In the Chinese philosophy of Yingyang, the circle of life, it is stated that there is a bit of good in evil and a bit of evil in good. This is a perfect description of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite the degradation left on the country through years of political and ethnic unrest, political corruption, and a continued disregard for the provision of basic infrastructure, DR Congo is a beautiful and attractive land with many alluring sight to take tourist breaths away. An abundance of groundwater meant that the DR Congo would always enjoy rich vegetation, and rich vegetation is a good factor upon which animals can thrive.

In this edition of discovering DR Congo, we shall be focusing on a tourist attraction that would simply blow tourists away and have them taking numerous pictures. From the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, we present the Virunga National Park.

The Virunga National Park

The Virunga National Park is located in the Albertine Rift Valley of the Eastern lands of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Created in 1925, the park is among the first set of areas to be protected in Africa. The park extends on the international borders with Rwanda and Uganda in the east, spanning about 300 km. Appearing in the list of World Heritage in Danger from 1994, the Virunga National park span a total area of 8090 km2

The Virunga National Park houses two active volcanoes—Mount Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira. These two active volcanoes have helped to shape the diverse wildlife and habitats of the Virunga National Park. With more than 3 000 floral and faunal species on record, the Virunga National Park has over 300 species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift within its borders. Some of these endemic species are the Eastern gorilla and the Golden Monkeys.

Located in the Congo-Nile watershed area, the Virunga National park has the Semiliki River Basin on its northern part alongside the montane forest of the Albertine Rift and the savannah. In its central sector, the park host about two-third of Lake Edward, extending eastward to the international border with Uganda. The park’s lowest altitude is 680 m high in the Puemba River valley, and its highest peak is 5 109 m at Mount Stanley. The southern land of the park extends to the shores of Lake Kivu and host the Nyirangongo, Nyamulagira, and Mikeno volcanoes. These volcanoes’ slopes are decorated with montane forests. The park shares its Norther borders with the Rwenzori Mountains National Parks and the Uganda Semuliki. It also shares the central parts with the Queen Elizabeth National Park.

The Virunga National Park experiences the rainy season twice in a calendar year, first between March and mid-May and then from September to November. The savannah around Lake Edward experiences the least rainfall and is considered the driest part of the landscape. The northern sector experiences the most rainfall, with the mean precipitation in this area reaching as high as 220mm. In the lower altitudes, the temperature ranges between 23-280C. In the higher altitudes, the temperature varies between 16-240C and has rarely dropped below 140C.

The Virunga National Park’s faunal is rich and extensive, comprising 196 mammals, 109 reptiles, 706 species of birds, and 65 amphibians as at the last count of 2012. The mammals consist of primates such as the mountain gorilla, the olive baboon, mantled guereza, and the common chimpanzee, among others. In the central sector of the park, tourists can find the hippopotamus, the African Buffalo, and the African Bush Elephant. Other animals to see are the Okapi, Duikers, Aardvark, Red river hog, waterbuck, warthog, lions, leopards, and many more. The major reptile is the Nile crocodile. The Virunga National Park is part of a Lion Conservation Unit, alongside the Queen Elizabeth National Park. The area is considered a potential stronghold of lions if the activities of poachers are curbed and the species of prey are recovered.

Some of the endemic birds include the Archer’s ground robin, the red-throated alethe, and the collared Apalis, among others. Of the numerous species of non-endemic birds spotted in the region are the African hobby, harrier hawk, common buzzard, and the black and white manikin.

The Virunga National Park’s floral consists of a whopping 2 077 plant species that included 264 species of trees and 230 plant species endemic to the Albertine Rift. With a plain dominated by grasslands and wetlands, the Virunga National Park plains house plant species like the jointed flatsedge, the common reed, ambatch, and the sacaton grasses. African alpine bamboo and African redwood are some of the trees that can be found in the different parts of the park.

The Ethnic groups living in the Virunga National Park includes the Mbuti people, the Hutu tribes, the Tutsi people, and the Batwa people. There is a documentary of the Virunga national park on Netflix for potential tourists. It was shot in 2014.

For tourist accommodation, some of the closest hotels and lodges to the Virunga National park are the Victoria Gardens & Safaris, the Forest Safari Lodge Kazinga Channel, the Savanna Resort Hotel, the Kainga Channel Lodge, and the Sandton Hotel Kasese. Others include the Trax Holiday Cottages, the Njovu Park Lodge/Campsite, and the Mbara Safari Lodge and Resorts.

The ASBL LEF Tour to DR Congo

As part of the fun and tourism activities designed to give some of our donors a first-hand feel of the country’s beautiful sceneries of the Democratic Republic of Congo, ASBL LEF organizes periodic tours to the country. On some of these tours, we would be taking our donors through the breathtakingly beautiful landscape and diverse wildlife of the Virunga National Park. The profit realized from this adventure would be donated to the management of the Park and NGOs in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This will be another donation channels for ASBL LEF to contribute to the development of the Democratic Republic of Congo, towards alleviating the poverty level in the country and preserving its rich national ecotourism.