Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Congo
Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Congo is one of the top tourist activities that travelers would love to engage in worldwide when they travel on their Congo Safari Tours. Most visitors flock Africa time after time to trek the Gorillas and the most species they are interested in is the Mountain Gorillas which are only found in four parks in Africa two in Uganda, one in Rwanda and the last one in Congo hence mountain gorilla trekking is carried out in Virunga National Park situated in the eastern part of Congo which is a home to over 250 habituated Mountain Gorillas with 8 families’ thus providing 64 permits per day for 8 people per gorilla family making it the best destination for Mountain Gorilla trekking in Congo.
Virunga National Park harbors almost a quarter of the mountain gorillas that still exist in the wild today covering a landscape of 7800km2 and was established in 1925 then later became a UNESCO world heritage site by ICCN world heritage site to protect the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat that were at an extinct rate and this is the only park where mountain gorilla tours are carried out.
Virunga National Park is the oldest park in Africa bordering with Volcanoes National park in Rwanda and Mgahinga national park in Uganda both known for harboring the endangered mountain gorillas. A Congo tour to trek mountain gorillas can be combined with a hike to Mount Nyiragongo which is also termed as a world heritage thus Combining mountain Gorilla trekking in Congo in Virunga with mount Nyiragongo hike offers a maximum exploration this park
Virunga National Park is also part of Virunga Conservation Area (VCA) shared amongst three countries of Congo, Uganda which has only one habituated Nyakagezi gorilla family in Mgahinga national park and Rwanda in Volcanoes national park which is the second-best destination for mountain Gorillas trekking after Uganda which harbors almost a half of Mountain Gorillas that exist in the world today found in Uganda’s favorite Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga national park.
Previously, mountain Gorilla trekking in Congo was less conducted by visitors due to the insecurities that existed in Congo including the civil wars, political insecurities, epidemic and diseases such as deadly Ebola and many other factors.
However, the government of Congo together with other organizations put in place several safety measures thus creating a safe environment for all visitors on a Gorilla tour and other Congo tours.
Virunga national park is situated in the eastern part of Congo. However, most of Congo tours start from Rwanda and Uganda then cross the border into Congo
How best can I organize my mountain gorilla trekking in Congo?
Well, to enjoy your mountain Gorilla Tour in Congo at ease, one needs to get in touch with a registered Tour operator such as Achieve Global Safaris which will help you in organizing the entire tour to Congo including purchase of the Gorilla permit, accommodation reservations, transportations to and from the airport to the lodge and the meals plus other things which are always included on the itinerary
How much is a mountain Gorilla trekking permit in Congo?
A gorilla trekking permit in Congo costs $400 per permit booked directly from Virunga National park head office which is the lowest gorilla trekking permit as compared to Uganda’s permit which costs $600 and Rwanda’s permit at $1500 which is the most expensive gorilla permit amongst the 4 mountain gorilla trekking destinations equivalent to the habituation permit in Bwindi Impenetrable park in Uganda. In order to trek gorillas in Congo, one needs to book a trekking permit in time
A gorilla trekking permit Guarantees only one hour in presence of the gorillas in their natural habitat after trekking through the thick blush for almost 2-6 hours depending on the movement of the particular gorilla family. This gorilla permit is issued out once and it’s not renewable once trekking is done. In case, a person misses out to trek due to personal issues, then the gorilla permit fee won’t be refundable
What to know and pack for a mountain Gorilla trekking tour in Congo
First and for most, a trekking permit should not be forgotten since you won’t be allowed to trek without a permit and in case you have a heavy backpack, get ready to hire a potter to assist in carrying the language while trekking
Also, every visitor on a gorilla tour must expect trekking through thick blush with some thorny plants, itching plants, insects, and other mammals and sometimes involves hiking as Mountain Gorillas prefer to stay on raised land scape, one needs a hiking stick which is always provided at the offices before the trekking starts, good waterproof hiking boots, insect repellant to avoid insect bites, sunglasses to protect the eyes from direct sunlight, a nose mask, hand gloves, a raincoat since in the rain forests it can rain at any time, long sleeved attire all shouldn’t miss out in the backpack. Enough drinking water and snacks should never be forgotten since nobody is sure of how long the trail can take before encountering the gorillas
The minimum age for gorilla trekking is 15 years thus children below 15 years are of age are not allowed to trek gorillas and the maximum number of 8 people is allowed to trek a particular habituated gorilla family per day meaning only 8 permits are available for every gorilla family a day
Visitors also need to know that Virunga national park is managed by both Congolese National Parks Authority, the ICCN (Institute of Congolese and Conservation of Nature) and the Africa Conservation Fund all working together to retain the endangered mountain gorillas in the wild. This came up as a result of the recent murder of over 10 mountain gorillas that left the park at an extinction tragedy thus the above organization work hand in hand to make sure that the population of the mountain gorilla in Congo increase again and create a better environment for the trekkers while in Congo
Trekkers are encouraged to hire potters at the office before commencing the trekking tour. These potters help in carrying the excess luggage and the backpack at an added cost
How best can one plan for mountain gorilla trekking in Congo?
If you are planning to enjoy your gorilla trekking tour in Congo specifically in Virunga National Park, then there are a whole lot of things you need to know;
First and foremost, a Gorilla permit should not miss out since it’s the only gate pass to access the mountain gorillas and this can be booked directly from the Virunga National park online at a cost of $400 per person which is the cheapest permit as compared to a Ugandan permit that goes for $600 and a Rwandan permit at $1500 and this guarantees only one hour in presence of mountain gorillas intimately learning about their habits including feeding , breastfeeding, copulating and much more while taking as much photographs as you can but remember never to use a flashlight during the photo-taking.
Getting vaccinated against yellow fever is just as you will never be allowed to enter into Congo minus the proof of vaccination and even to obtain the Visa, a yellow book must be presented
A VISA is also very important when one is planning any Congo tour and this has been applied online at least 48 hours plier to the visit then will be picked from the Immigration office in Congo upon arrival. This Visa goes for $100 per visa per person
Like any other trek in the wild, expect a lot of harsh plant species, some difficult trails and terrains thus recommending the visitors on a Congo tour especially for gorilla trekking to pack good waterproof hiking boots, long-sleeved attire, sunglasses, sunscreen lotion, hand gloves, and of course a camera should never miss in any visitors backpack to capture the mesmerizing moments in the wild with the mountain gorillas.
Pack enough snacks to munch during the trek. However, you need to follow all the trekking rules including “No eating, drinking or smoking in presence of Mountain Gorillas”
How best can one access Virunga National park in Congo
Virunga national park can be accessed either by road, by air, or by water depending on the visitors’ interest.
- By air: Visitors who come by air land at Goma International Airport in the eastern part of Congo which has been operating for over 10 years offering several worldwide flights. The most common flights include Ethiopian Airlines, Swiss Airlines, Air France, Kenyan Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Brussels Airlines among others.
- By road: Visitors can land in Kigali international airport then take a drive for around 4 hours to reach the border and cross to Gisenyi which is close to Goma town. However, if the arrival in Kigali is late in the evening, visitors have to book a lodge for an overnight in Kigali and cross to Goma the following day. From Uganda, visitors will land in Entebbe international airport and take a drive to western Uganda in Kisoro district probably have an overnight in Kisoro and cross the following morning via the Bunagana border and drive for less than an hour to Bukima which is the starting point for the mountain gorillas. This means that a visitor can drive from Kisoro, do the trekking in Virunga and return to Uganda
- By Water transport: This is mainly used by the visitors who are already in DRC especially in Bukavu. They have to use the ferry crossing from Bukavu to Goma via the island on Lake Kivu then to Virunga national park. This ferry takes about 3 hours while the public boat takes around 4-5hours to reach Goma and then drive to the park headquarters.
What else should I expect to see alongside mountain gorilla trekking in Congo?
The major activity to visit Virunga national park is to enjoy mountain gorilla trekking in Congo however, there are several other forest dwellers which are very attractive to view ranging from beautiful tree species, primates including several troops of monkeys as they swing in the tree branches and chimpanzees, other mammals, bird species including Ruwenzori turaco, grey throated barbet, African fish Eagle among others, plenty species of butterflies and insects
Best season for mountain gorilla trekking in Congo
The best season to visit Virunga in Congo for gorilla trekking is the dry months of June, July, August, September, and December to February. However, December is the busiest month known as the peak season and the park is really full. This means that visitors interested in trekking gorillas and hiking mount Nyiragongo in December need to obtain their permits quite early to avoid disappointments of missing out a golden opportunity to trek mountain gorillas at the last moment.
Congo also comprises two rainy seasons of which one rainy season lasts from October to November and is the shortest rainy season. The second rainy season runs from March to May. During these two rainy seasons, normally known as the low seasons a permit goes as low as $200 which is a half of the actual price during the peak season though the parks tend to be in very bad conditions with terrains making trekking a little bit difficult as compared to the dry months.
Where to stay during the gorilla tour in Virunga national park
There are several accommodations in close vicinity with Virunga national park and the surrounding areas of Lake Kivu and Goma town. These accommodations range from budget, midrange and luxury lodges which all offer the best services to meet the visitor’s expectations. These lodges include; Mikeno lodge, Bukima lodge, Kibumba lodge, Lac Kivu lodge, Ihusi Lodge, among others.
Important to Note
- Visitors who book their accommodation at Mikeno lodge have a chance to visit Senkwenkwe orphanage for baby Gorillas with an opportunity to feed and play with the baby gorillas every Wednesday and Friday. However, visitors staying in other accommodations have to pay in order to visit the orphanage
- All visitors entering Congo as a tourist are protected with a convoy from the day of arrival till they exit the park ensuring maximum comfort at all the time.
- It’s always the best thing to arrive in either Rwanda or Uganda and then cross to Congo on the exact day of the activity.