The Democratic Republic of Congo hosts three species of the gorillas;
- the Eastern Lowland Gorilla of Kahuzi Biega National Park and Maiko National Park
- Mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park
- the Western Lowland Gorillas.
Mountain Gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
The DRC has been affected by conflict most especially in the eastern part of the country, so the travelers are mostly advised to check the situation before travelling there. The conflict has greatly affected the number of gorillas due to habitat destruction as well as poaching. On the other hand, for the past three years, there has been a semblance of peace and Virunga National Park is open for tourism. This year, the national park has been attracting a good number of tourists who go for gorilla trekking safaris in the Virunga National Park as well as those who would like to hike the Mount Nyiragongo.
Gorilla Trekking in DRC
Gorilla trekking in DRC includes hiking deep into the mountain jungles to see a gorilla family in the wild. The visitors will be led by the guides and national park rangers who always keep records of the gorillas for conservation purposes and help protect them from poachers. They can determine the area where a gorilla family will be and are skilled in tracking them.
Gorilla trekking in DRC will begin very early in the morning and you will be driven to the gorilla trekking starting point at Bukima which is a ranger station in the mountains of the Virunga National Park, outside the city of Goma. The small agrarian villages you will pass and the people, who run to the road so that they can wave at you, will give you a glimpse of a different way of life.
The length of the trek is mainly dependent on the gorillas and sometimes the guides can track them down in less than two hours, other times it takes much longer. The mountain gorillas are nomadic, traveling the jungle in families and staying in an area long enough to clear it of food. They also don’t follow a clear path, and you’ll realize when tracking them that they like to meander. On seeing the gorillas, you may see mothers holding their babies, juvenile gorillas, playing or dominant silverbacks that keep an eye on the entire family. There are families of over 35 mountain gorillas and you only have an hour in their presence, wearing surgical masks to help prevent any diseases being passed between species. As you look at them, the guide will explain the many behaviors of the gorillas to you.
The four tips to help you plan your trip to DRC;
In all the three countries that offer gorilla trekking, you must buy a gorilla trekking permit in advance. In DRC, there are not as many tour companies as in Uganda and Rwanda, so it’s better to book your gorilla permit directly through Virunga national park. This gorilla permit costs $ 400 which is cheaper than in the other two countries. The mountain gorillas in Virunga National park can be visited at any time of the year even though some paths are hard to pass during the wet season from May to October. In this season, gorilla trekking permits are reduced to $350 per person.
Before you travel, it’s vital to get a yellow fever injection, as you will not be allowed to enter the DRC without proof of this inoculation. Hepatitis A, typhoid, Meningitis and rabies injection as well as Anti Malarias are also recommended.
You must apply in advance for the needed visa to enter into DRC and the visa costs $100.
.Always set off to the jungle with the right equipment. The forest hike can be long and difficult, so you will need very sturdy trekking shoes, wool or moisture wicking socks, comfortable hiking clothes, the rain gears, first aid kit and light weight back pack that has room for plenty of water and food. You should also need a waterproof camera which is highly recommended since nothing ruins a good camera like the jungle down pour.
The regulations of gorilla trekking in DRC include; only a maximum of 8 individuals per day are allowed to trek, this also helps in reducing the spreading of diseases from humans to the mountain gorillas, only those that are 15 years and above are allowed to trek the gorillas, gorilla trekking can only take place from 8am to 7 pm and its only 1 hours that is allowed to stay with the gorillas.