VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK INFORMATION
VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK is the continent’s most biologically diverse protected areas, as well as Africa’s oldest National Park. The park is quite diverse, in that there are the glaciated peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains, active volcanoes, lava plains, swamps, forests, savannas and erosion valleys; the park is 3,000 square meters in size.
One quarter of the world’s rare and endangered Mountain Gorillas live in Virunga National Park, as well as two other Great Ape species, the Eastern Lowland Gorillas (Grauer’s Gorilla) and many species of Chimpanzees; it is the only protected area in the world that hosts three Great Ape species. Another rare and unusual endangered species is the Okapi, most closely related to the Giraffe, but resembling the zebra. Other interesting wildlife include large colonies of lions, savanna and forest elephants, hippopotami and hundreds of rare bird species.
There are 3 distinct divisions of Virungu National Park. The Southern Sector is covered with dense forest, making it an ideal habitat for the numerous species of primates, including the Mountain Gorillas as well as the well sought after Chimpanzee. Most of these primates live on the flanks of the dormant Mikeno Volcano. The Central Sector, is defined by the Ishasha River, the bwindi plains and Lake Edward. There are over 50 species of fish in Lake Edward as well as many rare bird species. The Ishasha River valley, adjacent to Lake Edward is the habitat for the hippopotamus population, which is recovering from near extinction. Also there are high concentrations of elephant, warthogs and buffalo found here. The elusive Topi can be found on the Rwindi plains. The Northern Sector of Virungu National Park has the son-capped Rwenzori Mountains defining the DRC/Ugandan border. One of the primary sources of the Nile River is the snowmelt from the Rwenzoris. The rare and unusual Okapi can be found along the Semiliki River valley of the northern sector.
DAY 1: KIGALI AND TRANSFER TO VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK
Your Jewel Safari guide will meet your flight at KigalI International Airport and give you a short briefing of your itinerary. Your guide will then take you to the Rwanda/Uganda border by way of Ruhengeri, to the north. Here you will proceed through customs and immigration and begin your journey to the town of Kisoro. The journey from Kigale International Airport to Kisoro is about 4 hours, depending on the time spent at the border. You will then be taken directly to your accommodation in Kisoro, where you will be served dinner.
DAY 2: MOUNTAIN GORILLA TRACKING AND RETURN TO KIGALE.
After an early breakfast, your Jewel Safari guide will immediately drive you to Bunagana at the DRC/Uganda border, about 30 minutes away. After going through customs and immigration, you will then be driven to the headquarters of Virunga National Park, where you will register for your Mountain Gorilla Tracking. You will be assigned a specific Gorilla family to track and a Park Ranger, who will be your guide in the forest. Your tracking will then begin. You are allowed one hour with the Gorillas; it is uncertain how long it will take to locate the specific Gorilla family you are tracking as they wander the forest for food and move around daily; it can take anywhere from 1 to 8 hours to locate them, but most commonly within a couple of hours you will be with them.
After your Gorilla Tracking is done, you will then reunite with your Jewel Safaris guide who will then drive you back over the Uganda/DRC border and then the Uganda/Rwanda border to Kigale. Time permitting, your Jewel Safaris guide will give you an escorted cultural tour of the city of Kigale, including the Genocide Memorial Site.