Trekking gorillas in the Congo
Trekking gorillas in the Congo is one of the most sold activities in the Democratic republic of Congo. The Democratic republic of Congo is the only country where you can visit two different gorilla species that is the mountain gorillas and the lowland gorillas. The mountain gorillas of DR Congo can be visited in the Virunga national park while the eastern lowland gorillas may exist in the Virunga national park as well but can only be visited in the Kahuzi Biega national park.
The Kahuzi Biega national park is a national park as was designated as one in 1980 as a UNESCO World heritage site. This national park is located in the southern part of the DR Congo near the Bukavu town. The Bukavu town is a 10 minute drive from the Rwanda-DR Congo border in the south called the Rusizi border which guests may use to connect into the country to the Kahuzi Biega national park. The Kahuzi Biega national park was protected majorly because of the rain forest and the presence of the lowland gorillas.
How to get to Kahuzi Biega national park? Guests of the Kahuzi Biega national park can fly into Rwanda at the Kigali International airport and drive for about six hours to the Rusizi border. If one is already in the country, then they can connect to the Kahuzi Biega national park via the Lake Kivu from Butembo port on a speed boat for 3 hours. This means a visit to the Kahuzi Biega national park for lowland gorilla trekking is possible with a visit to the Virunga national park after trekking the mountain gorillas.
The Virunga National Park is a home to a few of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas and this is also a UNESCO World heritage site sitted on an area of about 7,800 square kilometers. This park has an estimated number of about 200 mountain gorillas whose numbers are ever increasing with the new births happening often. The mountain gorillas can only be visited in the Virunga national park of DR Congo, Volcanoes National park of Rwanda, the Mgahinga gorilla national park and the Bwindi Impenetrable forest national park of Uganda in the whole world.
How to get to the Virunga national park? The Virunga national park is a very accessible national park as it is close to both airports. You may opt to fly direct into the Democratic Republic of Congo at the Goma airport and drive 10 minutes to the Grande Barrier border building where the Virunga tourism office is located. You may opt to fly into the Rwanda’s Kigali International airport and drive about 5 hours west of the country to cross into the DR Congo.
Every trekker headed to the Virunga national park, will be expected to check in at the Grande Barrier border building to receive their hike permits from the Virunga tourism office and join the security convoy headed to the park with the rest of the day’s visitors.
Opting to trek mountain gorillas in Virunga national park comes with some guidelines that you will be expected to follow before you head to the park, while in the park and as you exit the park. Firstly is an age restriction where individuals are expected to be 15 years and above.
To qualify for a mountain gorilla trekking permit in all the destinations of DR Congo, Uganda and Rwanda, you will have to be 15 years and above however some of these destinations may give you an option of an indemnity form. You will also be a maximum of 8 individuals accepted to trek a specific gorilla family but luckily there are up to 10 gorilla families in Virunga that you may visit.
Mountain gorilla trekking in the Virunga national park starts at 7:00 am with a briefing and ends by lunch time usually and you are allowed only an hour in the presence of the mountain gorillas as they go about their day. You can take as many photos and videos in this hour however ensure to take non flash photos and you will be required to keep a 7 meter distance away from the gorillas.
Guests will not be expected to touch, feed or harass these gentle giants also in case of a cold, you will be expected to turn away from the gorillas when sneezing and wear a mask at all times. You will also not be expected to smoke or snack as you trek. You will have a break and that is when you can snack and this is to avoid littering. While in the forest, please remember these are wild animals so you will be expected to follow the guidelines given by the rangers and to keep calm at all times.
A mountain gorilla permit in Virunga national park costs 400 USD while the other destinations of Rwanda sell the mountain gorilla permit at 1,500 USD and the one of Uganda is 600 USD. A lowland gorilla permit in Kahuzi Biega is also at 400 USD per permit and the best time to visit the mountain gorillas is in the drier seasons as it is easier to trek and these are the months of January to March, June to September and later in December. The Virunga is located in a rain forest so expect a rain shower anytime even in the dry months.
We look forward to hearing from you to plan for you your gorilla trek to any of the above mentioned destinations. Take a look at some of our safari packages and choose one.