© Brent Stirton / Getty Images
© Dean Starnes
We are pleased to announce that Virunga is open for tourism. The park is taking bookings for mountain gorilla trekking and accommodations at Mikeno Lodge, located at park headquarters in Rumangabo.
Expeditions and trekking in the Rwenzori Mountains are open. Nyiragongo volcano and the Tongo chimpanzee treks will soon be available. Please subscribe to our news updates or follow us on Virunga National Park’s Facebook page.
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We highly recommend applying for a tourist visa with the Democratic Republic of Congo consulate in your home country. When applying in your home country, the consulate may ask for a letter of invitation from Virunga National Park, which we can provide. To receive a letter of invitation, please email us a request with your full name, passport number, date of birth, and expected dates of your visit. Please email your requests to firstname.lastname@example.org and put VISAS in the subject line.
If you are already traveling in Africa and decide to visit the park, please get your visa at the border. Visas obtained at the border should cost $300. Even if you succeed in obtaining a visa in a country other than your own, immigration officers at the border will likely refuse to honor it. Letters of invitation are unnecessary when obtaining a visa at the border.
The Mikeno Lodge is a one and a half hour drive from Goma and offers large bungalows and a good restaurant. The lodge and restaurant are located within a forest and offer beautiful views of the rift valley and Nyiragongo and Mikeno volcanoes. Nature walks and visits to local places of interest can be arranged. There is an abundance of bird life, as well as resident blue monkeys, colobus monkeys, and baboons. Chimpanzees are also frequent visitors to the area.
© LuAnne Cadd
Photos © LuAnne Cadd
Single person: $210 (including breakfast)
Double occupancy: $280 (including breakfast)
Meals: lunch and dinner are available for an extra charge
*Please note: The Bukima luxury tented camp is one of the launching points for gorilla trekking. The camp is being refurbished and the opening will be announced on this page.
© LuAnne Cadd
All treks are led by park rangers and depart from either Kakamero or Bukima. Tourists not staying at the lodge will likely depart from Kakamero, which is one hour from Goma by car. Treks from Kakamero usually require 2-3 hours of hiking in each direction, depending where the mountain gorillas spent the previous night. Tourists staying at the Mikeno lodge will likely begin their trek from Bukima, which is a one-hour drive from Rumangabo. Hiking time can be anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours in each direction. The duration of the hike and difficulty of the terrain will depend on where the mountain gorillas spent the previous night. Regardless of where visitors begin their trek, time with the gorillas is strictly limited to 1 hour.
Gorilla trekking permit per day: $465 (includes 16% VAT)
© LuAnne Cadd
Treks to the summit of Nyiragongo volcano begin at the Kibati patrol post, which is approximately 30 minutes by car from Goma, and less than one hour from park headquarters in Rumangabo. Park rangers lead all treks and porters (unaffiliated with the park) are available for hire. The time required to reach the summit depends on the average fitness of each group, but typically takes 4 – 6 hours. Altitude sickness can be an issue for some because the climb begins at 1989m (6,525 ft) and ascends to 3470m (11,382ft) in a short time. Proper hydration is the best way to adapt to the change in altitude. Visitors prone to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) should take preventative measures. It is possible for fitter people to climb up and descend in one day, but most groups choose to overnight in basic accommodation available at the top (for an additional fee). Trekkers are advised to bring raincoats and cold weather gear. Rain showers are a common occurrence on the climb up during the rainy season and temperatures at the summit can dip below 0°C/32°F. Guest staying at the Mikeno lodge can arrange packed meals for the trip, while those coming with tour groups must supply their own. There is no food service on Nyiragongo.
Nyiragongo volcano trekking permit: $232 (includes 16% VAT)
© LuAnne Cadd
Visitors wanting to see Virunga’s habituated chimpanzee must first travel to the Tongo forest, which is a two-hour drive from Goma, but only one hour from the Mikeno lodge. The trek itself typically takes one hour each way and visitors are allowed one hour with the chimpanzees.
Tongo chimpanzee trekking permit per day: $116 (includes 16% VAT)
Most tourists fly into the Kigali international airport and take a 3-hour taxi ride to the border crossing at Gisenyi, Rwanda. International flights often arrive in the evening, so we recommend spending the night in Kigali and leaving for Virunga the next morning. Most Kigali hotels will arrange an airport pick up for a small additional charge. Taxis typically charge $100-$120 from Kigali to the border. Hotels can arrange the taxi for you. Domestic airlines in the DRC fly into Goma, but the airport is not up to international standards.
Virunga National Park is now offering ground transportation. Please contact us at email@example.com for details and pricing.
All visitors to the park are required to pack out their own trash – no matter how small and seemingly insignificant. Please help us keep Virunga beautiful!
© Cai Tjeenk Willink