Mountain Gorilla Trekking- Gorilla Safari Tours
Mountain Gorilla trekking is one of the most tremendous lifetime experience that most travelers to Congo have always included in their bucket list package, because it brings homes the thrilling mortality of spending time amidst apes as well as camping at the edge of an active volcano. Congo gorilla trekking takes place in Virunga National park also known as a UNESCO heritage site, covering an area of 7800km2 and a home to over 200 gorilla individuals.
Mountain Gorilla Facts
These intelligent primates, with whom we share 98% of their DNA are those that belong to one of the Two subspecies of the Eastern gorillas and have been tracked in three East African national parks, which includes; Mgahinga National park in the South West of Uganda,Volcanoes National park in the North Western Rwanda and Virunga National park in the Eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo, not the forgetting the other family at Bwindi National park, whose group description has not yet been finalised by the primatologist since they claim it to be of a different species.
Mountain gorillas were listed as critically endangered primates by the IUCN have been secluded from eastern lowland gorillas for about 400,000 years and both separated from their western counterparts approximately 2 million years ago. They can only be identified by unique nose prints with fur thicker and longer than the other species making it prudent for their habitat.
Virunga National park being the jewel of Congo is situated in the Eastern side of the Democratic Republic of Congo near the southern shores of lake kivu and the Rwandan edge hence forming the Virunga massif with the Rwanda and Uganda. Although it was highly affected by the civil wars and poaching which led to the death of other gorillas, Virunga has today recovered from its dilemma and has now become Africa’s most electrifying mountain gorillas and wildlife destination.
Mountain Gorilla Tracking
Mountain gorillas just like other gorillas have also been sub divided into relational groups/ families with each carrying different attributes such as the silver backs known as the leader or head of the family; developed females who take care of the families; youths also known as juveniles and the young children who are always mischievous and hanging around trees.
Mountain Gorilla Trekking experience in Congo
Gorilla Trekking in the wilderness of Africa while on a Rwanda safari, uganda safari & Congo safari is the best safari experience on a true African Jungles.
The guide at the park will take you through a briefing before heading into the jungle for thelong awaited trek, Who will then cover the geography, history and some of the truths about the gorilla family you will be encountering,as well as offering you guidance on ways to conduct yourself when you are with the gorillas in the forest.
The Gorilla trekking time duration majorly depends on a few factors such as the type of group tracking, the gorilla family, topography, the weather and the assemblage. While on your hike, through the forest as you ascend onto the steep slopes of the volcanoes into the wild, its recommended to steak to the leadership of your tour guide as you draw yourself up the sharp paths by holding onto branches, plant roots, bushes among others.
Water is a must carry because there are high chances of being dehydrated since the trek can be very exhausting and on your encounter with the gorilla family, you will be able to spend a maximum of an hour in their presence before descending to the starting point.
Gorilla Trekking Duration
The most excellent gorilla trekking time is in the dry seasons which includes; December, January, February, June, July, August and December which becomes much easier for the gorillas to feed in the lowlands. Congo is blessed with two seasons experienced twice per each annually. Wet season is composed of both short and long, which starts from October-November and Mid-march to May respectively whilst the dry seasons are always very buzy seasons with the highest number of travelers within the months of December to mid-march, as well as June to September.
Most tourists usually fear the low seasons because of the heavy rains from the tropical rain forest, but this does not mean that one can completely cancle his /her safari to Congo because one can still continue with the trekking activity after the heavy downpour since the sun still appears.
Cost of gorilla permits
Mountain gorillas in Virunga national park can be visited throughout the year although some paths are inadvisable during the rain season but the prices remain the same throughout the whole year.However, it is highly recommended to make early bookings with one of the best local tour operators(most preferred), or directly through Virunga national park.
Congo’s gorilla permits are the cheapest rated at an amount of $400, compared to Rwanda’s $1500 and Uganda’s $600.The costs of the permits is constant for all the three parks and no discounts are availed no matter the season.
Tips for Planning a gorilla Safari to Congo
Virunga National Park is managed by both Congolese National Park and The Congolese pour la conservation de la Nature (ICCN) as well as the Africa Conservation Fund and a bigger appreciation goes to the ranger efforts who have risked their entire lives to save the remaining gorillas.
- Just like Uganda and Rwanda gorilla trek, Congo’s gorilla trekking permit should always be booked/purchased in advance atleast 3-6 months before your trekking date through your tour operator or directly through Virunga national park. A permit goes for US$400, a fee low-priced than that of the other two countries.
- A yellow fever vaccination card, as well as typhoid, meningitis and rabies injections are also a must do, because you wont be able you have access into the country, not forgetting the anti-malarials which may also be require.
- Submission of your visa application details should be sent in advance. The congo visa goes for $100 USD, since it is the only way to access the country.
- You should always endeavor to only pack the trekking gear, such as; trekking shoes, woolly and or the moisture-impermeable socks, comfy mountaineering clothes, rainwater gear, a primary support kit and a light weight backpack with plenty of room for food and drink. A waterproof camera is also very much suggested as nothing wrecks a high-quality camera like the tropical forest’s heavy shower.
Things to note before crossing the Congo border
- Visiting Congo is much complicated for it takes a 10mins walk from the border to Goma and visitors should always take note of the following conditions before crossing
- Always make sure that your paper are arranged so as to entice the the customs and immigration personel.
- Carry a valid Yellow Fever vaccinations.
- Checkout for the state’s travel counsel and the tour information before going deciding for a Congo trip with the visa being applied for in advance.
- Traveling over the rough and bumpy roads may be quite hectic hence a 4WD vehicle is recommended. It is imprudent to travel these routes in the night.
It always takes 4 hrs from Kigali to Goma and the Intercontinental flights usually arrive in the late afternoons or evenings, therefore visitors are recommended to fly to Kigali at which they will spend a night and travel to Goma on the next day since the border does not work 24/7.
Virunga can be accessed through different different routes according to the visitors choice since most visitors come from either Uganda or Rwanda and the main transport system is by road as it requires 4WD fleet making it possible for a thrilling gorilla adventure.
Visitors to Virunga National Park who prefer flights set ground at the Goma International Airport. Goma has operated as the main airport for several years now in the Eastern Congo, but still some people would rather wish to land in the less jam-packed Kigali airport in the land of a thousand hills. The Goma Airport also offers a number of worldwide flights, such as
- Ethiopian Airlines.
- Swiss Airlines
- Air France/li>
- Turkish Airlines
- Brussels Airlines
- Kenyan Airways
Goma the capital of North kivu region is situated 32km east of Virung national apark.the transportation to the park can with no doubt be arranged by Virunga national park but the easier way is to operate with one of the tour operators who currently offer mountain gorilla safaris in Congo.The park can easily be accessed by through the following routes
From the Rwandan side, it takes a 4hrs drive from Kigali international airport to Gisenyi near goma and another 1 and ½ hours to the park headquartes after journeying the two borders.
Linking to Virunga national park from Uganda is too tiresome because it will demand for an overnight stay in Kisoro, then at wee hours of the next day, a drive will be required to cross through the Bunagana border to Bukima but there are less chances of tracking gorillas on the same date
The visitors can also use an alternative from Bukavu to Virunga national Park.This way connects to Kivu town, and takes over 5 hours of driving which is very unsafe and is not agood option but the outstanding scenery and the presence of the lake will give you a spectacular view.
For visitors who have been staying in Bukavu and would wish to cover Virunga national park as an extension for their trip, there is always are always ferries from Bukavu to Goma through the Idjwi island on lake Kivu.This ride always takes 3 hours for speed boats or 4-5hrs for the public boats after which you will require a 4WD or a jeep to the park. NB.Most travelers prefer the speed boat than the public boat although its costly usually $400 compared to that of public which costs $300 simply because it is Flexible, speedy and non scheduled while the public takes the opposite.