Straddling the Nile-Congo watershed, the challenges facing the Congo's Virunga National Park - Africa’s oldest- are well told. That it is home to a highly endangered population of Mountain Gorillas that find themselves in one of Africa's least stable places is well known.
What most don't realise is that as a safari experience Virunga holds its own against anywhere I have ever been. We tracked Mountain Gorillas and Chimps, walked amongst herds of Buffalo and approached a herd of 75 Elephant on foot. To cap it all, we climbed Nyiragongo Volcano to spend the night looking down on the world’s largest lava lake.
Our party were the first guests to ever stay at Lulimbi – a brand new tented camp in the central sector, set on the banks of the Ishasha River opposite Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth NP, this completes the circuit and changes a visit to Virunga from a primarily primate or bird-focussed expedition to arguably the most complete safari on offer anywhere.
The Virungas have been at the top of my personal bucket list for a quarter of a century - and it is a rare thing indeed that a place so long craved for can meet and exceed expectations. More than anyting the Virunga feels real, as far from mass-tourism as one can travel - there is nothing contrived here, there does not need to be as the story being told is so compelling it eschews unnecessary elaboration.
Access to the Park is remarkably straightforward - you either enter the Congo from Rwanda, or directly in to Goma. Kigali is served by a host of airlines (KLM, Qatar, Brussels, Ethiopian, Kenyan, Rwanda Air) and Goma by Ethiopian. The visa process, as guests of the Park, was smooth and the Congo, while evidently affected by recent civil strife and natural disasters mix of chaos, vibrancy and capitalism. There is cell-coverage and US dollar dispensing ATMs, cold drinks and good food - the camps were all clean and comfortable and we always felt perfectly safe.
The sheer diversity of both attractions and activities available make the relatively short trip feel much longer -
Natural High is planning trips to the Virunga in the coming months. We will be releasing details shortly, but in the meantime please contact Rod with any questions or if you'd like any further information.
Posted by: Rod Tether