Top Things to See and Do in Virunga Park, Congo
Visit Democratic Republic of Congo for its Exciting Gorilla Trek in Virunga National Park & Mountain Nyiragongo Hiking
Announce you’re heading off on a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and you might get a few raised eyebrows… I mean, what is there to do in the DRC? While most head to the heart of Africa for the phenomenal Gorilla Trekking Tours in Virunga National Park, we’ve come up with a few more equally as thrilling activities to get your teeth into on a DRC safari. Pack your sense of adventure and let’s go!
Nyiragongo Volcano Hiking
Beautiful and brooding, Nyiragongo Volcano is perfectly safe to climb as its serious eruptions can be reliably predicted. Those who do undertake the five-hour climb (US$300per person) are rewarded with views from the crater’s rim, down into the earth’s smouldering heart and the world’s largest lava lake.
The hike to the rim is just 8km, but takes between four and six hours and is done in five stages. Climbers need to leave by 10am to ensure they reach the top by nightfall.
Do not be late as you will not be able to climb. Guides and armed security are included with your permit, but consider hiring your own porter (US$12 per day, maximum weight carried 15kg) and cook (US$15 per day) at the small ranger post at the start of the climb.
Warm clothing is essential. Accommodation on top, which is included in the permit cost, is in one of the super simple A-frame shelters built on the crater’s rim.
Gorilla Trekking in Virunga
There are few experiences in the world more memorable than coming face to face with a wild eastern mountain gorilla, and this is one the best places in the world for it.
There are six habituated families in Parc National des Virunga, and you will be assigned a group to visit by the rangers based on how many people are tracking and the current location of each group. The ideal time to meet a gorilla family is from 10am to 11am (which means a 5.30am departure from Goma)
Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage
Provided you make it back from your gorilla track in a timely fashion, it should be possible to visit the world’s only mountain gorilla orphanage, which is integrated into the grounds of the Mikeno Lodge.
Named after the silver back that died defending the Rugendo group against gunmen in the infamous 2007 massacre, the orphanage is home to four gorillas, including Ndakasi and Ndeze, both massacre survivors.
Chimpanzee Tracking in Virunga
Virunga park authorities also offer chimp tracking near the headquarters at Rumangabo (US$100 per person). The habituated group consists of 12 individuals and chances of seeing them are generally excellent. Groups of four people leave Mikeno Lodge at 6am for the tracking and time with the group is limited to one hour.
Unlike gorillas, chimps are fast moving, love to climb high into the canopy and are more wary of humans. This means you won’t get as close to a wild chimp as you will to a mountain gorilla, but don’t let this deter you
Rwenzori Mountain Treks and Climbing
Virunga National Park also offers spectacular trekking and climbing trips to the Rwenzori Mountains in the north of the park. Known also as the “Mountains of the Moon,” the Rwenzori reach a height of 5,109 m (16,761 ft) and contain the largest glaciers left on the African continent.
Those who trek and climb in the Rwenzori will experience a stunning variety of landscapes, including bamboo and giant fern forests, alpine meadows and lakes, and snow-capped peaks.
The flora and fauna of the Rwenzori is equally diverse. Forest elephant, Okapi, chimpanzees, and numerous bird species make the Rwenzori their home. The best weather in the Rwenzori usually happens from January through mid-March and June to late August.
There are four huts in the Rwenzori: Kalonge (2138 m/7014 ft.), Mahangu (3310 m/10,859 ft.), Kiondo (4200 m/13,779 ft.), and Moraine (4350 m/14,271 ft.). Please note: trekkers and climbers must be at least 15 years of age. Permit price does not include transport. Transport options can be found.
Lola ya Bonobo is the world’s only sanctuary for orphaned bonobos. Since 2002, the sanctuary has been located just south of the suburb of Kimwenza at the Petites Chutes de la Lukaya, Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Lola ya Bonobo is the only place in the world that you can meet your closest living relatives face to face. Imagine sitting quietly watching the bonobos emerge from the forest, or having young bonobos dance around you.
Visiting Lola is a once in a lifetime opportunity that only a handful of people in the world will ever experience, and at the same time, you will contribute to the on-going conservation of bonobos.
Lake Kivu is one of the African Great Lakes. It lies on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and is in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift.
Lake Kivu empties into the Ruzizi River, which flows southwards into Lake Tanganyika. More information about Virunga National Park visit the Virunga Park Guide.