Mountain Gorilla Trek & Nyiragongo Hiking in Virunga National Park
This is the most popular and most visited Park in Congo and also the oldest African national park. The Park is most famous for inhabiting the rare endangered Mountain Gorillas which are only in this Park and other three national parks in East Africa which include Bwindi national park and Mgahinga national park in Uganda plus Volcanoes national park in Rwanda.
However gorilla tracking in Virunga national park is quite cheaper than that of Uganda and Rwanda where the gorilla permits cost higher than that of Congo which costs US$ 400 per gorilla permit per individual (gorilla trekker).
Since the Park is among the only four Parks protecting these Mountain gorillas and it also offers cheaper and affordable gorilla tracking activities to its visitors, it is therefore the most ideal place for tracking the Mountain gorillas at affordable prices especially to those tourists who would want to view these rare endangered primates but when they can’t affordable a gorilla permit of Uganda which costs US$ 600 and that of Rwanda which costs US$ 1500.
Gorilla tracking is one of the most enjoyable activities that every tourist should not miss out on his or her African safari especially when you meet the Mountain gorillas which will display various amazing behaviors to each gorilla family you will meet in the Park.
The Park currently consists of eight habituated gorilla families that a trekker will enjoy on his gorilla trekking activity and these include;
Lulengo family is made up of 6 members including 1 silverback and is known as a very humble and friendliest gorilla family to interact with. This gorilla family is found in the area called Bunagana which is near the Congo and Uganda border.
Before being renamed ‘’Lulengo’’, the gorilla family was known as Masekura gorilla family but in a remembrance of Virunga national park’s technical director called Lulengo who died in a collapse of land mine, it was then renamed to his name. The Lulengo is a dominant silver back that has ensured that a family keeps peaceful
The family was once part of Rugendo family till when it separated from it to form an independent family called Mapuwa and the family has strongly fought to enlarge his family.
The Mapuwa family now consists of 22 members and are all resided in Jomba sector near Congo-Uganda border.
Presently the family comprises of 11 members and is one of the newly habituated gorilla families in Virunga national park and it is called so (Nyakamwe) because of the dominant silver back that lead the family.
This is really an amazing gorilla family to visit as long as you are in Virunga national park because the family is made up of an interesting history which can make every trekker to get an experience of a lifetime. It currently consists of 32 members all resided in Bukima sector and it is headed by a dominant silver back called kabirizi.
Habituated in 1989, Rugendo gorilla family is the oldest gorilla family in Virunga national park which currently consists of 9 members.
The family was habituated in 1989 with a family of 18 members but it started decreasing slowly when the family split into two where the half went along to join Humba as another independent gorilla family.
Back in days the family was under the Rugendo family of which Humba was a son to Rugendo thus when Humba grew up, he agreed with his father to separate from him and make his own independent family which currently consists of 16 members including two silver backs and many trekkers enjoy trekking this family because it is so calm and humble.
This is the newest gorilla family in the Park and it is trekked from Bukima sector where it is resided from. It was opened up to trekkers in 2008 and now it consists of one silver back and 7 membersyou’re your visit to the Park and trek for this family you will know some of its history which is so interesting.
During the time of its habituation, the family was led by Munyaga (silverback) who later disappeared and currently the leader of the family is called Mawazo which is also a silver back.
The family consists of 26 members though there are also great struggles for leadership between Kanamaharagi and Kitagenda who are fighting to take over leadership.
As of current the family is the largest in the Park and your trek of this gorilla family will really reward you accordingly thus equipping a great experience.
The Park is also home to 218 mammal species including 22 primate species of which 3 are great ape species and 706 bird species. Other wildlife species include 109 reptiles, 78 amphibians, and over 2,000 different plants.
Besides the Mountain gorillas, the Park also resides chimpanzees, low-land gorillas (though rare), Okapis, Savanna and forest elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, and others.
For the hikers, in the Park there lives Nyiragongo volcano which is a two days hike residing the most violet lava lake at its summit.
For the hikers who will hike up to the top of this volcano will get views of many amazing things from there including the bubbling lava lake which is believed to be the most violet in the world.
Nyiragongo volcano has an elevation of 3,470 m (11,380 ft) in the Virunga Mountains associated with the Albertine Rift. It is located about 20 km (12 mi) north of the town of Goma and Lake Kivu and just west of the border with Rwanda.
The main crater is about two kilometers wide and usually contains the most violet lava lake. The crater presently has two distinct cooled lava benches within the crater walls – one at about 3,175 m (10,417 ft) and a lower one at about 2,975 m (9,760 ft).
The depth of the lava lake at the summits of the volcano varies considerably. A maximum elevation of the lava lake was recorded at about 3,250 m (10,660 ft) prior to the January 1977 eruption – a lake depth of about 600 m (2,000 ft).
A recent very low elevation of the lava lake was recorded at about 2,700 m (8,900 ft). Nyiragongo and nearby Nyamuragira are together responsible for 40% of Africa’s historical volcanic eruptions.
The volcano is together with Nyiragongo volcano and they are among the interesting things that hikers always enjoy viewing. Nyamuragira is Africa’s most active volcano situated about 25 km north of Lake Kivu.
It has been described as Africa’s most active volcano and has erupted over 40 times since 1885. As well as eruptions from the summit, there have been numerous eruptions from the flanks of the volcano thus creating new smaller volcanoes that have lasted only for a short time such as Murara. Recent eruptions occurred on 2nd January 2010 and 8th November 2011.
Therefore a visit to Virunga national park for gorilla trekking will also enjoy many more interesting things such as hiking of Nyiragongo volcano, birding, and game viewing and also can visit Lake Kivu which is so close to the Park and from the lake you will also enjoy many activities such as methane extraction which is usually done from the lake plus many other activities that you will get involved in.
Accommodations in the Park are of good quality and they include Mikeno lodge, Bukima tented camp, Tchegera Island tented camp, Lulimbi tented camp, and for the hikers of Nyiragongo you will not need to carry camping tents since the volcano has a good facilitated accommodation called Nyiragongo Volcano summit shelters where you will stay while at the summits of the volcano.
Your visit to the Park will therefore be a rewarding one and of a life time experience that you can’t forget so easily.