Virunga National Park is a national park in the Albertine Rift Valley in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was created in 1925 and is among the first protected areas in Africa. In altitude, it ranges from 680 m in the Semliki River valley to 5,109 m in the Rwenzori Mountains.
The park is part of the larger Virunga Conservation area that spreads over the three countries. Each of these countries protects its own portion of the Virungas, in the Parc National des Volcans and Parc National des Virunga respectively. The three parks together form the 434-sq. km. ‘Virunga Conservation Area’ or VCA. Mgahinga is 33.7 sq. km, just 8% of the VCA. The entire Park is in Bufumbira County of Kisoro District.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is 33.7 sq. km and consists of the partly forested slopes of three extinct volcanoes. From far away, the huge cones of the Virunga volcanoes dominate the landscape and beckon you as you approach. When you reach the park you can get a great overview of the area by walking up the viewpoint, just 15 minutes from Ntebeko Gate.
Mgahinga Park has great biological importance because throughout the climatic changes of the Pleistocene ice ages, mountains such as these provided a refuge for mountain plants and animals, which moved up or down the slopes as climate became warmer or cooler. The Virungas are home to a large variety of wildlife, including about half the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas.
Things to do and to see
Always keep an eye open when you’re out in the park and if you’re lucky, you might see one of the many breeds of monkeys and birds who see the Virunga National Park as their home. But also bigger mammals like Elephants, Buffalo and Hippo can be found in the Virunga Park.During your stay at the Mikeno Lodge, the Virunga Park Headquarters and the Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage are really just a short walk away. If you’re interested, you can get a tour and see behind the screens of the entire operation. Who knows, you might get to meet the Director of the park, Prins Emmanuel De Merode.