Gorilla Trekking in Virunga National Park is one of the most important tourist activities that have sold Congo’s Tourism industry to the world. Virunga National Park in DR Congo’s great park that harbors the last remaining mountain gorillas in the world. The majority of Congo’s visitors come with an aim to do Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park to view these gentle giants where they spend about 2 hours trekking and searching through the thick forests in search of the endangered species. Mountain gorillas are an endangered species according to ICCN with an estimate of about 1000 gorillas only left in the entire world. So booking a gorilla trek tour is worth it and Congo is one of the 3 countries that still have these animals. DR Congo is also blessed with another type of gorillas known as the lowland gorillas that are found further south of the country.
The mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park are big in number and like about 44 gorillas that can be seen at once on your gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park. A gorilla trekking permit in Virunga national park goes for 400 USD which is the cheapest compared to Uganda’s permit that is 600 USD and Rwanda’s permit that goes for 1500 USD.
This park can be best accessed from Rwanda, landing at Kigali International Airport and connect to Gisenyi border or booking an Ethiopian airlines flight to Goma airport. Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park can be done in groups or private tours so as ensure that you check which option best suits you as you book the package. You can also do more than one gorilla trek in Virunga. There are two sectors where the gorillas can be found that is Rumangabo sector and the Bukima sector. This Virunga forest is a very dense forest whereby rangers will keep slashing your way through as you look for these gentle giants in the thick forest. The mountain gorillas in Virunga national park Congo are scientifically known as the Gorilla Beringei Beringei and can be found also in 2 other parks that are Bwindi Impenetrable forest and Volcanoes National Park.
Gorilla trekking in Virunga Park Congo is one of the most authentic experiences as it is more available for those interested in the full Congo experience. These gorillas are also believed to be the friendlier, smart and welcoming to a group to the visitors as they have been habituated for a while now. All gorilla treks in Virunga start from Bukima Ranger post where you are given a brief, meet with the ranger guides and porters then set off into the forest searching for about 1-3 hours hiking both sides depending on the gorilla group you are trekking and difficulty of the trail you are taking. You are allocated gorilla groups according to your strengths, age, and fitness level. The standard time you spend with the gorillas is 1 hour where trekkers can enjoy taking photos, videos and analyzing or studying their relations in the family and their characteristics. Remember, however much these gorillas are habituated and used to human presence, they are still wild animals so always listen to the instructions and guidelines given by your ranger guide. On most occasions, the first gorilla you will encounter will be the silverback that has to first accept you so that you can enjoy the company of other gorillas. FUN FACT: Try as much not to look a mountain gorilla straight into their eyes as it intimidates them and they could charge and harm you.
Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park lasts half a day so after the trek, if you are feeling energetic, you may go for an evening walk visiting the community that stays around Virunga. One can also opt to explore the Rumangabo nature trails as it is rich in birds, visit the gorilla orphans at the Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage Centre or even pay a visit to the Congo-hounds but that is if you are booked at Mikeno Lodge or Bukima Tented Camp. These are all optional as you can decide to just spend the evening at leisure relaxing at your lodge reading a book as you appreciate the cool breeze that part of Congo has to offer.
Virunga national park is a home to about 200 mountain gorillas densely populated in the southern region despite the drop in number due to the past wars that have befallen this country that has seen the gorillas been poached for food or harmed by the warriors during fights though the population is steadily growing back with the efforts of the park authorities. Virunga National park is managed by Institute Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) that is the Congolese National Parks Authority.
Trekking gear in Virunga includes a facemask around the nose and mouth area which is not the case with the other parks. This is done to prevent cases of disease transmission between the gorillas and the visitors especially with the recurrent Ebola scenarios in The Democratic Republic and also visitors spreading airborne diseases to the gorillas. However, guests with colds and coughs are not accepted to trek the gorillas and are advised to change the visiting dates so as to ensure to stay safe before your gorilla trek. Virunga forest is blessed with a variety of other attractions you might see along your trail. Ensure to stay alert and for the photo, lovers don’t leave your cameras behind to save the memories for later and don’t use the flash on the cameras.