Gorilla Trekking in Congo
Gorilla Trekking in Congo is one of the top activities that are done in the Democratic Republic Congo as travelers love to head out and explore these Primates. Gorilla trekking is an amazing extraordinary safari activity that is not offered in a limited protected area in the world found in a few locations of Virunga Mountains and Bwindi Impenetrable national park in Uganda. Mountain gorilla trekking in the Democratic Republic of Congo is only done in Virunga national park. Virunga National Park is recorded to be one of the most diverse national parks in sub-Saharan Africa and is the oldest wildlife protected area in Africa. Virunga National park is situated in the Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This beautiful protected area lies in the Albertine rift valley stretching through North of Lake Edward to around mountain Rwenzori. Virunga national park falls under the great Virunga conservation areas which consist of Virunga national park in Congo, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Mgahinga national park in Uganda. These three national parks together with Bwindi impenetrable national park are the only areas where you can find wild mountain gorillas in the world.
To participate in mountain gorilla trekking in Virunga national park you are required to be in possession of a mountain gorilla trekking permit which costs US$ 400 and this gorilla trekking permit is can be purchased on your behalf by your travel agent and it is advisable for you to book your safari months before the actual date of gorilla trekking.
Mountain gorilla trekking safari in Virunga national park takes you through various mountain gorilla groups that harbored in the park, and they are habituated meaning they are comfortable with human presence. These groups include
- Rugendo group; this is one of the first groups to be habituated in Congo and open for trekking in 1989. The group consists of 6 members with 3 silverbacks. This group was named after a dominant silverback Rugendo who is a father to Humba and Mapuwa, unfortunately, he died in 2001.
- Mapuwa group; this group consists of 15 members usually found in Jomba near Bunagana, this group is headed by a dominant silverback Mapuwa who is extremely very protective of his family. Mapuwa is a son to Rugendo and a brother to Humba.
- Humba group; this group has 16 members usually found and trekked in Bukima near the Goma sector, this group is headed by a dominant silverback called Humba where it derives its name. Humba group was formed after he split from his father Rugendo in 1998.
- Lulengo group; this group has 6 members and led by Lulengo the only silverback in the group, this gorilla family was first named from the former technical director of Virunga national park who lost his life to a land mine.it was later name Lulengo from its leader, this group is trekked in jomba near Bunagana.
- Kabirizi group; this group consists of 34 gorilla individuals with two silverbacks under the leadership of a dominant silverback Kabirizi. This group derives its name from an ICCN director who lost his life in a fatal car accident in the 1990s. Kabirizi group is found near Goma area and was formerly known as Ndungutse who was the then leader of the group, unfortunately, he lost his life during a rebel war shooting in the area.
- Munyaga group; this group is a group of 7 mountain gorillas with two silverbacks with a dominant female Bilali, this group is a newly habituated gorilla family situated in Bukima near Goma area.
Rules to be followed before and after gorilla trekking in Congo
While on a mountain gorilla trekking safari, safety for both mountain gorillas and the tourists is a priority. Hence the Wildlife Conservation Body and Institut Congolese pour la Conservation de la Nature drafted rules and regulations to be followed while on a safari. These include
- Only 8 people or less are allowed to participate in the safari because mountain gorillas get bothered by too much congestion.
- On an encounter with the gorillas, you are allowed to spend only one hour with them
- Gorilla trekking starts at 8 am and 7 pm daily not exceeding this time frame.
- Individuals below the age of 15 are allowed to participate in the safari
- Always follow the instructions of the ranger guide
- Always move in a group
- Tourists with illnesses are not allowed to participate in the safari. This is because mountain gorillas share 97% of their DNA with human beings that is why they can contract human diseases like flue and many more
- Littering of rubbish in the park is forbidden when littering a piece of rubbish make sure you keep the rubbish until you return to the starting point.
- Do not mimic any gestures of the mountain gorillas as you do not know what they mean
How to access gorilla trekking in Congo
Virunga national park can be easily accessed from Kigali city at it takes 4-5 hours to reach the Gisenyi border on Rwanda side to Gome in Congo side. Goma town is situated 32 kilometers from the park, however, the park can also be accessed from Kinshasha but only with flights since it’s a 23 hours’ drive to connect to Goma. Flights from Kinshasa to Goma are available and so do flights from Kigali to Goma operated on a daily basis by Ethiopian airways. From Goma town, you connect to Bukima headquarters.
Where to stay during the gorilla trekking safari in Congo
While on a mountain gorilla trekking safari in Virunga national park, accommodation can be got from numerous facilities including Mikeno lodge, Lulimbi tented camp, Tchegera island camp, Kibumba tented camp, and mount Nyiragongo summit shelters Bukima tented camp and many more. For visitors interested in visiting Virunga national park for gorilla trekking, accommodation facilities are included on the Vuringa packages, so accommodation booking in Congo has been simplified as you book a package that includes accommodation. This was introduced given the insecurity faced around the park.
Tips for mountain gorilla trekking in Congo
- Make sure you buy your tickets months before the beginning of the safari
- You will require a visa to enter the Democratic Republic of Congo which costs US$ 100
- Make sure you have an up to date yellow fever card and a passport
- When packing for the safari make sure you have suitable items and equipment for the safari for example hiking shoes, waterproof bag pack, first aid kit, woolen socks and many more.