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News - tours and travel

Virunga National Park (DR Congo) temporarily closed after British tourist kidnapping

Wednesday May 16, 2018 14:54 PM |

Two young maintain gorillas playing in Virunga NP (photo: Ingrid Smet / VolcanoDiscovery)
Two young maintain gorillas playing in Virunga NP (photo: Ingrid Smet / VolcanoDiscovery)
Due to a security incident within the boundaries of Virunga National Park, the park is now temporarily closed until 4 June 2018.

Last Friday morning 2 British tourists were violently kidnapped and held hostage whilst on their way to the park’s mountain gorilla sector. Their Virunga NP ranger escort was killed and their Congolese driver wounded but later released to bring the ransom message. The 2 British nationals were safely returned on Sunday 13 May – no official statement has been made on how they were released so one can assume that a ransom was being paid.

This is the first time that Virunga National park closed since its successful re-opening in November 2014, as well as the first time in 20 years that there has been a violent incident involving travelers visiting the park. The incident is a reminder that despite recent increase in tourism to this beautiful and unique nature destination, traveling to eastern DR Congo involves certain risks due to the political instability of the region. Violence in Goma a few weeks ago was a conflict between rivaling gangs on the city's outskirts (and not, as reported in some media, a terrorist attack) and the deadly incidents in Virunga National Park over the past years, months and weeks always involved either poachers killing park rangers in sectors of the park which are not open to the public (as the park authorities do not have them in full control) or militia and armed gangs hiding out in the park plundering local villages.

The response of the Virunga National Park authorities to this incident has been to close down the park for a few weeks in order to reassess the security and make changes and new implementations so that the safety of travelers can be once again better ensured. They are not taking any risks and being very responsible, only re-opening the park if they have the sectors open to the public back in control. We are following up on the situation closely and are in regular communication with the ICCN's European security officer who reviews the safety situation in Goma and Virunga NP on a daily basis.
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