The Virunga national park is located in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with 7800- square kilometers (3,000 sq. mi ). It stretches from the Virunga Mountains in the south to the Rwenzori Mountains in the north, also bordering volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Rwenzori mountains national park and queen Elizabeth national park in Uganda
The park was created in 1925 by king Albert 1 of Belgium and it was the first national park on the Africa continent. It was primarily founded to protect the mountain gorillas living in the forests of the Virunga Mountains. It was later expanded north to include the Rwindi plains, lake Edward and the Rwenzori in the far north.
The park is known for its exceptional biodiversity, containing more bird, mammal and reptile species than any protected area on the continent of Africa. Although mountain gorillas are now extremely rare and listed as one of the most critically endangered species, successful conservation work has helped to secure the remaining populations. Their populations actually increased during the years of political upheaval in the region (1994–2004), and have continued to do so even throughout the difficult period of 2007-2008. The 2010 mountain gorilla census has indicated that the conservation efforts of Virunga have been very successful regarding the gorilla population. Both savanna and forested elephants as well as chimpanzees and low land gorillas can still be found in Virunga, along with okapi, giraffes, buffaloes and many endemic birds. The neighboring mount Hoyo area was managed with the park and is home to a population of Bambuti pygmy people, caves and waterfalls.
Top 5 attractions in the Virunga national park
1 mountain gorillas
Currently there are eight different gorilla families to trek in Virunga national park. Gorilla tourism is now a major tourist attraction. Despite the of the civil wars in the region in recent years that claimed the lives of numerous gorillas, it is surprising to report that there has been an increase of about 20% in gorilla population.
2 Golden monkeys
Just like mountain gorillas, golden monkeys also live in groups and different groups have been habituated for trekking at Virunga national park.
3 The Virunga mountains
This is another attraction to enjoy away from wildlife at Virunga national park. These include Nyirangongo and Nyamulagira hiking volcanoes in the heart of the Virunga.
4 Batwa pygmies
These were traditional forest dwellers who were evicted and organized into their community after the introduction of tourism. The Batwa are now another asset to the tourism in the area as they do carry entertainment of tourists through their traditional dances, poems, songs, stories, hunting and other activities. This has also presented a nice opportunity to the Batwa to earn a living.
5 Dian fossey’s grave
she was an American primatologist and conservationist who started gorilla tourism in Virunga conservation area due to poaching. She had set up her home at the slopes of mount Visoke where she used to conduct her research to protect the gorillas. Unfortunately this kind work for the gorillas caused to be murdered by the poachers after 18 years.