Gorilla Trekking in Virunga National Park
Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park has become a well sought after activity by many tourists visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo. Virunga National Park in Congo is home to a third of the world’s population of mountain gorillas, and others can be found in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, others can be found in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
History of Virunga National Park in Congo.
Virunga national park in Congo was first established in 1925, as Albert National Park. The park was named after King Albert I of Belgium and is among the first protected areas created in Africa. The national park was first created a protected area in order to protect its biodiversity of wildlife species, especially its endangered mountain gorilla species.
In 1926, Jean-Marie Eugène Derscheid, a Belgian zoologist, embarked on the first Belgian mission to map the Albert National Park, circumscribing the areas of Karisimbi and Mikeno Mountains.
Later in 1969, the national park was renamed Virunga National Park, after the country gained her independence from Belgium. The national park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 and is managed by the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature.
Virunga National Park covers an area of 8,090 km², extending about 300 km from north to south, along the borders of Rwanda and Uganda. The national park is the oldest and most biologically diverse protected areas on the African Continent.
This national park is situated within the Albertine Rift Valley and is located in the eastern province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park is strategically situated within the Congo-Nile river basin; with its central part covering two-thirds of Lake Edward and extends to Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda.
The southern sector of the national park encompasses Lake Kivu, mountains Nyiragongo, Nyamuragira, and Mikeno. Further north of Virunga National Park are savanna and montane forests, and also borders Semiliki and Rwenzori Mountain National Parks.
The park’s rich biodiversity includes; 109 reptile species, 706 bird species, 196 species of mammals, 78 amphibian species and 22 primate species. Due to current conservation campaigns that are running in the national park, it is said that the numbers of the above-mentioned species have greatly increased.
Gorilla Trekking in Virunga National Park.
Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park is safe and can be done by any adult tourist visiting the national park. Gorilla trekking activities in Virunga take place from the Rumangabo and Bukima sectors of the national park.
Virunga national park has 8 habituated mountain gorilla families and these gorillas are more tolerant of humans, as they have been habituated for a longer period of time, compared to those in Rwanda and Uganda. The habituated mountain gorilla families in Congo’s Virunga national park include; Kabirizi, Bageni, Humba, Mapuwa, Lulengo, Munyaga, Nyakamwe and Rugendo. So tourists planning a gorilla trekking tour in Congo can track any of the above mention gorilla groups.
Visitors trekking mountain gorillas in Virunga will have to be 15 years and above. Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park does not involve a lot of vigorous hiking activities and hence, is much easier to do as compared to trekking mountain gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda.
Gorilla trekking activities in Virunga involve visitors hiking mountains and vegetation in forests, tracking gorilla footprints and fresh feces; all in an aim to locate a gorilla family/ group. The activity can take about 1-4 hours with an hour allocated to visitors to spend with the gorillas once they have been located.
All gorilla trekking activities in Virunga national park start at the Bukima Patrol Post, where visitors are welcomed by the park’s head ranger, briefed and placed in trekking groups. Visitors who have luggage can hire porters to carry your luggage at an extra fee.
Trekking gorillas in Congo’s Virunga National Park is done in groups of a maximum of 8 people per gorilla family being tracked. It is totally safe for visitors to do gorilla trekking in Virunga, as you will always be accompanied by armed park rangers throughout your trekking expedition in the national park. What is also amazing to take note of is that Virunga national park is one of the few national parks in Africa with female park rangers. These able-bodied and brave women work tirelessly to conserve and protect the endangered wildlife species in the national park.
While trekking mountain gorillas in Virunga national park, visitors can also engage in other activities offered by the national park, aside from gorilla trekking. These include; hiking Mount Nyiragongo, Chimpanzee habituation, birding, nature walks and community cultural tours among others.
Price of Congo Gorilla Trekking Permits in Virunga National Park.
Gorilla trekking permits in Virunga National Park cost USD 400 per person. This is way cheaper compared to USD 600 for a gorilla trekking permit in Uganda and USD 1500 per person for a gorilla trekking permit in Rwanda.
Best Time for Gorilla Trekking in Virunga National Park.
The best time to go gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park is during the dry seasons which are between June to August and December to February. During this period, it is much easier for trekkers to go hiking in the mountains and in the forests as well. Also, it is during the dry season that the hiking trails in the national park are not so slippery and muddy; thus making trekking for gorillas in the park a lot easier.
What to Pack on a Gorilla Trekking Safari in Virunga National Park.
Visitors going gorilla trekking in Congo’s Virunga National Park should consider bringing the following items with you; Sunscreen, a hat/cap, insect repellent, a face mask, a good pair of hiking shoes, long trousers and long sleeved shirts, a camera, binoculars and a raincoat in case it rains. Don’t forget to carry your gorilla trekking permit on the day you are going to trek gorillas.
Where to stay when doing Gorilla Trekking in Virunga National Park.
In case you are wondering where you can possibly get accommodation while on your gorilla trekking tour in Virunga, do consider the following facilities which offer great lodging services to gorilla trekkers visiting the national park; Bukima Tented Camp, Mikeno Lodge, Tchegera Island Tented Camp, Lulimbi Tented Camp, and Nyiragongo Volcano Summit Shelters to mention but a few.
Getting to Virunga National Park.
Those intending to do gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park can access the national park from Rwanda, arriving at Kigali International Airport and then drive to Gisenyi border and drive to Goma town passing through the Gisenyi-Goma border at Le Grande Barrier.
Alternatively, visitors can fly from Kigali International airport to Goma International Airport using Ethiopian Airlines. It is advisable for travelers to buy an East African Visa at a fee of USD 100 dollars, which will grant you multiple entrances into Rwanda and Congo.
Visitors traveling to trek gorillas in Virunga have an added advantage because one can view as many as 34 gorillas in a single gorilla group, which is not the case for other gorilla families/ groups in Rwanda and Uganda.
Do enjoy trekking gorillas in Virunga National Park in Congo; and don’t forget to do not hesitate to take lots of pictures, to take with you as memories of your gorilla trekking safari in Congo.
Contact us in case you have an inquiry or wish to book a gorilla trekking safari with us.