Gorilla Trekking in Congo
Gorilla trekking in Congo is done in Virunga National Park for mountain gorilla trekking and Kahuzi Beiga National Park for the eastern low land gorilla trekking. Virunga National Park is part of the 8 volcanoes that make up the virunga massif which cut across Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Virunga National park has 250 mountain gorillas that are habituated into eight families that are trekked for the whole year in the southern part of the park. The park is a UNESCO heritage site and covers an area of 7800 sq km close to Lake Kivu.
Kahuzi Beiga National Park is a UNESCO heritage site, one the biggest park in DRC and home to the endangered eastern low land gorillas; situated close to the western bank of Lake Kivu, the park is named after two dormant volcanoes Kahuzi and Beiga that are within the park hence the name Kahuzi Beiga. The number of eastern lowland gorillas in the park is estimated to be 4000 individuals or less and about 10 families have been habituated for trekking by tourists.
Both these parks are in the eastern part of DRC that borders Uganda and Rwanda and Lake Kivu. The parks are about 270 kms apart and on your safari you can do trek for mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park on one day and transfer to trek in Kahuzi Beiga for the lowland gorillas.
Like in Uganda and Rwanda, for gorilla trekking in Congo, you need a permit for you to be able to trek, trekking permits in DRC cost 400 USD for Mountain gorilla trekking as well as Eastern lowland gorilla.
With the gorilla trekking permits in Congo at 400 USD, DRC offers you the most affordable trekking safaris amongst the three countries that offer gorilla trekking safaris.
Unlike Uganda and Rwanda where gorilla permits are highly competitive, DRC permits are not so competitive, however for you to apply for a DRC Visa; you need to show proof of a permit purchase or safari booking; so you still need to book your permit in advance. DRC Visas cost 100 USD, they should be applied for at least 2 weeks in advance and they expire when you exit Congo.
As you plan for your gorilla trekking safari in Congo, you should know that for you to enter DRC, you will need proof of yellow fever vaccination. Other vaccinations like hep a, typhoid, meningitis, rabies are also recommended but not necessarily required.
The Democratic republic of Congo has had and continues to have its fair share of instabilities that include insecurities from tribal and civil wars and the Ebola outbreak that has gutted the country killing thousands of people, and all these cause a downside to gorilla trekking safaris because travellers are not certain of their safety while in the country.
However, as stated above Virunga National park and Kahuzi Beiga National Park are found in the eastern part of DRC and the eastern part of DRC is relatively safe. Both areas of the parks respectively are safe for trekking activities and have full-time army security. However, for the case of Ebola, we cannot guarantee that there are no Ebola cases in those areas; all we can confirm is that Ebola in the country has been contained to a point where the spread is nearly zero.
For that reason, you should not be afraid to visit DRC for a trekking safari, either for the mountain gorillas or lowland gorillas
On your trekking trip to DRC, it will be safe for you to start your trip in Rwanda, Kigali or fly to Goma instead of going through the DRC capital Kinshasa; this is because connecting to the eastern part of DRC from Kinshasa is not very safe and secure; so it’s safer to start from Kigali or Goma for your safari.
When you start your trip from Kigali, you will spend a day’s travel from Kigali via Gisenyi to the Goma border, where you will acquire a visa for entry into the DRC. From Goma to Virunga National Park or Kahuzi Beiga National Park you will move in a convoy. This convoy is to ensure your safety as you travel to the park and it consists of army cars and your travel cars. This same convoy will also be the same when you travel back to the Goma after your trekking experience. You should know that there are specific times for the convoys so keep in touch with your guide or tour operator for your scheduled convoy times.
You can also fly directly to Goma International airport and move from Goma still in a convoy to any of the parks. Goma international airport has a wide range of international flights so you will be sure to have one of the international airlines’ lands there.
Remember to always have your travel documentation in order to avoid inconveniences at the point of entry and also brace yourself for long drives on bumpy roads because the infrastructure in the Eastern part of DRC is underdeveloped
On your gorilla trekking in Congo, you will still adhere to the same rules and regulations of gorilla trekking as are in Uganda and Rwanda. Also, like in Uganda and Rwanda, Conserving the gorillas is a priority over your trekking experience, so decisions can be made to conserve the gorillas at the cost of your trekking trip.
It’s important for you to follow the instructions of the guides/rangers and stay with your trekking group, have the right trekking gear, pack some food and water for the trek. Also plan to enjoy yourself while on your trek.
Gorilla trekking experiences in Congo, also take almost a whole day just like Uganda and Rwanda because of the hikes and treks in the forests looking for the gorillas; and when you find the gorillas you will spend one hour with them and them trek back out of the forest.
The gorilla trekking experiences in Congo, include the travel time will take a total minimum of 3 days safari, however, you can top up your safari in Virunga National Park with a hike to Mount Nyiragongo and a nature walk in the park; at Kahuzi Beiga you can top up your trekking safari with the waterfall hike and a nature walk in the park.