First Time Gorilla Trekking in Congo

First Time Gorilla Trekking in Congo: Few wildlife encounters compare to sitting with endangered gorillas in their native environment and witnessing our ancient cousins’ intriguing family dynamics. Gorilla trekking in the Democratic Republic of Congo immerses you in a lush rainforest environment where gorillas coexist with forest elephants, buffalos, and hundreds of bird species.

Conflict and illness have significantly decreased gorilla numbers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and tourism is an essential component of massive conservation efforts to safeguard those that remain – while also benefiting local communities. A gorilla trek is a powerful and humbling experience that is enhanced by the knowledge that your journey is directly helping to their survival.

Which of the Gorilla Species can you see in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to three gorilla species: western lowland, eastern lowland, and mountain gorillas, the latter two of which may be monitored in eastern DR Congo.

Mountain Gorillas in Virunga National Park

The most often sought after gorilla species are mountain gorillas. They dwell on the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes, which mark the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Rwanda and Uganda.

Mountain gorillas are a conservation success story, with populations expanding from 620 in 1989 to just over 1,000 in 2018. Because of efforts in raising the mountain gorilla population, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) classed them as endangered (from critically endangered) in November 2018. They like to live on the ground, which allows for some close interactions as they graze, relax, and play in the forest.

Eastern Lowland Gorillas in Kahuzi Biega National Park.

Eastern gorillas live in the woodlands and swampland to the west of the Virunga Volcanoes. Males of the largest of the four gorilla species, sometimes known as Grauer’s gorilla, can grow to be 1.85m tall (almost six feet).

They spend more time in trees than their mountain counterparts, making observation easier provided they are not too far from the ground; yet, they will forage high in the canopy on occasion.
Because of the ongoing unrest in eastern DRC, counting and researching eastern lowland gorillas is extremely difficult. Their population was estimated to be 17,000 in the mid-1990s; current estimates predict that just a quarter to half of them remain in these forests. The eastern lowland gorilla is critically endangered because of the threats it faces.

Track Western Lowland Gorillas in Maiko National Park.

Western lowland gorillas are the most populous gorilla species, however they are only located in the DRC’s far west, near the Atlantic coast. They can also be found in other nations, including the Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and Gabon. The Western lowland gorilla population is in serious condition with less than 1000 individuals left in the wild.

Western lowland gorilla families have sought safety deep within the Congo’s jungles and marshes, and tracking them down is quite an adventure, since they are known to wander long miles during the day before settling down to feed.

First Time Gorilla Trekking in Congo
Track Western Lowland Gorillas in Maiko National Park.

Encounters with western lowland gorillas are elusive and unusual, and you will be amazed by the parallels between humans and apes, which share more than 90% of our genetic code.

What to expect during gorilla trekking in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

For a glimpse of the western lowland gorillas, you must go through rivers, tall grasses, rainforest, and marshy terrain – one of the most adventurous excursions on the African continent. You are no longer merely a spectator of nature, but an active participant in it. Listening to the crunching sounds of your exploring feet, inhaling the seductive scent of the forest, and marveling at breathtaking vistas.

A decent trip may last anywhere from one to five hours, depending on where the families are located, and it is preferable to wear the most comfortable shoes. You will be accompanied by a professional guide and experienced tracker who will keep you engaged with their enthusiasm and knowledge throughout the journey.

You will gain intriguing insights into the lives of these wonderful species, as well as more intricate data about the topography and vegetation, insect life, and unusual fruits. Other animals you may encounter are forest elephants, chimps, and mangabeys (forest monkeys).

What to expect when you are amidst gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

After hiking over the landscape and seeing a family of gorillas, you will don a mask to reduce the danger of sharing infections. Gorillas are not immune to many human illnesses, but they are just as prone to illness as we are, and it may be fatal for them. This is also why, while approaching them, you must maintain a respectful distance of seven meters (23 feet).
You will spend up to an hour with the western lowland gorillas, and in order to make them feel comfortable, your movements will be cautious, slow, and quiet, with no flash photography and your hands to yourself.

Although interacting with wild animals entails some risk, your guide and tracker will never put you in danger, and they are well-versed in how to make the experience as gratifying as possible. It will be a soul-stirring hour of observation that will send the spirit of Africa rushing through your blood.

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