Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park
Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park: Mountain Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park is one the top tourist activity that is enjoyed while on a Congo safari. Currently, virunga national park harbors over 300 mountain gorillas with the rest of the population thrilling in Bwindi impenetrable national park a home to the largest population of these gorilla species where almost more than 50% are found in the impenetrable forest of Bwindi. Other gorilla are found in Mgahinga gorilla national park also found in Uganda and Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. Of the 300 gorillas in Virunga national park, 8 gorilla families have been habituated and available for trekking at any given period of time. Virunga national park is located in eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo and was gazette in the year 1925 making it the oldest park in Africa continent.
The habituated gorilla families in Virunga national park include;
The above 8 gorilla families are available for trekking on a daily basis since they have been habituated and used to humans. Since there are only 8 groups for trekking, this implies that only 64 trekkers are allowed to engage in Gorilla trekking safari in Virunga national park per day grouped into a maximum group of 8 persons per gorilla family.
Procedure for Gorilla Trekking in Virunga National Park
Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park just like any other park starts very early with briefing at the trail head situated at Bukima police patrol where trekkers meet with the rangers that take them through a session of briefing about gorillas, the dos and dont’s during gorilla trekking, the possible encounters during gorilla trekking and many more.
After briefing, trekkers are well grouped into different groups of maximum 8 people which is the maximum number of trekkers allowed to trek a particular gorilla family. At this point, trekkers are able to hire porters and make special requests for instance, if there is a particular family one wishes to trek, they have to raise the concern during briefing.
After all, trekkers are led into the forest to start the forest walk in search of gorilla families that have been habituated and ready for trekking. No one knows the time one will spend in the forest searching for the gorillas since they are found of roaming the forest in search of food but don’t worry as you got a lot to view while in forest such as other primates, mammals, birds, butterflies and plant species among others.
Well, upon finding these gorillas, you have just 1 hour in their presence taking photographs, recording short videos and closely interacting with the gorillas and finally exit the forest and be returned to your lodge.
Note: while trekking gorillas, endeavor to fallow all the rules and regulations as advised by the rangers.
How much is Gorilla Trekking in Virunga National Park?
A Gorilla trekking permit in Virunga national park as of 2021 costs $400 per person during low season and guess what? In low season the price is as low as a half implying that one can enjoy gorilla trekking in Virunga national park at a lowest price of $200 per person in low season which is the cheapest permit ever as compared to Uganda whose permits cost $700 per person to enjoy gorilla trekking in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park and Rwanda at $1500 per person to trek gorillas in Volcanoes national park which is equivalent to the cost of Gorilla Habituation Experience in Uganda’s Bwindi impenetrable national park that as well goes for $1500 per person allowing 4 hours in presence of gorillas unlike gorilla trekking that allows only 1 hour with Gorillas.
When to visit Virunga National Park for Gorilla Trekking safari
Any time, any day one can enjoy a breathtaking gorilla trekking safari in Virunga national park but usually the dry months are the most favorable choices for this adventure as the trails be easily passable and the vegetation is minimal for easy viewing of Gorillas in their natural habitats. However, if you are looking at the cost, then low season is the best as the price of trekking gorillas goes to a half of the normal price making it the cheapest offer. Though be ready to slide in mud as the trails become slippery during rain seasons.
Whichever time you choose, you will enjoy your 1 hour of encounter with the gorillas in their habitat. But dry months remain the best choice for gorilla trekking safari.
Packing list for gorilla trekking Virunga National Park include;
- Water proof hiking boats
- Long sleeved attire
- A pair of long trouser
- Garden gloves
- A rain jacket
- Insect repellant
- A cap
- Sun glasses
- Sun screen
- A camera
- A pair of Binoculars (for birders)
- A hiking stick (can be provided at the park)
- Snacks and enough drinking water
Where to stay during Gorilla Trekking in Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park offers accommodations for both budget, midrange and luxury tourists. Thus during your gorilla trekking adventure in this park, you have an opportunity to make a choice of which accommodation to stay. Some of these accommodations include; Mikeno lodge, Bukima tented Camp, Kibumba tented camp, Tchegera Island Tented Camp, and many more that suit the budget of all travelers.
Getting to Virunga National Park,
Virunga national park is reached either by road or by air.
By road, there are 2 options of getting to Virunga national park by road. One of the options is by driving from Goma which takes less than an hour to get to the park and most of the safaris start from this point. Alternatively, one lands at Kigali international airport then drives to Virunga national park which is about 4-5 hours’ drive via Gisenyi.
By air, one may choose to take a flight from Kigali to Goma airport in Democratic Republic of Congo then connect to the park.