Virunga National Park Reopens for Tourism
Virunga National Park Reopens for Tourism after about a year of closure following security threats. Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo have reopened the Virunga National Park to tourism, the park’s director has announced.
Virunga Director Emmanuel Demerode told the press that the park, also a home to Mountain Gorillas in Congo had been closed since 2018 following a deadly ambush to a group of tourists, an incident that put security at risk.
Virunga National Park is among the 4 mountain gorilla national parks in the world. These include Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga itself in Congo.
This means activities like Congo gorilla trekking as well as the hiking of the Nyiragongo Volcano are to resume. Other activities in Virunga include scenic viewing, nature walks, chimpanzee tracking, birding and many more. A gorilla permit in Congo costs $450. In Uganda, a similar permit is priced at $600 and $1500 in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Following the security assunacre by the authorities, Virunga national park become one of the best gorilla destinations for budget gorilla tours.
The park was closed following the kidnap of two Britons and their Congolese driver in May 2018 by gun-wielding men in the eastern side of the park. The tourists were released 72 hours even though the ranger, Rachel Makissa Baraka, 25 was killed trying to defend the visitors
“We have taken enough time to be sure of an improvement of security for visitors,” Demerode told the press.
According to him, the park was re-opened to tourist activities on February 15 2019.
To access the park, one can book a gorilla safari through a reliable tour operator like Speedway Safaris. This operator would arrange the entire trip including the securing of a gorilla permit.
Virunga National Park is the oldest national park on the African continent and biggest tropical rainforest reserve, occupying 7,800 square kilometers (3,000 square miles).
Between 1996 and 2003, the wars that engulfed the vast Congo saw thousands of lives lost to massacre, hunger and diseases. It was only recently in 2014 that tourism was re-launched in the Virunga and over 17,000 tourists have visited the park since then.
Demerode assured the world that his government was putting much emphasis to the security of the park.
“We continue to work on putting the security of our personnel and our visitors at the core of our operations,” he emphasized.
He said the park has been opened again following a thorough assessment of the ground situation and the Park’s security details.
Virunga National Park is considered among the world’s most dangerous conservation areas, with figures revealing that that over 180 park rangers have been massacred by either rebels, poachers or smugglers in the last over 20 years.