Gorilla Trekking in Congo
Gorilla Trekking in Congo is one of the top tourist activities in the country that engage quite a number of travelers from across the world. Gorilla trekkers in Congo have the rare opportunity to track both mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas if they wish. Mountain gorilla trekking is done in only three countries in the world, and these are in Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly known as Zaire, is located in central Africa and is one of the most populous countries in the world; with a population of about 78 million people. The country is a mining hub, with an estimated worth of $ 24 million of untapped raw materials. It is the world’s leading producer of cobalt ore and the second-largest producer of diamonds.
However, over the past years, the tourism industry in the country has been going at a fast rate; with five of its national parks being named UNESCO World Heritage Sites and these are; Virunga National Park, Salonga, Garumba, Kahuzi- Biega, and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.
Gorilla Trekking in Congo is a fast picking tourism activity; with more trekkers opting for gorilla trekking in Congo as compared to Rwanda and Uganda. A major contributor to their decision is the fact that gorilla trekking permits in the Democratic Republic of Congo are way much cheaper at only 400 USD, as compared to 1500 USD for a gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda and 600 USD in Uganda.
Gorilla trekking in Congo is done in Virunga National Park and Kahuzi-Biega National Park. The Democratic Republic of Congo has an estimated number of 200,000 gorillas; with about 3,800 eastern lowland gorillas which are found in Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
There are eight habituated mountain gorilla families in Virunga National Park which are available to tourists for tracking. Virunga national park is famous for its mountain gorillas which can be found in the park’s southern sector, on the dormant Mikeno volcano. It is about a two and half hour drive from Goma to the Mikeno sector for those traveling by road.
Gorilla family groups that visitors can trek while at Virunga national park include; Lulengo, Munyaga, Kabirizi, Humba, Nyakamwe, Mapuwa, Rugendo, and Bageni gorilla families.
Due to the political unrest in Goma and especially within Virunga National Park, tourists have been advised to plan your gorilla trekking safaris in advance; with either a Virunga National Park or a trusted and registered tour operator in DRC. It is important that you first consult your trusted tour operator prior to your trip so that proper arrangements are made to ensure your safety while on your visit to and from Virunga National Park.
Gorilla trekking in Congo costs 400 USD per person per day, during the peak seasons (June- September, and mid-December- February), and 200 USD during the low season (March-May and October- November).
Accommodation in Virunga National Park is available for visitors traveling to the national park. These accommodation facilities range from budget to mid-range and lastly luxury. Visitors can choose from the following accommodation lodges; Mikeno Lodge, Lulimbi Tented Camp, Tchegera Island Camp, Kibumba Tented Camp, Bukima Tented Camp and Mt Nyiragongo Summit Shelters.
It is easy and more convenient for visitors to access Virunga National Park from Gisenyi in Rwanda. Travelers will have to drive for 3 hours from Kigali to Gisenyi town and cross the Rwanda- Congo border at Le Grande Barrier into Goma in Congo. It takes between 1-2 hours’ drive from Goma to Virunga National Park in Congo.
Alternatively, visitors to Virunga National Park can travel by air to Goma International Airport using Ethiopian Airlines. Goma is the starting point for all gorilla trekking safaris in Congo. All gorilla trekking tours to Virunga National Park are organized by the park, which also provides the transportation of tourists from Goma to the national park and back.
Eastern lowland gorillas, also known as Grauer’s gorilla, can be tracked by visitors in Kahuzi-Biega and Maiko National Parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, Kahuzi-Biega National Park has the largest concentration of eastern lowland gorillas. The national park is one of Congo’s biggest parks and is located close to Bukavu district; so one can easily connect to the national park from Virunga by either taking a speed boat of 3 hours or board a ferry of 7 hours to connect to Bukavu.
Visitors can also access Kahuzi-Biega from Rwanda via the Rusizi border and drive for 30 minutes to the national park. East lowland gorilla trekking permits cost 400 USD per person per day. There are plenty of accommodation facilities to choose from for gorilla trekkers visiting the park and some of these include; Mount Kahuzi Hotel, Lakeside Hotel Bukavu, Exodus Bukavu, Hotel Begonias, Lodge Coco and Orchids Safari Club among others. These accommodation facilities offer budget, mid-range, and luxury lodging depending on what you may prefer.
Gorilla trekking in Congo is done in groups, with only a maximum of eight members per group. Trekkers are advised to maintain a distance of 7 meters from the gorillas, so as to prevent transmission of diseases like flu, cough and even Ebola between humans and the gorillas. It is for this reason that those doing gorilla trekking in Congo national parks are given masks to wear while tracking.
Like most gorilla trekking safaris in Rwanda and Uganda, gorilla trekkers are allowed to spend only an hour with the gorillas once they have been located. Treks usually take 1-2 hours of hiking, depending on the conditions of the terrain and also where the gorillas spent the previous night.
Gorilla permits in Congo’s Virunga National Park are always available and the park issues out 64 gorilla trekking permits on a daily basis. It is always cheap and a lot easier for gorilla trekkers to purchase a gorilla permit in Congo.
Hiking to track gorilla groups in Congo is much easier and less tiring since the landscape where the gorillas are found is relatively flat. However, visitors are advised to pack a good pair of hiking boots on the day you plan to do gorilla trekking.
“Do get in touch with a trusted tour operator to plan and arrange for you a fully inclusive tour to trek the two different gorilla species in Congo.”