Visit the best of Congo

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 lava lake! Simply, this part of the world feels like the real Africa to us and that is why you should visit Congo today.

Congo Safari - Silverback Gorilla
Hills of Rwanda - part of the Congo Safari
Congo Safari - Gorilla Baby

Virunga 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 lava 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.

Activities

Mountain Gorilla

Your main objective for visiting the Virunga National Park will surely be the mountain gorilla trekking. Your first hike to the mountain gorillas can be organised from Mikeno lodge, leaving early in the morning when it is still cool. We suggest you plan at least two visits to your itinerary for the simple reason that you will probably only look through your camera during the first visit. All our guests have agreed that they are much more at ease and really enjoy the whole experience even more during the second visit. On top of that, you will always go visit a different family of mountain gorilla and each family behaves completely different.
To get to the Gorillas you will have to walk for about one hour, depending on their location. You will get one hour to spend with them, the very professional rangers and guards of the Virunga Park will make sure you get a great spot to view the gorilla family from a safe distance. During the visit, you’ll be wearing mouth-mask to protect the gorilla from any human diseases. After one hour you hike back to the base camp at Bukima. If you choose to visit a second family you will spend the night at Bukima Camp and go out again the next morning.
Congo Safari - Silverback Gorilla
Virunga Park Nyiragongo Volcano

Nyiragongo Volcano

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! 

You’ll reach the top just before sunset and you will spend the night right on the edge of the volcano. Your luggage will be carried by porters and we’re sending a chef up with you who will cook a nice warm meal and a good pot of warm tea or coffee to keep warm when the night falls. This will feel like luxury accommodation, but on a whole other level, considering the location. The next morning our chef will prepare a nice breakfast for you and you will start your descent back to the base.

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 to 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.

Virunga Sekwekwe Gorilla Orphanage - Congo Safari - Andre

Sekwekwe Gorilla Orphanage 

Meet Andre and his four orphan mountain gorillas, famous from the Oscar Wining documentary Virunga. 

Virunga Park HQ 

Get the tour of the HQ and see behind the scenes of the Virunga Park operations. You might meet the park director, Prins Emmanuel De Merode. 
Congo Safari - Virunga Park Director Emmanuel De Merode
Chimpanzee Habitation Program

Chimpanzee Habituation 

Nearby the Mikeno lodge, you can visit the Chimpanzee Habituation program, bringing the chimpanzee population back to Virunga National Park.

Bloodhound Anti-Poaching Unit

Walk with the Bloodhound Anti-Poaching Unit and find out more about how these fantastic dogs are trained to trace poachers in and around the Virunga National park. Hear their success stories!
Virunga National Park - Bloodhound anti-poaching unit
Congo Safari - Silverback Gorilla

FAQ Congo

When is the best time to go?

As Virunga is located on the equator, the temperature remains roughly the same (hot and humid) throughout the year. The notable difference is between the rainy and non-rainy seasons.

Ironically enough, the best time to enjoy clear blue skies (particularly for photography purposes) is during the rainy months (April, May, October and November), as it can get quite foggy during the dry season.

The good news is that it rarely rains for a full day, and the periodic spatters actually make way for beautifully clear viewing conditions.

Is it safe to travel to Virunga?

All Congo Safaris tours are fully guided from the moment you step over the border to your departure back home. Almost all our tours start and end in Kigali (the capital of Rwanda), and we ensure that our guests are assisted across the border without any hassle. Members of our team will collect you as soon as you land in Kigali, and will remain with you until you enter Congo – at which point the Virunga National Park team will take over.

As the Park is responsible for the livelihood and infrastructure of the four million people who live around it, its officials, rangers and visitors are highly respected by the locals. You’ll be transported in official park vehicles, and will be made to feel safe and warmly welcomed by all whom you encounter. Virunga National Park has brought electricity, power stations, roads, schools, security and jobs to the area, and the locals are well aware of the fact that the tourism income generated by your presence is largely to thank for all of this.

How to get to Congo / Virunga Park?

Ethiopian Airlines offers a direct flight from Addis to Goma in DRC.
But mostly we’ll start our safaris from Kigali in Rwanda.
To Kigali, you have direct flight daily from Nairobi, from Brussels, Amsterdam, London and Frankfurt.

We handle all your visas and transport for you, we’ll also assist you in border crossing.

Our favorite places to stay in Congo

Watch our Congo Safari Video

– made by Atelier Africa Safaris –