted series of trials that included a refugee crisis from the 1994 Rwandan genocide which contributed to the severe destruction of sections of the park's forests.
The political situation in the DRC has improved exponentially for the better since 2009 and the park is enjoying the greatest resurgence of tourism and development in its history, with international donors investing in the development of the park’s infrastructure at unprecedented levels.
VIrunga gorilla treks offer incredible value for money relative to Uganda and especially Rwanda. A visit with a mountain gorilla family is a life changing experience. Mountain gorillas are highly intelligent, good natured, and fascinating to observe. The silverback’s powerful presence is awe-inspiring, yet his calm clearly earns him the title, “gentle giant”. And then, of course, there are the juveniles who spend most of every waking hour at play and never cease to make visitors smile.
In 1987, the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) developed an 80 km network of trails inside the Tongo forest and began a two-year process of habituating chimpanzees to the presence of humans. Despite a long period of unrest in the area in the 1990s and at the turn of the century, Virunga National Park rangers steadfastly protected and monitored Tongo’s chimpanzees which are once again habituated with visitors seeing them on a regular basis.
The pièce de résistance in our Virunga safaris is a 5-6 hour climb up an active volcano to view one of only five active lava lakes on our planet, Mount Nyiragongo. Climbing the 3,470m-high volcano isn’t for the faint of heart – but it is achievable for anyone at any age who is relatively fit - and the rewards at the summit are mind-blowing.
For more seasoned hikers, we also offer trekking and climbing trips to the spectacular Rwenzori mountains in the northern section of Virunga. Known also as the “Mountains of the Moon,” the Rwenzoris reach a height of 5,109 meters and contain the largest glaciers left on the African continent.
A safari in Virunga is one of the most enriching and life-changing adventures in our portfolio and is always a hands down favorite of all A2A Safaris travellers who are intrepid and adventurous enough to visit Virunga.
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We do not subscribe to the ‘one-size-fits-all’ philosophy. Sample itineraries and cost estimates are meant purely as a guide. To find out more, please contact one of our expert travel consultants to plan a customized itinerary based on your budget and interests.