Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Tourism suspended in Virunga National Park in D.R. Congo.


Suspension of tourism activities in Virunga national park.

Virunga is famously known as Africa’s oldest and also D.R. Congo’s largest national park, covering up to 3,000 square miles, located in the Virunga ranges on the border with Rwanda and Uganda. It shelters more than a quarter of the world's endangered mountain gorilla population as well as eastern lowland gorillas, forest elephants, mammals and a variety of bird species. For years this park has been impeded by political insurgencies and civil conflicts, tourism in the park had just picked up four years ago and was gradually growing. However the kidnappings of last week were first ever reported incident of attacks against tourists.
 On 9th April, 6 park rangers were killed in an ambush by Mai-Mai militia in the park’s section where tourists rarely visit.
Following the kidnappings of two Britons and their driver by these forest militia, the eastern D.R. Congo based conservation area, Virunga National Park has decided to suspend tourism activities until further notice.
The park authorities announced this on the morning of 15th May 2018, according to the news reports. The indefinite closure to tourists comes the day after the release of two British tourists, who were kidnapped along with their driver on Friday 11th May 2018 in the Nyiragongo territory, north of Goma. Also during this fatal ambush a 25-year-old female park ranger was killed as she tried to protect the tourists. No information yet has been given concerning the reopening of the park for tourism. 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."
Travelers who had already booked their tours to Virunga national park are urged to get in touch with their travel agents and discuss alternative trips. Many tour companies that operate trips in this region are considering offering refunds to clients heading to the Virunga region and who may now want to cancel their bookings, while others are offering alternative gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda and other wildlife tours in the neighboring Rwanda.