Gorilla trekking is one of the most popular wildlife activities while on a safari in Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is arguably the best place to track gorillas in Africa. It is only in the DRC that you can find both mountain and lowland gorillas. The endangered Mountain gorillas attract more visitors because they can only be seen in the wild. Mountain gorillas can also be spotted in Uganda and Rwanda.
In DR Congo, the primates are found in the Virunga National Park. This is the oldest national park and arguably the most scenic. People from all over the world travel to the Virunga National Park not only to witness its natural beauty but also to see the mountain gorillas.
Virunga National Park lies along the border between three countries: Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. You can join a group of experts and enthusiasts like you for the best wildlife experience ever.
Within the Democratic Republic of Congo, the mountain gorillas are found in Virunga National Park which is also a UNESCO Heritage site. The park covers an area of 7800 km2 and is home to over 200 gorilla individuals mostly situated in the southern part of the park.
Gorilla trekking regulations in Virunga National park
Gorilla trekking in the Virunga national park has some strict rules and regulations that are supposed to be followed by the trackers on their Congo gorilla safaris. These include; group size, the groups to track per day as well as the time allowed spending with the mountain gorillas. This sis also done to ensure the wellbeing of these endangered animals. This is because the gorillas are susceptible to many human diseases due to the great closeness the humans and the mountain gorilla.
Gorilla Safari Group Size: It’s only a maximum of eight individuals per day that are allowed to trek, this helps to reduce the spreading of diseases from humans to the mountain gorillas.
Restrictions on Age: It’s only 15 years and over individuals allowed to trek
Hours of Visiting: gorilla trekking takes place during day time and it’s between 8:00qm to 7:00 pm
Time limit with gorillas: It’s strictly 1 hour allowed to spend with the mountain gorillas.
Congo Gorillas, Rules & Regulations (The do’s and don’ts) in Virunga National Park
Protecting the mountain gorillas is the first rule; this means that if the tracker is sick or has any infections shouldn’t be allowed to come in contact with the gorillas.
Manners are recommended- always turn away your face while coughing or sneezing and remember to cover the nose as well as the mouth to help reduce on the bacteria transfer to the mountain gorillas.
Don’t over stay with the gorillas- End ever to stay for the only recommended time with the gorillas; it’s usually one hour that is allowed.
Keeping distance from the primates- it’s always recommended that you stay away from mountain gorillas between 5 to 7 meters because they are wild animals and can easily catch diseases from humans.
Well behaving while trekking: the rangers always advise the trekkers to keep noise levels as low as possible, avoid pointing or using flash light when taking photos of the mountain gorillas.
Being prepared: Remember to always carry water proof & warm gears for the cool conditions with in the mountains since it sometimes gets wet within the forest and comfortable walking shoes are of a great advantage.
No smoking and no snacks- Visitors are not allowed to drink of eat as well as smoking during gorilla trekking.
Cleanliness is recommended: Always wash your hands before engaging in gorilla trekking.
Keep hands intact- don’t touch the mountain gorillas at any time, always keep hands to yourself to avoid direct contact.
Avoid littering within the forest and keep the trash to yourself
Always remain calm– Avoid direct eye contact in case the gorilla charges and stay calm until it moves away.
Toilet manners: A ranger will be willing to dig a hole for you and after make sure its fully covered.
Cost of Congo Gorilla permits
Those planning to track mountain gorillas in Virunga national park, you are advised to book with one of the best local tour operators and the Congo gorilla permits costs ($400) per person.
Congo Gorilla Tracking Day, the Real Experience
The guide at the park will take you through a brief preamble before heading into the forest for the awaited trek. He will cover the geography, history and some of the truths about the gorilla family you will be seeing. The tour guide shall also offer you guidance on ways to conduct yourself when you are with the gorillas in the forest.
Like earlier said, masks are to be put on to avoid these gorillas from getting any kind of human illness. The length of this trek is determined by the position of the gorillas. On some days it can be 20-40 minute hike from the way into the forest while on others it can take more than an hour’s walk to get to the Mountain gorillas since they are always on the go in the search of food.
Be sure to meet the gigantic chap silver back that will welcome you after it makes sure you are not a danger. After you are accepted, spend a thrilling time watching the gorillas which is truthfully a once in a life span experience. Remember you are given an hour in the forest with these Mountain Gorillas.
Best time of the year
You can go gorilla trekking any month of the year. But the best months are December to March and June to December. During these months the weather is usually dry and sunny.
Arriving to the park
The closest town to Virunga National Park is Goma (32 km away from the park). As the park lies close to two other countries, there are three entrances. You can access the park from Uganda and Rwanda.
Many travelers find it more convenient to fly to Kigali in Rwanda and then drive to Goma through the Congo – Rwanda border. Ethiopian Airlines has a direct flight to Goma each week.
From the airport, you can hire a shuttle from the airport to pick you up and take you to the park. Flights from Entebbe airport to Goma are also available but you can also cross to Congo from through the border with Uganda.
Virunga National Park is that one exceptional destination that allows you get close to mountain gorillas while in the wild-a magical encounter you need not to miss out in DRC.