Africa: Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Suspends Tourism
Virunga National Park, a reserve in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, has suspended tourism, the park announced this morning, according to the BBC.
The indefinite closure to visitors comes the day after the release of two British tourists, who were kidnapped along with their driver on Friday in the Nyiragongo territory, north of Goma. A 25-year-old female park ranger was killed in the ambush. There’s no word yet on when the park will be reopened to travelers.
The DRC is currently listed at Level 3 on the U.S State Department’s four-level travel advisory list, urging Americans to “reconsider travel” to the country due to “crime and civil unrest.”
People who are currently booked to visit Virunga National Park should get in touch with their booking agent to discuss alternative travel. Operators like Deeper Africa, one of our recommended specialists in the region, are offering refunds to clients heading to the DRC who may now want to cancel their trips, and offering alternative itineraries into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
Virunga is the DRC’s largest national park and Africa’s oldest, covering 3,000 square miles on the border with Uganda and Rwanda. It is home to about one quarter of the world’s mountain gorilla population as well as lowland gorillas, elephants, and lions.
Long hampered by unrest and civil war, tourism in the park picked up four years ago and had been steadily growing. Last week’s kidnappings were the first reported incident of hostility against travelers. Last month, six park rangers were killed in an ambush by MaiMai militia in an area of the park where travelers don’t generally visit.
by ERIN FLORIO