How to get to Virunga National Park: Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a 15-minute drive from Goma, the primary Centre for tourists visiting Virunga National Park has existed for the longest time in Africa, from April of 1925, and was designated as a protected Virunga National Park is a significant monument that was listed on the List of World Heritage in Danger by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1994.
This list was created in 1972 to identify and safeguard locations with significant history that are on the verge of extinction. This list was also intended to raise awareness of what was going on and, in turn, conserve these locations when conservation efforts were expanded. For a location to be listed on this list it is first assessed and appraised then additionally conservation actions are put in place and it is continuously monitored. Despite the volatility in the neighborhood, there has been significant progress in the two decades since the park was designated.
This park has been closed and reopened several times for various reasons, but with the reopening of Virunga National Park earlier this year on February 15th under new administration that is more security concerned, there is hope for this fantastic tourist destination to prosper again. All visitors to the park are supervised by a security convoy that departs from Goma and returns to Goma. Before joining the convoy, all visitors to the park must sign in with the tourism office at the Grande barrier border facility. Whether you are travelling by private or group transportation, this is the first step when entering the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The most frequent way to reach the Virunga National Park is to travel into Rwanda and land at the Kigali International Airport. There are several foreign airlines that fly into this airport, so check with the one that is most convenient for you.
If you choose to fly into Rwanda to connect to Virunga National Park for any of the park’s packages, it is best to book a flight that arrives no later than 8 a.m. so that you arrive in time for check-in with the park, or alternatively, book a flight into the country the night before so that you are well rested to begin your Virunga tour as early as 7:30 a.m.
When you arrive in Kigali on the day of your trip, you will take a 4 to 5 hour drive to the suggested border for travellers visiting Virunga, which is the Gisenyi-Goma border, also known as the Grande Barrier. This border is only 15 kilometers from the park. The Bunagana border between Uganda and Congo was once used, but visitors are now warned not to use it owing to the insecurity in the region caused by the military forces that live there. All tourists to Virunga congregate at the Grande Barrier border facility to begin their excursions.
Another option for getting to Virunga National Park is to fly directly into the Democratic Republic of Congo via the Goma international airport. Ethiopian Airlines, which runs daily flights to this airport, is the primary foreign airline that arrives here. If you are not interested in Rwandan sightseeing, this is a faster method to connect to Virunga. This way, you drive straight to Goma and return, as opposed to connecting from Kigali, where you get to conduct a city tour of Kigali, visiting the local market for souvenirs and the Genocide Memorial sites on your last day. This is the preferable alternative for the travellers that are more time aware and have less time to spend on the road.
There are also daily boat transports between Bukavu and Goma thus if one is conducting a tour of the lowland gorillas at Kahuzi Biega, you can plan a morning boat transfer from Bukavu port to the Goma port to connect to Virunga for the mountain gorillas visit or the Nyiragongo walk. This boat travel takes approximately 3 hours and costs around $50 or less. Alternatively, you can take the 7-hour boat voyage from Bukavu to Goma and arrange lodging in Goma to begin your tour the next day at the scheduled departure time.
Before booking your flights into the country, whether Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, check with your travel agent if the time and dates align with the package you are interested in, as all packages to Virunga have specific set off times and others even have specific set off days, for example, Mikeno lodge and Bukima lodge guests usually set off from Goma only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.