Mountain Gorilla trekking is regarded internationally as Africa’s adventure highlight, this wildlife activity is among the most popular on African continent and can be done in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the remote Virunga National park. The DRC is arguably Africa’s best place to track gorillas, as it’s the only place in the world where one can find both mountain and lowland gorillas in two neighboring forest.

The endangered Mountain gorillas have just been script off “the critically endangered species list”, due to now their slowly increasing population – thanks to the ongoing conservation efforts. However, these attract more visitors due to the fact that they can only be seen in the wild – their natural habitat. Note that, the rare Mountain gorillas can as well be spotted in the neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. The DR Congo’s Virunga National Park home to these rare primates, is Africa’s oldest national park and arguably the most scenic.

Guests from around the world visit Virunga National Park not only to see the rare mountain gorillas but to witness its natural beauty as well as hike the Nyiragongo active volcano, track the endangered Golden Monkeys and more. Virunga National Park sits along the border with Rwanda and Uganda. Adventure enthusiasts can visit this Gorilla hub region for the best ever nature and wildlife experience. In our discussion today, we look at all you need to know about Congo Gorilla tours to the scenic Virunga National Park: 

Getting to Virunga National park

The Goma town is 32 km away and is the closest town to the park. The town can be accessed from both Rwanda and Uganda as well because the park is bordering with these two countries. Uganda Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines have a direct flight to Goma town each week, at Goma Airport you can meet your driver guide or hire a shuttle or Airport taxi to take you to the park. However, many travelers find it more convenient to fly into Kigali – Rwanda and then drive four and half hours to Goma through the Congo – Rwanda border. One can as well cross to Congo from Uganda through Bunagana border in Kisoro district.

Mountain gorilla trekking is done early in the morning, one needs to be at the park station before 8 am. The day starts with a briefing about gorilla trekking etiquette, then be assigned a family to trek, then with packed lunch and with company of armed rangers enter the rain forest to search for your gorilla family. Virunga National park has a total of 8 habituated gorilla families and only 8 tourists may track one gorilla family a day. Gorilla permits for Virunga National park need to be booked in advance through your tour company to secure your tracking on the preferred dates before you show up for the gorilla trekking safari.

A certain level of physical fitness is required

The gorilla trek in Virunga National Park can often be strenuous, subject to gorilla family assigned, the trek could prove very demanding. Some gorilla family groups in this park live in sections where the terrain is relatively irregular especially during rainy seasons. So a level physical fitness is required to climb steep slopes at times. However, one can hire a porter or two to carry your backpack, help you pull or push along the muddy trails at times. During gorilla trek, it’s vital to at all time to follow the Ranger’s instructions. While in the presence of Mount gorillas, avoid things like feeding the gorillas, making loud noises, or making sudden movements. Maintain a 7 meter distance. You cannot participate in the gorilla trek if you have a communicable disease like flu, cough or cold and avoid making fun of these gentle and amazing creatures.

Gorilla trekking adventure is expensive

Gorilla trekking is an expensive activity, this arise from its need to be conserved as just two decades ago, mountain gorillas were on verge of extinction and listed by IUCN as critically endangered species. Today, with a big percentage of the revenues collected from tourism, are being allocated in conservation efforts. Trekking Permits are made few and scarce as the government of DRC does not want to crowd the park. The aim is to conserve the rich biodiversity park and communities around.

Gorilla permit is paramount

If one is looking to go gorilla trekking in DR. Congo, first thing is to book a gorilla trekking permit well enough in advance. Only 8 gorilla habituated groups are available for tracking each day and only 8 trekkers are allowed to trek a single family each day. This means, permits are scarce even if you are planning on trekking many months ahead. Through a travel agency or directly with the Virunga Conservation Office, one can buy and secure his/her permit at least three months before the trekking date. Gorilla trekking permits in DR. Congo cost 400 US Dollars. Trekkers must be 15year and above to enter the jungle park.

Best time to Go Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park

The best months of the year to go gorilla trekking are; December to March and June to September. These are the longer dry months and usually sunny. The temperatures can reach up to 30 degrees Celsius. Much as the trek can be done any time of the year, the months of April may, then part of October and November are usually rainy which can make the terrain muddy and slippery. Therefore, tourists tend to avoid traveling during the wet seasons.

What to Pack for a gorilla trek

For a successful gorilla trekking experience, there are a few essentials you need to carry with you before leaving home like light hiking shoes, rain Jacket, pair of trousers, Long sleeved shirts, long stockings, gloves, mosquito repellent to do away with ants and mosquitoes, Binoculars in a must, Good lance Camera for good memories, wear sun screen and a face mask its covid19 era remember gorillas share 98% human genes so can easily contract communicable diseases yet don’t have strong immune system like humans so a common cold can easily kill them all.

During the trek, energy bars, at least 2 liters of water because you don’t want to be dehydrated, so make sure you drink water all the time. Packed lunch, a hut, you will have to carry all on your back. So make sure your backpack is a light one and not a liability. What to pack is very important because it will determine the quality of the whole trek. hiring a porter for your trek is highly recommended because he/she will not only help you carry your backpack but will help push and pull where the going becomes tough, can charge you around US$15 only and this goes direct in his/her pocked.

Gorilla trekking etiquette

To visit Mount gorillas in Virunga, one needs to be reasonably in good health conditions. If you have the slightest doubt about your health please do not visit the park. Anyone with the flu or other contagious disease can infect the gorillas. These animals are very sensitive to human disease and because of their diet their immune system is weak. To prevent this situation, you can communicate to the park authorities in case you develop any disease before your trek.

Visitors are asked to maintain a social distance of about 7 meters between them and the gorillas. While on a trek please keep in the group to avoid getting lost as there are identified trail paths to follow. If one wants to pea, please inform the head ranger guide to direct you where to dispose off and if it’s a long pea, then they’ll dig you a 30cm hole in the forest ease yourself of which it properly covered after.

Avoid sudden and fast movements as these animals may feel threatened by you and will try to defend each other when they charge.

Trekking mountain gorillas in Africa’s oldest park is a life-changing experience and the only way to help this endangered species survive. Your wildlife tour to Virunga National Park is one way or the other your effort to conserve the amazing mountain gorillas. You can visit these animals and learn about their lifestyle and eating habits and see how they carry on their daily activities. Enjoy the surrounded beautiful scenery, other primates, mammals and colorful birds.

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