The Virunga National Park is situated on the watershed of the Nile and the Congo Rivers in the eastern DRC - containing a dizzying array of habitats from glacier to marsh and everything in between.
Virunga is Africa's oldest National Park and World Heritage Site - it is also the continent's most diverse; containing the most species of mammals, birds and reptiles with the greatest diversity of landscapes and habitats. And it is the most threatened - approximately 3 million people live around the borders of the Park, some of whom have spilt over the boundary - many are either refugees or fleeing protagonists from civil unrest that has plagued the region (Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC province of North Kivu) for decades.
Historically the chance of encountering and spending time with Mountain Gorillas has been the main draw here - George Schaller undertook his pioneering study of them here in the early 60's and was closely followed by Dian Fossey who made it her original base. It has also always been a magnet for birders - with 706 species of birds recorded it is the richest protected area in Africa by a country-mile, and 25 of those species are strictly limited to the Albertine Rift and 11 are threatened with extinction.
However to concentrate on the birds and primates is to do the Park an injustice - as it is precisely the fact that there is so much here - from plains game (buffalo, topi, kob and elephant) to montane-adapted species - that makes a journey to the Virunga NP so unique.
There is not a park anywhere where it is possible to view Mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees, trek up an active volcano and camp above the world's largest lake, walk amongst classic big game - and witness first-hand an incredible conservation effort.