Explore Virunga National Park on January 3, 2015 Share Extraordinary Journeys and the Safari Collection are very excited to be offering a unique chance to visit an incredible destination that very few tourists have seen – the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo from Mikeno Lodge Virunga is one of the most inspiring 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. 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. It is now possible for adventurous travelers to visit the once again accessible southern section of the Virunga National Park. Extraordinary Journeys’ own Sarah Boeckmann recently traveled to Virunga herself. Read her blog about her experience. Photo from Mikeno Lodge Photo from Mikeno Lodge Perfect for intrepid travelers and nature enthusiasts, the trip involves trekking through Virunga’s vast and lush forest, accompanied by expert guides and the park rangers, to spend some unforgettable moments with the world’s wildest mountain gorillas. The trip is led by 4th generation Kenyan and expert guide Mikey Carr-Hartley who has guided clients around East Africa for over 25 years. (Learn more about Mikey here in his Private Guide Profile.) Carr-Hartely believes that “Virunga National Park is one of the most unexplored and beautiful parks in Africa” and is thrilled that the security situation in the area has improved to the point that expertly guided trips are possible.This confidence is due to significant improvements in both infrastructure and security as well as the opening of Mikeno Lodge. Day 1 ~ Kigali Upon arrival in Kigali you will be met and transferred to the Kigali Serena where you will spend one night before beginning your trip the following morning. Kigali is a clean and vibrant city at Rwanda‘s geographical center, that has made incredible progress over the last decade. It is a city that has not just survived, but thrived and grown into a modern metropolis – a heart of the emerging Rwandan economy and a pride of every Rwandan. Among the safest and friendliest of African capitals, Kigali is blessed with a moderate high altitude climate and is conveniently located within three hours’ drive of the main tourist sites. The Rwandan capital provides both a comfortable and welcoming introduction to this land of a thousand hills and an ideal springboard from which to explore the country. The insightful and moving National Genocide Memorial is not to be missed. Ideally located on one of Kigali’s most charming boulevards, the five-star Kigali Serena Hotel is built around a polished granite atrium, which showcases the very best of Rwandese cultural art. Relaxed yet elegant, the hotel centres on the Executive Lounge and Bar, which opens onto a wide sundeck overlooking the newly refurbished swimming pool. Also overlooking the pool, the popular Milima Restaurant offers a wide range of all-day buffet choices, while the relaxed Sokoni Café offers inside and outside poolside seating. Days 2-4 ~ Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Today you will depart for the border between Rwanda and and the vibrant border town of Goma in the DRC. This is approximately a three hour drive through the hills of Rwanda. From Goma 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. Photo from Mikeno Lodge From Bukima, travelers will embark on a morning gorilla 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. Photo from Mikeno Lodge The following night you will stay overnight at Mikeno Lodge, which sits inside the Virunga park headquarters at Rumangabo. 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 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. Photo from Mikeno Lodge 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 watch the world’s largest molten lava lake swirling and bubbling below them. Guests will set up camp on the volcano’s edge before making the descent at dawn. Photo from Mikeno Lodge Day 5 ~ Gisenyi, Rwanda After spending the night on a volcano a shower and some clean sheets are sure to be welcome! Today you will return to Rwanda and spend one night relaxing at the Lake Kivu Serena just minutes from the border with Goma. Set on the white sandy shores of Lake Kivu, the sixth largest lake in Africa, and surrounded by extensive tropical gardens, the Lake Kivu Serena Hotel offers the perfect place for you to relax after your Virunga adventure. Comfortable rooms and suites as well as the restaurant offer views of the Lake. In addtion there are indoor and beachside bars, a luxury swimming pool, and the ‘Maisha’ Health Centre (offering an extensive range of health and beauty regimes, boating, swimming, volley ball, tennis, fishing, hiking and trekking). Day 6 ~ Depart Kigali Today you will drive from Gisenyi to Kigali to connect with your international flight home or onward to safari in Kenya or Tanzania! Price The price for this program starts at $4,650 excluding international flights at visas.