The Virunga National Park is located in the Virunga Mountains in the eastern side of the Congo Democratic Republic. It shares its borders with the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda, and the Rwenzori Mountains National Park of Uganda. It was established in 1925, making it Africa’s first national park. The park is managed by the Congolese National Park Authorities.
Covering an area of 790,000 square hectares, diverse habitats such as swamps, steppes, snowfields, lava plains, grasslands, and savannahs can be found here. Africa’s two most active volcanoes are also part of the Virunga National Park. Inhabitants include mountain gorillas and hippopotamuses, as well as birds that fly in from Siberia during the winter months. Other animals that are sighted in the park are elephants, chimpanzees, giraffes, and buffaloes. In 1979, due to the decline in population of its main residents, the gorillas and hippos, UNESCO has classified Virunga National Park as a World Heritage Site. Conservation work to protect the remaining populations of these critically endangered species has since been done and is still ongoing despite the current difficulties brought about by the civil war.
For travelers who wish to make a safari adventure in the Virunga National Park, caution is advised. Invasions of park land and poaching are rampant, as well as military occupations seeking a safe sanctuary when under attack. In fact, several park rangers have been killed in the line of duty. Despite this, remaining park rangers and park authorities continue with their work up to the present. People who wish to help with the park’s conservation efforts are actually encouraged to donate rather than visit. For only $25 monthly, a part of the park will be under one’s name and protection. This amount will help the rangers in keeping that part free from snares set by poachers. Currently, there are 62 areas in the park being protected by donations.