Congo Gorilla Safaris
Democratic Republic of Congo is the cheapest country where you can carry out gorilla trekking, done in Virunga National Park. Even better, it is the only country that offers both lowland and mountain gorilla trekking. Lowland gorillas are however found in Kahuzi-Biega national park.
Virunga National Park is majorly known for gorilla tours in D.R. Congo with over 250 gorillas, located in the Eastern part of this country. Tourism activities haven’t been popular within this park due to political instabilities that have been happening within the country for quite some time now. But despite the political insecurity, it has been able to thrive.
It was first opened in 1925 by King Albert who was the reigning king of Belgium during that time, first referred to as Albert National Park. In early 1970, the park was renamed Virunga National Park after the reigning president became interested in conservation. The park is also found within the Virunga Mountain ranges.
Around 1979, the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its conservatory purpose and despite all the instabilities that affect its operations, it is still rated a strong conservation pillar for almost half of Africa especially the East and Central region.
It is also the oldest wildlife protected area hence bearing many different species such as mountain gorillas, giraffes, buffalos and different bird species.
Mountain gorillas have of recent been a major tourist gem in the park because it is among the few parks within the region with such endangered species of gorillas and more affordable compared to its counterparts such as Bwindi Impenetrable Park in Uganda. Though it has been harboring rebel activities in the past years, with enforcements being made it is now safe to visit the park.
Due to conservation efforts in Virunga, climate is favorable for everyone consisting of mild rains and warm weather. It also has volcanic soils rich in nutrients favorable for plant growth.
Virunga National Park is endowed with a variety of wildlife species which boast of about 264 tree species, 2,077 plant species and 230 shrubs and grasses. During 2012 wildlife census, 902 species were reported to be in existence and of these 22 are primates and 109 reptiles with a whooping number of over 706 bird species. Gorilla safaris in D.R. Congo.
Despite the large size of this park, it has very few gorillas compared to other parks within the same region like Volcanoes and Bwindi N/parks. It only has eight gorilla families with Kabirizi (a silverback) having the largest family members close to three dozens.
When it comes to gorilla conservation, D.R. Congo is so strict about it in that it has armed guards who protect the gorillas against attacks, especially from elephants. While trekking, visitors are accompanied by guides, porters and armed rangers until they reach their designated location where the gorilla family is found and they are likely to spend about 1-7 hours.
Because D.R. Congo understood the assignment of conservation, it has strict rules regarding visiting the gorillas such as only eight people are allowed to see them in a day. A sick tracker isn’t allowed to trek because gorillas have to be protected against diseases since they can easily be spread from humans to these primates.
While in Virunga, stay calm in case you make eye contact with a gorilla even though it makes a move don’t panic because you’ll both panic and may end up getting attacked. Keep the forest free from litter - don’t drop rubbish while in the forest. This helps to conserve the forest and environment at large.
You are briefed before staring the journey and later the adventure begins, you could take pictures once you sight the gorillas however don’t use your camera’s flash while taking the pictures as this distorts their peace.
When to do gorilla trekking in D.R. Congo?
And just like other countries found within the equatorial region, trekking is mostly done during the dry season though due to its location it could rain even during dry season that usually happens between December and February and in June until September.
The dry season is favorable because hiking trails are dry unlike the wet season where they get muddy and slippery. With the country bouncing back into safety, security has been tightened hence making it safe and peaceful to visit despite the past insecurities it has faced. The efforts have been made to protect the gorillas while they are still enjoying their natural habitat.
Congo Gorilla permits.
Gorilla permits in Congo are obtained at a cheap price of $400 per person compared to its counterparts charging $700 and $1500 per person in Uganda and Rwanda respectively. With such cheap prices you get to experience rare species of gorillas and satisfactory nature endorsed by Congo.
A gorilla trek is not complete without visiting the Nyiragongo Mountain which is one of the most active volcanoes found within the Virunga conservation area.
How to get to Congo?
You can access Congo via Gisenyi from Rwanda and cross through Goma border. Application for a visa must be done 48 hours before entering the country. These cost $100 per person.
While in Congo you can stay at luxurious accommodations such as Mikeno Lodge,Bukima Lodge, Kibumba tented camp, all found in the heart of Virunga National Park.
What you need for gorilla trekking in Congo?
Just like in other parks, you need a valid permit and for foreigners, you need a visa and other travel documents like passports. Walking boots or shoes, light but protective wear like jackets and long-sleeved clothes, a camera to take those mesmerizing moments, always carry water with you and food.
Congo Safaris Packages
The Great Ape Package