Virunga National Park is located Eastern DR Congo in the Virunga mountain ranges neighboring Volcanoes National park, Rwenzori mountain, Rwindi plains, Lake Edward. The park was created in 1925 as Albert national Park making it the first National park in Africa.
It was later named Virunga National park in 1969 by president Mobutu who had started on taking more effort on conservation having deteriorated past Congo independence in 1960.
Virunga national park covers an area of 7800 square kilometers, with a bigger part under forest cover.
Virunga National park has a biodiversity with lots of flora and fauna, which include Mountain gorillas which are categorized as highly endangered species, Okapis, Chimpanzees, Golden monkeys, Elephants, duikers and lots of bird species. The park also has active volcanoes Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira. The neighboring Mount Hoyo area was managed with the park and is home to a population of Bambuti Pygmy people, caves and waterfalls.
The most done activities in Virunga National park is Mountain gorilla trekking, chimpanzee tracking, Nyiragongo Volcano hiking and birding.
The park is a home to about 100 gorillas with the rest of the gorillas leaving in Volcanoes National park in Rwanda, Mgahinga National park and Bwindi national park in Uganda.
Nyiragongo Volcano has the lava lake that offers the most spectacular view and tourists come all over the world to come and see this lava lake of an active volcano.
Virunga fared well for the better part of the 1970s with Foreign investors helping to improve the park’s infrastructure and training facilities, and the park became a popular destination for tourists, over 6500 visitors a year. The park was designated a world heritage by UNESCO in 1979.
For over the years since 1960 when Belgium granted the country independence, there was much deterioration and lawlessness. There was increased poaching which threatened the lives of the gorillas, there was human encroachment on the forest which led to deforestation. Later in 1970’s, there was political instabilities putting pressure Mubutu’s government and this led to decay of tourism in the area and there were no tourists visiting the park up to 2000’s.
Peace has since been restored in the region and tourism industry is thriving in the country with more tourists visiting the park each year.
The park can be accessed through Goma by flying into Goma, or can be accessed through Gisenyi-Goma border by arriving through Kigali airport or accessed through Kisoro-Bunagana border in Uganda.