Experience Virunga National Park with The Safari Collection

The destination behind the Oscar nominated documentary feature film, Virunga, has re-opened to tourists, has a new lodge and guided tours can be arranged with The Safari Collection’s expert team

Gorillas Image Virunga org Kevin Hughes

Gorillas Image: Virunga.org Kevin Hughes

Mikeno Lodge Image Virunga org

Mikeno Lodge Image: Virunga.org

Nyiragongo Volcano Image www.thesafaricollection com

Nyiragongo Volcano Image: www.thesafaricollection.com

  • Virunga National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage site – has re-opened to tourists
  • The chance to see rare mountain gorillas and view Nyiragongo the world’s largest lava lake
  • Mikeno Lodge has also opened – a great base from which to explore

Virunga, the award-winning documentary feature that shines a light on Virunga National Park in the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo was nominated for best documentary feature at this year’s Academy Awards. Directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, and with executive producer Leonardo DiCaprio, the Netflix streamed documentary showcases the incredible fight to help some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas survive in one of the world’s most awe-inspiring National Parks.

A powerful combination of investigative journalism and nature documentary, Virunga is the incredible true story of a group of courageous people risking their lives against those trying to control the Congo’s rich natural resources and build a better future in a part of Africa the world’s forgotten.

The Safari Collection is offering a unique chance to visit this incredible destination that very few tourists have seen. It is now possible for adventurous travellers to visit the newly re-opened southern section of the Virunga National Park, which is home to nearly a quarter of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas.

Virunga is one of the most inspiring and bio-diverse destinations in the world – it is Africa’s oldest national park, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and the continent’s most biologically diverse protected area. It is also home to a quarter of the world’s approximately 900 remaining mountain gorillas. Two other Great Ape species can also be found in Virunga, the eastern lowland Grauer’s gorillas and chimpanzees, making it the only park in the world to host three different taxa of Great Apes. Perfect for intrepid travellers and nature enthusiasts, the trip involves trekking through Virunga’s vast and lush forest, accompanied by The Safari Collection’s expert guides and the park’s rangers, to spend some unforgettable moments with the world’s wildest mountain gorillas.

Mikey Carr-Hartley, owner of The Safari Collection and expert safari guide, who has personally guided clients round East Africa for over 25 years comments ‘Virunga National Park is one of the most unexplored and beautiful parks in Africa, offering travellers an incredible range of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to interact with its unique wildlife and diverse landscape. It is a destination that we have been monitoring for quite some time due to its tempestuous past but with the opening of Mikeno Lodge and notable improvements in its infrastructure and security, we believe that now is a great time to start visiting the area with one of our expert guides’.

Travellers will arrive in Kigali, Rwanda, before crossing the border to the vibrant town of Goma in the DRC. From there, it is a scenic drive through the region’s dramatic landscape to the newly opened Bukima tented camp, which is located at the forest’s edge and is the starting point for the gorilla trek. Spend an unforgettable night in one of the platform tents, with spectacular views of the Virunga Mountains, while listening to the atmospheric sounds of the park as night slowly falls. From Bukima, travellers will embark on a morning trek through the tropical forest to spend an awe-inspiring hour in the company of a band of gorillas. From only a short distance away, take in the impressive sight of a 400lb silverback as he keeps a watchful eye over his family. Observe young gorillas pumping their chests, mothers tenderly feeding their young and watch baby gorillas gleefully play-fighting, somersaulting and leaping from tree to tree in their natural environment.

The Safari Collection will then organize for guests to stay overnight in the park at the newly opened Mikeno Lodge. A small oasis in the midst of the forest, a dense canopy of trees overhead provides a refuge for Sykes monkeys, baboons, Vervet monkeys and a variety of birds. The new lodge has a collection of charming thatched cottages located within the grounds of Virunga’s Rumangabo headquarters, offering spacious accommodation and breathtaking views from the hilltop over the sweeping forest plain and Mikeno volcanoes.

From Mikeno Lodge, the next day’s expedition involves an hour and a half’s drive to Mount Nyiragongo, a 3470m volcano that famously erupted in 2002 engulfing the local town of Goma with two meters of lava. With the help of porters, guests will be able to spend the day trekking directly up to the edge of the active volcano and view one of nature’s greatest phenomenon’s – the world’s largest molten lava lake swirling and bubbling below them. After taking in this magnificent sight, guests will set up camp on the volcano’s edge before making the descent at dawn.

The 3,000 square mile site of Virunga boasts volcanoes, forests, savannas, lava plains, swamps, erosion valleys and the glaciated peaks of the Rwenzori mountains. Other distinctive animal inhabitants of the park include the Okapi, an endangered species that resembles a zebra but is more closely related to the giraffe. Large colonies of hippopotami, forest and savanna elephants, lions, and numerous rare bird species can also be found in the park.

Rates start from $3,450 per person for a three-night privately guided trip to Virunga National Park, including transfers, permits, accommodation and meals. Kenya Airways flies daily from London Heathrow to Nairobi with onward daily connections to Kigali; return costs from $791.

For more details visit www.thesafaricollection.com

About The Safari Collection

The Safari Collection is characterised by its personal approach as well as its family run and managed ethos and strong ethical principles. Tanya and Mikey Carr-Hartley are heavily involved and for several months of the year are personally guiding safaris for clients throughout East Africa. Conservation and community are also key pillars of the company and each property, tour or guided adventure carries these hallmarks.

Solio Lodge is located in one of the most successful rhino breeding ranches in East Africa, helping the conservation of East Africa’s rhinos, which are being poached into extinction. Meanwhile, Giraffe Manor is the home to a sanctuary for the endangered Rothschild Giraffe. Sasaab partners closely with the Ewaso Lions Project to actively promote the conservation of lions in The Westgate Community Conservancy and Sala’s Camp supports the Marah Cheetah project. All of the properties work extensively to improve the lives of their local communities and allows guests to participate and contribute to a number of community and conservation incentives.