DRC’s Virunga National Park reopened to tourists

APA-Kigali (Rwanda)

One of the most coveted destinations in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Virunga National Park located near the border with Rwanda which had been closed to tourists due to wars and political conflicts in the region is now resuming tourism for 2019, according to a statement obtained Monday in Kigali.

Virunga is the DRC's largest national park, covering 3,000 square miles on the border with Uganda and Rwanda.

According to official reports, the park is home to about one quarter of the world's mountain gorilla population as well as lowland gorillas, elephants, and lions. The statement said that the park opened to tourists on February 15.

The park is home to a world-famous population of mountain gorillas but has been hit by rising instability and violence in the country after 12 rangers have been killed in clashes with militia and smugglers in Virunga in late 2018.

Reports said that more than 180 rangers have been killed in Virunga over the last 20 years, making the park one of the most dangerous conservation projects in the world.

Commenting on the move, the director of the Virunga National park Emmanuel de Merode said the safety of our visitors will always be our highest priority.

“It is abundantly clear that the Virunga is deeply affected by insecurity and that this will be the case for some time. For Virunga to be safely visited, much more robust measures are necessary than in the past," the statement quoted Chief Warden de Merode as saying.

In the meanwhile, the statement warned that visitors will be required to meet at the tourism office at the Grande Barriere at the border with Rwanda prior to departure to the Park.

In addition to the change in booking options, transport to, from, and inside the Park will be carried out exclusively by Virunga National Park and is included in package rates, the statement said.


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