Eastern Lowland Gorilla Trekking

Eastern Lowland Gorilla Trekking in Congo is just like any other gorilla trekking only that the species that are being trekked include the special Eastern Lowland Gorillas. Thinking of going on an adventure trip to track primate species in Africa? Worry no more, the best adventure any tourist coming to Africa can have is to experience a primate safari to visit the Eastern Lowland gorilla subspecies in Congo.

Trekking eastern lowland gorillas can be done in the Democratic Republic of Congo; in Kahuzi-Biega and Maiko National Parks. The eastern lowland gorillas are a subspecies of eastern gorillas which are found in the afro-montane forests in the eastern region of Congo. These subspecies of eastern gorillas is also known as Grauer’s gorilla.

Eastern lowland gorillas can be found living in forests like the Usala forest, Tayna Gorilla Reserve and the Itombwe Massif which are adjacent to Kahuzi-Biega and Maiko National Parks.

The population of eastern lowland gorillas has greatly declined from an outstanding 5,000 individuals in 2004 to 3,800 individuals in 2016. Currently, their actual population is unknown, but researchers believe that it could be below 3,800 individuals.

There are quite a number of reasons as to why their numbers continue to reduce, with the main reason being that the species is constantly being hunted down by poachers for their bushmeat.

However, conservation projects have been started in Congo for the eastern lowland gorillas; in order to ensure the implementation of captive breeding programs and between the eastern lowland subspecies. Eastern Lowland gorillas are listed as an endangered species under the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

Difference between Mountain Gorillas and Eastern Lowland Gorillas.

The eastern lowland gorillas is the largest of the 4 gorilla subspecies. The gorilla subspecies are distinguished from Mountain gorillas by their large body size, large hands, and short muzzle, hair, and teeth. Eastern Lowland gorillas reach a height of 4- 5½ feet tall when standing on two feet and can weigh up to 440 pounds. Visitors tracking the subspecies won’t find it difficult to tell the two apart.

Where do Eastern Lowland Gorillas live in Congo?

Eastern Lowland gorillas have their habitats in the lowland and Albertine Rift montane forests in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, recent scientific research has shown that eastern lowland gorillas currently occupy only 13% of their previous geographic range/habitant.

Trekking eastern lowland gorillas in Congo is best done in Kahuzi Biega national park. The national park is a protected area located near Bukavu town in the eastern region of the DRC and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is situated on the western bank of Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border. 

Kahuzi-Biega is one of the biggest national parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo covering an area of 6,000 square kilometers. The park is named after two dormant volcanoes, Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega, which are situated within the park.

Factors Threatening the Population numbers of the East Lowland Gorilla?

Eastern Lowland gorilla populations are greatly declining due to a number of reasons which include;

  • Encroachment of their habitants: A majority of the local people in Congo’s forests have moved into the gorilla’s territory, where they have settled. As a result, more people are encroaching on the forests to cut down trees for firewood and make room for farming and rearing livestock. Only a small portion of the gorillas’ territory lies in protected areas such as Kahuzi Biega National Park. Even so, rangers at the park are finding it hard to constantly patrol the borders and protect these subspecies of gorillas.
  • Civil Unrest and political instability: Due to constant civil wars and political unrest, most of the eastern lowland gorillas are being killed in crossfires between law enforcement and rebels. Quite a number of these gorillas are being killed by militia groups in retaliation of the border demarcations and continuous patrols in the park.
  • Illegal Hunting of Bushmeat: Many people in Congo are illegally hunting down the gorillas for their bush meat. The bushmeat has become a highly demanded for commodity in Congo and this has led many to resort to encroaching the territories of the eastern lowland gorillas in order to kill them for their bushmeat which is on high demand.

Is it Safe to Track Eastern Lowland Gorillas in Congo?

Travellers doing trekking of Eastern Lowland Gorillas in Congo have no reason to worry about their safety. It is totally safe for a visitor to go eastern lowland gorilla trekking in Kahuzi- Biega or Maiko National Parks. Visitors are always accompanied by armed and experienced park rangers.

How much is a Gorilla Trekking Permit for Eastern Lowland Gorillas?

A gorilla trekking permit cost 400 USD per person for any visitor who wants to track east lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega and Maiko National Parks in DRC Congo.

When is the Best Time to go Tracking Eastern Lowland Gorillas?

Eastern Lowland Gorilla trekking is done all year round; however, it is best done in the dry seasons between May-August and November- January. Hiking trails leading to the location of the gorillas are less slippery and much easier to navigate.

However given that these subspecies is located in a forested area, rain is expected at any time; therefore, trekkers should always pack a raincoat and good pair of hiking boots.

What to Wear When Going Trekking.

Travelers visiting Kahuzi Biega in Congo to do tracking of eastern lowland gorillas should ensure to have the following; 

  • Light shirt(during the dry season because temperatures tend to be high)
  • A good pair of hiking boots
  • A raincoat in case it rains while you are trekking.
  • Water bottle or Mineral water
  • Face Mask

Rules and Regulations of Trekking Eastern Lowland Gorillas 

Before tourists embark on their journey to track mountain gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, they are briefed by a head ranger at the Park’s Offices and also taken through the rules and regulations. These rules and regulations of tracking gorillas in the park are as follows;

  • Every tourist must have acquired a gorilla trekking permit before visiting the park.
  • Gorilla Trekking can be done by adults 15 years and above.
  • Tourists can interact with gorillas for only an hour.
  • There is a maximum of 8 visitors per day per group.
  • No use of flashes in cameras when taking photos of gorillas as this can easily disorient them.
  • A safe distance of 7 meters should be maintained between the tourist and gorillas.
  • Visitors must wear a face mask at all times when tracking/ in contact with the gorillas.
  • Tourists are advised to lower your voices when in the forest and when in close proximity to the gorillas.

Where to Stay When Gorilla Trekking in Kahuzi-Biega National Park.

There are quite a number of accommodation facilities that a tourist can opt to stay at when on a gorilla trekking safari in Kahuzi-Biega National Park. These include; Mount Kahuzi Hotel, Lakeside Hotel Bukavu, Lodge Coco, Orchids Safari Club, Hotel Begonias, Exodus Bukavu and many more.

Eastern Gorilla Trekking
Eastern Gorilla Trekking

How to Get to Kahuzi-Biega National Park.

The starting point for all trips to Kahuzi-Biega is Goma. Travelers can access the park by road or air. Those traveling by road from Kigali to Goma through the border at Le Grande Barrier and then drive to Kahuzi-Biega in Bukavu. This entire road trip will take you around 2-5½ hours covering a distance of 255km.  Alternatively, visitors can choose to fly from Kigali International Airport to Goma International Airport and then drive to the park located in Bukavu.

Do get in touch with our trusted tour operators in case you are planning a trip to Congo to trek eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega National Park.”

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