Virunga National Park in the eastern part of The Democratic Republic of Congo is Africa’s oldest park and the second oldest in the world after The Yellowstone National Park in the US. It was founded in 1925 by the Belgian Colonial government and named Albert National Park after King Albert, the then King of Belgium. It is in an area of 7,800km2. It was renamed Virunga National Park after Congo gained independence from Belgium.
It was designated as a UNESCO world Heritage in 1979. In recent years, poaching and the Congo Civil Wars have seriously damaged its wildlife population.
The park is managed by the Congolese National Park Authorities, The Institute Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and its partner the Virunga Foundation.
It is home to over 220 mammal species, over 700 bird species, the highest number of any protected area in Africa. It is also home to the endangered Mountain Gorillas. The world’s remaining mountain gorillas live in three countries in Africa spanning four national parks—Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Volcanoes National Park, and Virunga National Park.
Despite hosting the Mountain Gorillas, it is also home to elephants, monkeys, leopards, the endangered chimpanzees and okapi giraffes.
The park has diverse vegetation types that support different species of animals. Savanna plain, steppes, marshland, low altitude, and forested type of vegetation characterize Virunga National Park.
It is home to eight volcanoes of which two are the most active volcanoes in Africa namely Nyamuragira and Nyiragongo which last erupted in 2001. The two volcanic peaks are responsible for two-fifths of the historic volcanic eruptions on the African continent.
The 5000m tall Mount Rwenzori and the snow at its peak is also hosted by Virunga National Park making it one of the best National parks to visit in Africa.