Gorilla Trekking Tours and Safaris in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park
This is a complete guide to gorilla trekking in the DR Congo, permit prices, when to visit, tour itineraries, lodging and reservation information.
Visit Gorillas in Congo
Mountain gorillas are found in the Virunga National Park, a UNESCO Heritage site in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park is situated in the eastern side of DR Congo, bordering Uganda and Rwanda. The vast park covers an expanse of 7800 sq. km and is habitat to around 200 mountain gorillas habitually found in the southern fragment of the park.
The authorities of Congolese national park plus the institute of Congolais pour la conservation de la Nature (ICCN) manage the park working closely with Africa Conservation Fund. Over time the gorilla population has enriched and improved at the same time. Thanks to the ranger efforts that have endangered their lives to protect the mountain gorillas remaining.
Virunga National Park is found in the western route of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. There is transport from Goma to the park arranged by Virunga National park management. Visitors from Rwanda have the best choice of getting to Goma by tour operators’ arrangement as roads are well developed. It is a drive of 3 hours from Kigali to Goma proximate to the border of Democratic republic of Congo. Goma is also accessible from South Western Uganda via Bunagana boarder post where a local visa is obtained at crossing. Besides seeing gorillas in Congo, travelers to Virunga National Park can hike Mount Nyiragongo Volcano.
Trekking Gorillas in Congo is not all that a fantastic adventure as the country was affected by political instabilities and conflicts. On this background, tourists are advised to check the security situation before visiting that region of the country. Political conflicts in Virunga have momentously affected a number of gorillas by destroying their habitats and being poached. Most travel advisories have portrayed the area as unstable and unpredictable for those preparing to visit there.
Gorilla Trekking Regulations and Guidelines in Virunga National park
Gorilla trekking safaris in Virunga National Park have some stringent rules and regulations which must be followed by trackers while enjoying their Congo gorilla safari excursions. They include;
The group size, the groups to trek per day plus the time permitted for spending while with the mountain gorillas. This is done to make sure the well-being of these endangered primates is preserved. Restrictions are due to the fact that mountain gorillas are vulnerable to many human illnesses as a result of the great biological closeness between them and people.
Group Size for the Gorilla Safari: A maximum of eight persons per day are allowed to trek gorillas and this reduces the dispersion of diseases from human beings to the endangered mountain gorillas.
Restrictions on Age: Only those who are 15 years and above permitted to trek
Visiting Hours: gorilla trekking safaris occur during the day between 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Time with the gorillas: 1 hour is the time strictly acceptable to be spent with mountain gorillas.
Gorilla trekking Rules in DR Congo’s Virunga National Park
- Protecting mountain gorillas is rule number one. This means that if a tracker is sick or has got any infections, he should not be allowed to come in close contact with mountain gorillas.
- Manners are Vital. Each time you cough or sneeze, turn away your face and also don’t forget to cover your nose and the mouth to reduce on bacteria transfer to the gorillas.
- You should not over stay with gorillas. Endeavor to stay for one hour only as the officially recommended time visitors must stay with the gorillas.
- Keeping a distance from the endangered apes. It is always commended to stay away from the gorillas in a distance of between 5 to 7 meters since they are wild faunas and can effortlessly get diseases from human beings.
- Behave well during trekking: The park rangers continually guide trekkers to keep their voices low and also to avoid pointing or using flashlights as they take photos of the mountain gorillas.
- Be prepared: Do not forget to carry water proof jackets and gadgets plus warm gears for the cold conditions in the mountains as it sometimes gets rainy in the forest. Strong and comfortable hiking shoes are highly recommended.
- No smoking and eating snacks: Visitors are not permitted to drink, eat or smoke during the gorilla trekking exercise.
- Cleanliness: Always be clean; wash your hands tidily before going for gorilla trekking.
- Keep hands intact: Do not touch mountain gorillas at any time and constantly keep hands to yourself to elude any possible direct contact with gorillas.
- Avoid littering within the forest and keep the trash to yourself
- Keep Calm always: Don’t make direct eye contact just in case the gorilla charges. Stay calm until it goes away.
- Toilet manners: A ranger will help you dig a hole for use for excretion and will ensure it is fully covered afterwards.
Congo Gorilla permits Costs
In case you are planning to track mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park, it is advisable to book with tour operators like AAB Tours and Travel for proper arrangements. A gorilla trekking permit for Congo is at USD 400. Mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park can be visited anytime throughout the year. In some instances, some pathways are tough to traverse during the rainy seasons of May, April, November and October. During those periods, a gorilla permit is reduced to USD 350. Other months of the year are fine for gorilla trekking since they are dry.
Mountain gorillas as well are found in Uganda in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park. In Rwanda, similar gorillas inhabit the Volcanoes National Park. A Uganda gorilla permits goes for USD 600 for high season months and USD 450 for low season months of April, May and November. For the case of Rwanda, a gorilla permit is priced at 750 throughout the year whether in the high or low season.