Virunga national park, Dr Congo: Virunga national park located in eastern DR Congo borders with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi covers 7900km2, is one of Africa’s most bio diverse conservation areas.

The Virunga national park located in the Albertine Rift of the Great Rift Valley was established in 1925 making it among some of the oldest parks in Africa.

The Virunga national park is home to a diversity of habitats ranging from swamps, snowfields, lava plains and savannahs.

These habitats are found on the Virunga Volcanoes, Ruwenzori Mountains, Lake Edward and the flat plains between different volcanoes.

Because of the varied landscape, the Virunga national park offers amazing activities for people with different interests.

The Volcanoes, which erupt at regular intervals every few years, are the dominant outstanding landscape together with the eroded valleys.

The prime activity in Virunga national park is gorilla tracking and in the recent years chimpanzee tracking was added on the list.

Bird watching tours picked up with Virunga said to have over 700 bird species within its boundaries.

The Rwenzori Mountains are found within the park and are open for hiking opportunities. The park is home to the Virunga a volcano in Congo with hiking mostly happening on Mikeno volcano, Nyiragongo volcano.

Wildlife in Virunga National park

Virunga national park Animals:

Virunga national park is home to about 218 mammal species. The park has a high concentration of wildlife mostly because of its size and the habitats. It has large herds of Elephants, Buffalos and Uganda Kobs. It is also said to have the largest concentration of Hippopotamuses in Africa by the banks of Lake Edward. Other mammals in the park include; Lions, Blue Duiker, Aardvark, Bushbuck, Water buck, Giant Forest hog, Bongo, Topi, Hippopotamus, Warthogs, Okapis, Leopards, Tree pangolin, Marsh mongoose, bush pig etc.

The Virunga national park is also home to several primate species like; Mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, Red tailed monkey, Olive Baboon, Grey-cheeked mangabey, Blue monkey, Dent’s mona monkey, De Brazza’s monkey, mantled Guereza, Central African Red Colobus, Hamlyn’s monkey,

Virunga national park Birds:

Virunga national park is home to about 706 birds species, which include several Congolese and Albertine Rift endemics making it a preferred bird haven for a mazing bird watch trips.

Most of the birding happens in the forested part of the Virunga national park with an armed ranger guide on the trip. The birds to look out for include; Northern pintail, Red-billed Teal, Red-necked Spurfowl, Mourning Collared Dove, Mozambique Nightjar, Alpine Swift, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Red-knobbed Coot, Black-bellied Bustard, Black-billed Turaco, Black-winged Stilt, White-fronted Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Temminck’s Courser, Montagu’s Harrier, White-thighed Hornbill, Green Wood-hoopoe, Wahlberg’s Honeybird, Cardinal Woodpecker, Spot-flanked Barbet, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Striped Kingfisher, Lanner Falcon, Petit’s Cuckooshrike, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Albertine, Yellow-crested Helmet-shrike, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Red-backed Shrike, African Paradise-flycatcher, Blue-headed Sunbird, Spectacled Weaver, Fawn-breasted Waxbill, Purple Indigobird, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, Mountain wagtail, Thick-billed Canary, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Blue Crested-flycatcher, Flappet Lark, Moustached Grass Warbler, Stout Cisticola, Bracken Warbler, Mosque Swallow, Eastern Mountain Greenbul, Willow Warbler, Brown Thrush Babbler, Narrow-tailed Starling, Snowy-crowned Robin Chat,

Activities in Virunga National park

Virunga national park Gorilla trekking:

Gorilla trekking is the prime activity in Virunga national park. This is the only place you find mountain gorillas in Congo. Just like in Uganda and Rwanda, one must have a valid gorilla trekking permit issued by the organization in charge. You will then be informed of the location from where you will begin your gorilla trek. Virunga national park has seven gorilla groups habituated for tourism

In the morning of the gorilla trek, you will transfer to the park offices where you will receive a briefing from the park ranger in charge about the expectations in the forest. After this you and the people in your group will start the trek in the forest to search for the mountain gorillas.

Virunga national park Chimpanzee trekking:

Chimpanzee trekking in Virunga national park was started much later than the gorilla trekking. Most of what happens currently has to do with chimpanzee habituation as they get the chimps to get used to humans so that they are able to stay in the presence of people and not run off and hide when they get detect presence of people. Just gorilla trekking, you will receive a briefing before you start your hike into the forest.

Virunga national park Volcano Hiking:

Virunga national park is home to some of the Virunga volcanoes as others are located in Uganda and Rwanda and or shared amongst 2 countries or all the three.

Some of the volcanoes are active and others are dormant. The most common volcanoes for hiking are Mt Mikeno, Mt Nyamuragira and Mt Nyiragongo.

Depending on your interests, you can choose to do an overnight stay where you hike to the top or just a short hike to part of the volcano.

Virunga national park Nature walks

The nature walks happen in the forest for those interested in learning more about the flora of the forest and enjoy the butterflies in a very unrushed way.

The walking trails are dependent on the length of trail and approximate time it takes on the trail plus the unique features. The most common is the trail to waterfalls and or one with many primates outside of the common 2 of mountain gorillas and chimpanzees.

 

Kahuzi-Biega national park, Dr Congo

Kahuzi-Biega national park is located in the south east of DR Congo, which covers an area of about 6000km2. Mt Kahuzi lies at 3308 m and Biega at 2790m.

The Kahuzi-Biega national park is mostly of dense lowland rainforests, Afro montane forests, bamboo forests and small areas of sub-alpine prairies.  

The park is a UNESCO World heritage Site named for two extinct Volcanoes i.e. Mt Kahuzi and Mt Biega, which are connected by a narrow strip of forest.

The main attractions to the Kahuzi-Biega national park are the eastern Lowland gorillas and it is the only place in the world where you can track these gorillas.

The park is easily accessed from Bukavu, which is the main town near the park.

Other activities to do in the park include hiking to the any of the several extinct volcanoes in the park, bird watching, and nature walks to waterfalls.

Wildlife in Kahuzi-Biega National park:

Kahuzi-Biega national park Animals:

Kahuzi-Biega national park is said to contain a greater diversity of mammal species than any other site in the Albertine Rift.

The Kahuzi-Biega national park is home to 136 species of mammals with the Eastern Lowland gorillas being the main attraction. Of these are 13 primate species making it a primate destination.

The mammals include; Elephants, Buffaloes, Leopard, Giant forest hog, Hippopotamus, Lowland Bongo etc. The primates include; Chimpanzees, Colobus monkey, Olive baboon, bush babies,

Kahuzi-Biega national park Birds:

The Kahuzi-Biega national park is home to many endemic birds in the Congo, it is home to 349 bird species of which 42 are endemic. The birds in Kahuzi-Biega national park include; Red-eyed Dove, Handsome Francolin, Black Cuckoo, Black-billed Turaco, Martial Eagle, Bar-tailed Trogon, Grey-cheeked hornbill, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Elliot’s woodpecker, Yellow-billed barbet, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, African Hobby, Grauer’s broadbill, Black Cuckooshrike, African Golden Oriole, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Albertine Sooty Boubou, Northern Fiscal, Rufous-vented Paradise-flycatcher, Golden-winged Sunbird, Preuss’s weaver, Yellow-bellied waxbill, African pipit, Western Citril, White-tipped Crested-flycatcher, Eastern Nicator, Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Bracken Warbler, Barn Swallow, Eastern Mountain Greenbul, Neumann’s Bush Warbler, African Yellow White-eye, Sharpe’s Sterling, Equatorial Akalat, African Thrush etc.

Safari Tour Activities in Kahuzi-Biega National park:

Lowland gorilla trekking in Kahuzi-Biega national park:

This is by far the activity that pulls many people to travel to Kahuzi-Biega national park outside of Bukavu town in DR Congo.

The Lowland gorillas are bigger than their cousins the mountain gorillas. The permits to track them can be gotten from the Kahuzi-Biega national park headquarters and currently do not need advance booking because of the few numbers of people visiting.

The experience is more or less the same as Virunga park where trackers leave early morning searching for the gorillas and once located, the group is allowed only 1 hour with them after which the groups leaves.

The Kahuzi-Biega national park currently has 3 habituated gorilla families

Hiking in Kahuzi-Biega national park:

There is no overnight hike allowed therefore one has to be prepared to hike to Mt Kahuzi and return same day.

The hike is through beautiful lush montane forest, which eventually opens up to beautiful views of Lake Kivu and the rest of the park.

There are also trails to Mt Bugulumiza, which takes about 3 hours.

Nature walks in Kahuzi-Biega national park:

Enjoy the walk to the Tshibati falls, which is through the community before entering the Kahuzi-Biega national park.

The thundering waterfalls will welcome you with a mist after an hour of walking through the park to get to their location.

Okapi wildlife reserve

Okapi wildlife reserve was established in 1992 and listed as a World Heritage in 1996.

The Okapi wildlife reserve located in Ituri forest near the border with Uganda and South Sudan and helps protect the endemic Okapi population, which is the reserves iconic animal and several rare plant and animal life.

The Okapi wildlife reserve is inhabited by traditional pygmy hunter-gathering people of the Mbuti and Efe ethnic groups who for long co-existed with the wildlife but with commercial bush meat and civil war unrests it is becoming impossible to keep the numbers of animals up, many have reduced drastically.

The Okapi wildlife reserve also contains threatened species of flora, primates and birds. The reserve contains 101 mammal species is home to the Okapis, Elephants, chimpanzees, Crocodiles, buffaloes, bongo, leopard, dwarf antelope, giant forest hog, water chevrotains, etc. The reserve also provides refuge to 17 species of primates, which is the highest number for any African forest.

Because this is a forest, there are no game drives and all the animal sighting is done on foot as you take different nature trails following a group of Okapi’s, you might find other animals, enjoy their sights.

Okapi wildlife reserve is home to about 376 bird species, it is part of the bigger Ituri forest and some of the bird species include; Congo peafowl, Great Crested Grebe, White-naped Dove, Long-tailed Nightjar, Common Swift, African Emerald Cuckoo, Nkulengu Rail, Great Blue Turaco, Spur-winged Lapwing, Black-winged Pratincole, Bateleur, African Wood Owl, Speckled Mousebird, Bar-tailded Trogon, Crowned Hornbill, Cassin’s Honeybird, Cardinal Woodpecker, Black Bee-eater, Lilac-breasted Roller, Shining Blue Kingfisher, Grey Parrot, Red-headed Lovebird, African Broadbill, African Pitta, Mountain Oriole, White-spotted Wattle-eye, Albertine Sooty Boubou, Fork-tailed Drongo, Blue-headed Paradise Flycatcher, Collared Sunbird, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Brown Twinspot, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Pipit, Senegal Canary, Dusky Tit, Western Nicator, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Whistling Cisticola, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Red-rumped Swallow, Slender-billed Greenbul, Tit Hylia