Why go on a Congo Safari?
Frequently asked questions answered
The DRC, Democratic Republic of Congo might not be the first destination which comes to mind when planning your next Africa safari. While we admit that the tourism industry is still young in Congo, it is now that you should visit this magnificent part of central Africa.
We are known for not tailoring for the masses at Atelier Africa as we believe that Africa shouldn’t be experienced in large groups but should rather be an intimate venture. Now what is more unique than being a pioneer and exploring the most beautiful areas of Congo with only a handful of people?
What can you see on a Congo Safari?
As you might have guessed, the major attraction of a Congo Safari and the Virunga National Park are the mountain gorillas. But you can also spot those in Uganda or Rwanda, so why would you choose Congo? The reason is simple, the tourism industry being fairly new in Congo is a major advantage.
The gorilla trekking is extremely popular in the neighbouring countries, resulting in very high prices and large groups. Thanks to the novelty of Congo as a tourism destination, prices are still fairly reasonable and we are able to include two visits to the gorillas in every itinerary. You will have plenty of time to photograph, observe and especially enjoy the gorillas!
While the mountain gorillas are the main “bait” for most visits to Congo, the Virunga National Park has so much more to offer. The oldest national park in Africa with its enormous biodiversity is the number one reason to visit Congo.
This includes the gorillas and the chimpanzees but also two of the worlds most active volcanos and the largest lave lake! . Simply, this part of the world feels like the real Africa to us and that is why you should visit Congo today.
Virunga National Park
The Worlds’ Most Ancient National Park
Virunga National Park is biologically one of the most diverse national parks in the world! More than half of all biological life in sub-Saharan Africa can be found in the Virunga National Park. But not only biologically, also geologically it is a very interesting place on this planet, as it contains two active volcanoes and the largest lave lake in the world!
For many years Virunga Park has suffered during periods of conflict in the area, but thanks to the devotion of the rangers and guards, the park still exists! Virunga was founded by King Albert I of Belgium in 1925 and then also named the Albert National Park. At the time, it was created to protect the mountain gorillas and was the first national park in Africa!
From the beginning, the sustainable tourism thrived and the first 35 years the park was a success, until the Belgians granted Congo independence in 1960. The new government soon lost control over the security of the park and the local population started using the park resources. In 1969 however, President Mobutu took a personal interest in the conservation of the park and renamed it the Virunga National Park. Since that day, the Congolese Wildlife Authority is in charge of the park.
Watch our Congo Safari Video
– made by Atelier Africa Safaris –
The main attractions to a Congo Safari
Hiking the Nyiragongo Volcano is not the easiest activity you can choose to do in Africa, but it is definitely one of the most thrilling! Leaving around 10h30 in the morning you will walk for about 4 to 6 hours to a height of 3470 metres. The total distance you cover is only 8 km, but they are very steep kilometres. The complete trip is split up in long walks of 1,5 hours and short hikes of 30 minutes with always a short break in between to drink or eat something. At this very comfortable pace you will eventually reach the top of this very active volcano and you’ll be able to see the World’s largest lava lake!
Virunga National Park
The Virunga National Park is the oldest National Park in Africa, founded more than 125 years ago by Belgian King Albert I, and today a safe haven for not only the mountain gorilla and chimpanzee but also an abundance of other wild- and birdlife.
Keep your eyes open during the various excursions you’ll do in and around the park and you might spot one of the many breeds of monkeys and birds that have made Virunga National Park their home.
When you’re staying at the Mikeno Lodge, you will be right next the Virunga Park Head Quarters. If you’d like, you can get a tour and find out more about the whole operation. If you’re lucky you might get a chance to meet the Director of the park, Prins Emmanuel De Merode. Some of the very interesting projects they run at Virunga are the Chimpanzee Habituation project, the Bloodhound Anti-Poaching Unit and not to forget the Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage, the only gorilla orphanage in the world.
Sekwekwe Gorilla Orphanage
Virunga Park HQ
Bloodhound Anti-Poaching Unit
Accommodation inside Virunga National Park
Only the best lodges and camps on your Congo Safari!
The first stop and also the base camp for your Congo Safari inside the Virunga Park will be Mikeno Lodge. This fairly new lodge is hidden inside a green jungle forest and offers fantastic views over the Virunga rift valley. Constantly surrounded by plenty of wildlife, the guests often spot plenty of different species of birds, blue monkeys, columbus monkeys, and with a bit of a luck also a curious bushbuck or two.
The lodges are located in close proximity to the Virunga HQ and the Gorilla Orphanage, so chances are good that you will also spot some of the stars from the Virunga Documentary here like Emmanuel de Merode, the director of the park or Andrê Bauma, the caretaker of the orphan gorillas.
At night everyone gathers for a typical African evening around the fireplace to share your experiences and stories of the day. The rooms at Mikeno Lodge are private bungalows and each comes with its own lounge and fireplace as well as a natural-stone shower in the en-suite bathroom. Of course, you can also choose for the fantastic soaking tub, which feels amazing after a day in the bush!
Bukima Tented Camp
While the Mikeno Lodge is your base camp and starting point for the whole Virunga experience during your Congo Safari, the Bukima Tented Camp is the base for the Virunga mountain gorilla treks. All the tents at this camp have an en-suite bathroom with running water and all other necessary luxuries you can expect in a African tented camp today.
But the fact that Bukima Camp is cosy and the atmosphere throws you back into Hemingway’s first African Safari days is not the main reason why this camp is so loved by our guests. From your tent, or practically from anywhere at the Bukima Camp you have the most breathtaking views over the Virunga Park and beyond.
From the Bukima camp you can clearly see the Mount Mikeno, which stands 4440 m tall above the Gorilla Sector, and on the other side of the valley, the Nyiragongo volcano colours the sky all shades of red and orange at night with its lave lakes. This is why you choose to go on a Congo Safari!
The Tchegera Island Camp is the perfect location to end your visit to Virunga National Park and get away from the hustle in Goma. A stay of two nights here is simply the best choice to relax after climbing the Nyiragongo volcano or hiking to the gorillas for a couple of days.
The island is located in the North of Lake Kivu, only 15 minutes per boat away from Goma. From the Tchegera camp you’ll get fantastic views of the Kivu lake, Goma and the four active volcanoes in the background. Most nights you can see the Nyiragongo and the Nyamulagira volcanoes turn the sky red from their glowing lava lakes.
The island is a paradise for bird spotters, you will find African eagles, cormorants, herons and gulls that have made the island their home. You can paddle around the whole island in one of the kayaks or use the clearly indicated walkways which also circle the complete island. If you feel that you’ve been active enough for the past day, you’re more than welcome to just sit back, relax and enjoy and ice-cold drink on the beach.
Congo Safari Gallery
Our best shots for 8 fantastic days in Congo!