Looking forward to doing gorilla trekking safaris in Africa Volcanoes and Virunga National Park should be included on your bucket list as there are commonly known for the shy endangered mountain gorillas. These two national parks one is located in the Eastern Part of the African Continent and other one in the central part of the African Continent, Virunga National Park is located in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Volcanoes National Park is located in Rwanda.
Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda:
This is a protected area located in the north western part of Rwanda, it borders Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. It is home to five of the eight Volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains including Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo. It is characterized with both rain forest and bamboo forest. This park was first gazetted in 1925 as a small area to protect gorillas from Poachers, it was the very first park to be created in Africa. In 1929, the borders of the park were extended further into Rwanda and into the Belgian Congo, to form the Albert National Park, which was a huge area of 8,090 km2 run by the Belgian colonial authorities who were in charge of both colonies. In 1958, 700 hectares of the park were further cleared for a human settlement.
After Congo’s Independence in 1765, the park was split into two, and upon Rwandan independence in 1962 the new government agreed to maintain the park as a conservation and tourist area, despite the fact that the new republic was already suffering from overpopulation problems. The park was halved in area in 1969.Between 1969 and 1973, 1050 hectares of the park were cleared to grow pyrethrum.
It later became the base for the American naturalist Dian Fossey to carry out her research into the gorillas. She arrived in 1967 and set up the Karisoke Research Centre between Karisimbi and Visoke. From then on, she spent most of her time in the park, and is widely credited with saving the gorillas from extinction by bringing their plight to the attention of the international community. She was murdered by unknown assailants at her home in 1985, a crime often attributed to the poachers she had spent her life fighting against. She is buried in the park in a grave close to the research center, and amongst the gorillas which became her life.
Volcanoes National Park became a battlefield during the Rwandan Civil War, with the park headquarters being attacked in 1992. The research centre was abandoned, and all tourist activities like visiting the gorillas were stopped. They did not resume again until 1999 when the area was proved to be safe and under control.
Therefore, currently Volcanoes has over twelve Gorilla families for trekking and research residing in the rain forest and Bamboo forests of Volcanoes. Some of the Gorilla families in Volcanoes we have the Amahoro, Susa, Kwitonda, Umubano, Sabyinyo, Agasha, Hirwa, Bwenge and Ugenda Gorilla family. It’s always about 2-3 hours’ drive from Kigali to reach Volcanoes National Park. To visit Mountain Gorillas in Volcanoes you must buy a Gorilla permit which costs $1500 USD per person and in most cases once this money is paid its non-refundable unless a clear reason is presented to the responsible authorities. Usually a group of eight people is allowed to go for the trekking per gorilla family and allowed a one-hour stay with them after discovering them in the jungle.
Virunga National Park:
This is the DR Congo’s top destination to visit formerly named Albert National Park and is rated to be the oldest national Park in Africa. It covers over 7800km2 of Area that stretches from Virunga Mountains in the South to the Rwenzori Mountains in the North, bordering Volcanoes National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo plus Rwenzori Mountains and Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. It was established in 1925 to protect the shy endangered Mountain Gorillas living in the Virunga Mountains by King Albert I of Belgium, it later expanded northwards to include the Rwindi plains, Lake Edward and Rwenzori Mountains.
In the first 35 years the boundary of the park was brought into shape and poaching came to a minimum, sustainable tourism was boosted in the park. Land remuneration and the use of park resources such as fishing and hunting by the local population became an ongoing problem and attempts were made to solve them. After Congo gaining independence in 1960 the new state deteriorated rapidly. It was only in 1969 when President Mobutu began to gain a personal interest in conservation, that the park was revived. In the process of Mobutu’s Africanization campaign, it was renamed Virunga National Park, and the first Congolese Wildlife Authority was established to manage the parks.
This park is commonly known for the shy endangered Mountain Gorillas which reside in the forests of the Virunga Mountains, Virunga has wide range of Gorilla families for trekking named Kabirizi, Rugendo, Humba, Mapuwa, Lulengo and Munyaga gorilla family. To visit these apes in the jungle you must buy a permit which costs $400 USD per person and this money is paid in advance before your trekking dates, this money paid part is used in the conservation programs which lead to the long stay of these apes plus the place where they live for future generation through funding the Conservation organizations like Gorilla Doctors, friend a Gorilla and more. Please you should be infectious disease free to be allowed for the trekking.
Apart from the Shy endangered Mountain Gorillas Virunga has other wildlife primates to sight like Chimpanzees in Tango forest, rare monkeys, reptiles & Insects and more plus different bird species. Mountain Nyiragongo Volcanoes is another attraction inclusive of the Virunga Massif to hike up to the top of it and sight the night view of its burning Lava. This adventure in DR Congo usually takes two days and really, it’s a great experience you should not miss out on your safari in Democratic Republic of Congo.