Travel

Visiting the Endangered Gorillas of Congo

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

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Democratic Republic of Congo is situated in central sub Saharan Africa and it is surrounded by countries like Angola, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the renowned African countries specifically as a hotspot to world’s biodiversity. Mostly importantly, it offers refuge to Africa’s most active volcano-Nyiragongo Volcano, the rare mountain gorillas and the Eastern Lowland gorillas.

With several attractions and activities that are unexploited in DRC, visitors have a wide choice of exciting experiences to pursue. Most visitors to DRC come to engage in gorilla safaris and volcano hiking. Visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the life changing experiences ever!

Where to go for gorilla trekking and volcano hiking

If you are interested in gorilla trekking or hiking safaris to DRC, visit the Virunga National Park for mountain gorillas and for volcano climbing or hiking experiences. The Kahuzi Biega National Park inhabits the Eastern Lowland gorillas.

The DRC is credited for 200 rare mountain gorillas that are inhabited in the Virunga National Park out of about 900 that still live on earth.

The Virunga national park being a home to these spectacular primates, visitors go to track them in one of the eight habituated gorilla groups while visitors who are interested in tracking the Eastern Lowland gorillas can visit any of the four habituated gorilla groups in Kahuzi Biega National Park.

The Virunga national park is a UNESCO heritage site in Congo that extends about 7800 square kilometers from the Virunga Mountains in the south, to the Rwenzori Mountains in the North, in the Eastern DRC bordering the Volcanoes national park in the Rwanda and Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda.

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Kahuzi Biega National Park on the other hand lies next to Bukavu Town, Eastern DRC, in the western bank of Lake Kivu and Rwanda border.

Accessing DRC for gorilla trekking:

Travelers can reach to the Virunga national park both on road and by air. If you are in Kigali International Airport, you can spend about three hours plus in a taxi ride to the border crossing at Gisenyi/Goma town in Rwanda.

For international flights, they normally land in a bit late and in most cases visitors are advised to spend a night in Kigali and then set off early in the morning the following day.

Some of the airlines for you to use include the Ethiopian Airlines and some of other domestic airlines that fly into Goma airport.

Getting a visa

For interested travelers to gorilla safaris and Nyiragongo hikes in the Virunga national park, they can access their visas by simply visiting visitvirunga.org.

Travelers are required to have their booking numbers to apply for visitors like single entry visas and this can cost about $105. The process takes about seven working days and then you get your scanned file of a fax copy from Kinshasa.

Money exchange:

You will also need changed money to be able to use while in your safari to Congo. At Border crossing around Goma or Gisenyi/Rubavu, you can change your money prior crossing the borders. There is a forex bureau around North of the immigration post on the Rwanda side.

Where to spend a night in DRC:

During your gorilla safari or hiking trip to DRC, there are several accommodation facilities for you to choose to spend a night from. Some of them include the Lake/Lac Kivu Lodge, Mikeno Lodge, Bukima tented camp, Nyiragongo volcano summit shelters, Lulimbi tented camp and Tchegera island camp; most these are found within the Virunga national park while in the Kahuzi Biega national park, you can stay in L’Orchids safari club, Coco Lodge, Exodus Bukavu budget among others.

Gorilla permits

Like any country where gorilla trekking occurs, a gorilla permit is the main requirement. Whereas other destinations offer a bit expensive permits, DRC on the other hand provides visitors the opportunity to track the gorillas with relatively affordable prices. The cost for gorilla permits includes the Kahuzi Biega National Park cost $450 per visitor.

What to carry for the trek:

In your packing list, you need a bottle of water, walking stick but this can be got at the park headquarters, waterproof bag, rain jackets, a good camera, insect repellents, long sleeved shirts or T-shirts, bays and gloves, hats, sunscreen and others.

Best time to go for gorilla trekking

There are two seasons that are experienced in DRC, the wet season occurs around March to April and October to November. In most cases, trekking gorillas during this period is a bit hard as the terrains tend to be muddy.

Visiting DRC for gorilla safaris is ideal during the dry season that occurs in the month of June to September and December to February. During this period, the area can be sunny and drier and hiking is a bit simpler in the Virunga national park.

December is peak season for gorilla trekking in DRC and visitors are encouraged to book for their permits in advance.

Safety and security:

As you plan for your safari to DRC for gorilla trekking or hiking experience, it is important that you understand the current security situation of the country before.

The security in DRC is still unstable especially in areas like Ituri, North and South Kivu, Haut Lomami, Kasai, Kasai central, Kasai oriental, Maniema and Tanganyika areas to the west and east of Kananga as well as Tshikapa and Mwene-Ditu (The Foreign and Common Wealth Office FCO).

Despite the advice against all travel, essential travel to the towns of Goma and Bukavu and district of N’djili and Kimbanseke in Kinshasa is a bit safe for visitors.

Pertaining cross border security in the DRC, the security divisions and Virunga national park management is available to protect and offer information regarding safety and unsafe areas and travelers are always encouraged to have updated information prior making their a safari.

You can also visit the British Embassy or visit the official website of the Virunga National Park for more updates.

The rules and regulations:

Like any destination, tracking gorillas in DRC also has its strict rules and regulations.

They include gorilla group size which is strictly 8 visitors per gorilla group, only persons above 15 years, visitors are allowed to spend only one hour with the gorillas while maintaining a distance of about 5 to 7 meters and other related rules and regulations for gorilla trekking in other destinations.

In conclusion, gorilla trekking is the most strenuous experience that requires travelers to be physically fit in order to hike.

DRC doesn’t offer visitors only mountain gorillas but also Eastern Lowland gorillas and hiking experiences in Nyiragongo volcano.

Come and explore the natural wonders of the Virunga and Kahuzi national park in DRC and you won’t regret in life.

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