VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK INFORMATION
VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK is Africa’s oldest national park and the continent’s most biologically diverse protected area. The park is 3000 square miles in size and includes forests, savannas, lava plains, swamps, erosion valleys, active volcanoes and the glaciated peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains.
Here in Virunga National Park, live one quarter of the world’s endangered Mountain Gorillas; there are two other Great Ape species as well, the Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Grauer’s Gorilla) and Chimpanzees. Virunga National Park is the only protected area in the world that hosts three of the Great Apes. The Okapi, another endangered species that resembles a zebra but is more closely related to the Giraffe. The park also has large colonies of hippopotami, forest and savanna elephants, lions and numerous rare bird species.
The park is divided into three distinct areas. The Northern Sector is defined by the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains that border Uganda. The snowmelt from the Rwenzoris is one of the primary sources of the Nile River. Here, along the Semiliki River valley, the Okapis can be found. The park’s Central Sector is defined by Lake Edward, the Ishasha River valley and the Rwindi plains. Lake Edward contains over 50 species of fish as well as numerous bird species. Here by the lake and adjacent Ishasha River valley you will find the park’s recovering hippo population and the highest concentrations of elephant, buffalo and warthogs. The Rwindi plains is the area that the Topi can be found. The Southern Sector is best known for the Mountain Gorillas that live on the flanks of the dormant Mikeno Volcano. Most of Southern Virunga is covered with dense forests, which make an ideal habitat for Chimpanzees and numerous species of Monkey.
MOUNT NYIRAGONGO INFORMATION
MOUNT NYIRAGONGO is an active volcano with an elevation of 3,470 Meters; it is part of the Virunga Mountain chain associated with the Albertine Rift. The volcano is within the Virunga National Park boundaries, some 20 kilometers north of the town of Goma on Lake Kivu, just west of the Rwandan border. The main crater is two kilometers wide and usually contains a lava lake. In recent years, the lava lake in Nyiragongo’s crater has at times been the most voluminous known lava lake. Prior to the January 1977 eruption, the elevation of the lava lake was recorded at about 3,250 meters, the lake depth was 600 meters. Together, Nyiragongo and nearby Nyamuragira are responsible for 40% of Africa’s historical volcanic eruptions.
In October 2014, the Virunga National Park authorities re-opened the route to climb Mount Nyirangongo for tourists. The fact that Nyiragongo hosts one of the worlds largest and rarest lava lakes, makes it one of Africa’s most exciting and rewarding hiking experiences. Reaching the summit, you will observe its bubbling lava cauldron and feel this volcano’s energy, as it breathes. At the crater’s edge, tourists are allowed to overnight and enjoy this spectacle in the dark; at dawn and dusk its beauty is enhanced by the changing light. For avid climbers, a hike up Mount Nyirangongo will not disappoint.
DAY 1: ARRIVE KIGALI TRANSFER TO KISORO, UGANDA
Your Gorilla Cousins Rwanda guide will meet you at the Kigali International Airport and give you a briefing of the upcoming itinerary. Immediately, you will begin your journey to the town of Kisoro in Western Uganda. This is the best vantage point to access the section of the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where you will be tracking the Mountain Gorillas the next morning.
Your Gorilla Cousins Rwanda guide will take you across the Rwanda/Uganda border and drive you to your accommodation in Kisoro. Dinner will be at your accommodation. We recommend an early night as the Gorilla Trek in the morning will be demanding on your energy.
DAY 2: TRANSFER TO VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK (DRC) AND GORILLA TRACKING
After an early breakfast, your Gorilla Cousins Rwanda guide will take you from Kisoro to the Uganda/DRC border, some 30 minutes distance. After crossing the border, you will go directly to the Virunga National Park headquarters and report for your Mountain Gorilla Tracking. You will be assigned a group and a Park Ranger; after which time you will begin your Gorilla Trek. As the Gorillas wander around the forest, it is not known how long you will have to track them until you come in contact with the specific family of gorillas you have been assigned; once you meet up with them, you are allowed one hour to observe and photograph them. When your Gorilla Safari is finished, you will descend and meet up with your Gorilla Cousins Rwanda guide who will then take you to your accommodation, near the park. Dinner will be served at your accommodation.
DAY 3: TRANSFER TO BASE OF MOUNT NYIRGONGO IN VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK
After breakfast, your Gorilla Cousins Rwanda guide will take you closer to the base of Mount Nyirgongo, in preparation for your climb the following morning. En route you will travel through parts of the Virunga National Park, a pristine rain forest teaming with wildlife and birds. Dinner will be served at your accommodation. Again, we suggest an early night, as the climb up Mount Nyirgongo in the morning will be somewhat demanding.
DAY 4: ASCENDING MOUNT NYIRAGONGO
After an early breakfast again, you will be taken by your Gorilla Cousins Rwanda guide to the park headquarters to register for the Mount Nyiragongo hike. Immediately, you have been assigned a local guide and porters, if you require equipment carried, you will begin your climb up the trail. The climb up Mount Nyiragongo takes between 4 and 6 hours depending on your climbing abilities. The vegetation and wildlife you will encounter during your climb will be most exciting. There are cabanas at the summit where you can rest when you reach the top of the mountain, and where you will sleep the night. Viewing the volcanoe from the rim at different times of the day and night is most interesting, particularly in full darkness. Dinner will be prepared for you at the cabanas.
After you have had breakfast and packed up your things, you will begin your descent of Mount Nyirgongo. You will reunite with your Gorilla Cousins Rwanda guide who will take you to the town of Goma, on the north end of Lake Kivu for a city tour. This will give you an opportunity to fathom the disaster of 2002 when Mount Nyirgongo erupted and destroyed the town of Goma; cars and building were left in piles of hardened lava flow.
You will then transfer to Kigali in Rwanda for your scheduled flight
End of tour