A guide to gorilla trekking in Congo, permit cost, when to go, tour operators, accommodation and booking information.
Top Gorilla Trekking Companies in Congo
- Insight Safari Holidays
- Wild Whispers Africa
- Lets Go Tours
- Rwanda Safari Africa
- Congo Gorilla Safari Tours
Within the Democratic Republic of Congo, the mountain gorillas are found in Virunga National Park which is also a UNESCO Heritage site. This park is located in the eastern side of democratic Republic of Congo and boarders both Uganda and Rwanda. 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 safari expeditions. 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 well being of these endangered animals. This is because the gorillas are susceptible to many human diseases due to the great closeness between 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.
The mountain gorillas in Virunga national park can be visited anytime during the year, however some paths are hard to navigate during the wet seasons of (May/April and November & October), in this season, Congo gorilla trekking permits are reduced to ($350) per person. Other months are okay for gorilla trekking since it’s a dry season. Mountain gorillas can also be found in Uganda where a gorilla permit is $600 in high season and $600 in low season. For Rwanda, the gorilla permit is sold at $ 1500 for both high season and Low season.
4 Tips to Help You Plan That Trip to Congo For Gorilla Tours.
- Common in all three countries that offer gorilla tracking, a permit should be purchased in advance. Uganda and Rwanda have a number of tour companies unlike the DRC which is limited in this area thus it is much better if you could directly book your Gorilla tracking permit through Virunga National Park. A permit goes for US$400, a fee low-priced than that of the other two countries. Mountain gorillas can be visited anytime of the year though some paths become hard to navigate during the wet seasons of May to October.
- A yellow fever vaccination is a requirement because you won’t be allowed into the country minus proof of the inoculation. Hepatitis A, typhoid, meningitis and rabies injections not forgetting the anti-malarial are also recommended.
- An application for a visa required to enter the DRC should have been submitted in advance. This costs US$100.
- The exact gear needed while in the jungle needs to be prepared. The trek can be strenuous and equipment like the strong trekking shoes, woolly and or the moisture-impermeable socks, comfy mountaineering clothes, rainwater gear, a primary support kit and a light weight backpack with plenty of room for food and drink. A waterproof camera is also very much suggested as nothing wrecks a high-quality camera like the tropical forest’s heavy shower.
What to Expect On A Gorilla Trip To Congo
Every sight seer should head out on their Congo safari knowing what they hope to discover. The long and uncomfortable journey on plane, in the 4x4s and the pirogues makes this a worthwhile experience not easily forgotten. Congo is an ever- stabilizing state in the world and it is likely to become more and more accessible and popular to the tourists who seek true African authenticity. Thus the time to visit is now.
Please note that our itineraries feature the Republic of Congo, which should not be confused with Democratic Republic of Congo.
Why Visit Virunga National Park- Mountain Gorilla Tracking.
The Virunga National Park is situated in the eastern fraction of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), close to Southern shores of Lake Kivu and the Rwandan edge. It is the abode for the mountain gorillas as it’s a fraction of the Virunga Massif that is common with Rwanda’s Volcanoes National park and Mgahinga National Park of Uganda. All gorilla tracking tours are either done in Virunga Massif national park and the Bwindi Impenetrable forest that is also located in Uganda’s South Western part; the home to half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. Democratic republic is a maiden tourism destination that hasn’t been examined by different travelers. Congo gorilla tracking happens in Virunga National Park and its requires you to make safe a legitimate gorilla tracking permit , as Virunga has been the best target for gorilla tracking ever since 2015 during the re-opening of the park.
Mountain Gorilla Tracking and the Climatic Conditions of Congo.
DRC has two rainy seasons. The short seasons start from October to November while the long ones go on from mid March till the end of May. This rain comes from the tropical rain forests.
With the best months to visit the DRC being June to September all the way to February, many tourists choose to travel then when then the rain is reduced and the sun is shining in most of the destinations. December too is known to be one of the busiest months of the year in Virunga National Park and it is prudent to book the gorilla and Nyiragongo climbing permits so as to steer clear of disappointments for these are given out on the early bird catches the worm basis.
Even though the rainy season in Congo might affect people’s engagements, this doesn’t necessarily mean that one is interdicted from traveling completely. Even during the rainy season the sun still appears after a downpour which means safari activities are able to resume minus any interruption.
Rates in the lodges are reduced particularly in the low seasons of March to May and October to November, a move to attract tourist to make bookings with them. This becomes an added advantage especially when you can pay half price of US$200 for the gorilla permits. This attracts more tourists to go to the Congo.
In addition, Congo has a raised landscape, an explanation for the cool climate. Nonetheless, if you are considering on coming for a gorilla tracking safari, it is ideally vital to observe and note that putting aside the reduced charges in the low season, the most excellent time to do gorilla tracking is in the two waterless seasons of January to February and June to September which becomes much easier also because the gorillas feed in the lowlands.
Tracking gorillas is an extraordinary experience worthy to be taken because of the existence of the primates in Virunga National Park. These apes are charming, friendly and smart to be amongst. They are sub-divided into relational groups and carry different attributes like say the silver backs that act as the leaders, the fully developed female gorillas as the caretakers and the youthful who are only mischievous and are at all times within the trees.
A time period of 1-2 hours is said to be spent on tracking these endangered gorillas depending on where they were left the previous day. These apes are protected officially within Virunga National Park in the DRC, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The other population can be found in the South Western Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganda that is 331km² at the boundary with the DRC.
Virunga National Park is habitat to about 200 of gorillas that live mostly in the southern side of the park. The Congolese National Park Authorities, together with the Institute Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and its associate the Africa Conservation Fund manage the National Park. With a decline in numbers due to brutal attacks in which at least 10 apes were murdered close to seven years ago, the gorilla inhabitants have somewhat recovered. The populace is now more stable largely because of the courageous efforts of the rangers who risk their lives in the park.
Keep the eyes wide open throughout the different excursions you will complete from and about the park and also while here get to spot an array of monkeys together with feathered friends that have made Virunga National Park a home. Also, to further enjoy your Congo safari holiday we suggest you sign up for a car because we don’t recommend you using the self-drive because of the increased unpredicted insurgences and conflicts in Congo.
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.
What to look forward to on a Gorilla Tracking Excursion.
The time spent while gorilla tracking varies and depends on the assemblage that is tracking, the common location of the gorilla family, the topography and weather to mention but a few. Tracking can take as little as an hour or can even go on longer till 5 hours. While on the hike all the way all the way through the forest, it is recommended that you tag along the leadership of your tour guide. As you ascend onto the precipitous slopes of the volcanoes and into the jungle, you will need to tow yourself up the sharp paths by holding onto branches, plant roots, bushes, and many others. An on foot stick can also be handy. You are likely to get dehydrated so be sure to take a sufficient amount of water. The trek in to the forest can be exhausting but the meeting with these apes is worth every endeavor.
The Gorilla Encounter
The park is managed by both the authorities of Congolese national park and the institute of Congolais pour la conservation de la Nature (ICCN), the other partner involved is the Africa Conservation Fund. Due to the recent tragedy that killed over ten mountain gorillas, the gorilla population has improved and recovered at the same time. Many thanks go to the ranger efforts who have risked their lives to save the remaining mountain gorillas.The guides will clear the bush away so you can get an understandable observation of these splendid primates and allow you to get perfect shots on these rare species. Another important keynote to remember is that if you gaze a gorilla in the eye and he begins swooping at you, do not run, remain motionless and bow your head as an indication of compliance and respect. Also, by no means beat your chest when with the mountain gorillas.
Accessibility of Virunga National Park in Congo, Getting There
The International Airline journey.
Guests to Virunga National Park more often than not soar to Kigali International landing field and catch the four hour long drive to the border crossing at Goma/Gisenyi. I Intercontinental flights regularly arrive late in the afternoons and or evenings. For these arrivals, we propose you spend the night in Kigali as the border does not work 24/7. You can then head off to Goma the next morning. The majority of the guests that travel to the park are either coming from Rwanda or Uganda.
The park can be entered through different routes basing on the visitor’s interest though the most frequently used means is this road means of transport that will require a 4WD fleet to make possible for you take pleasure in the gorilla tracking adventure.
Guests to the Virunga National Park that journey by air could set ground at the Goma International Airport. Goma has operated as the main airport for over ten years in the Eastern Congo, even still some people rather land in the less jam-packed Kigali airport in the land of a thousand hills. The Goma Airport also offers a number of worldwide flights.
A good number of flights to the state from Europe are via Brussels, Paris, Zurich, Amsterdam and Istanbul. Flights are frequently inexpensive sandwiched between February to April. The major airline agencies offering flights headed for and from the state include:
- Ethiopian Airlines.
- Swiss Airlines
- Air France
- Turkish Airlines
- Brussels Airlines
- Kenyan Airways
Virunga National Park is situated 32 km to the west of Goma, the capital of North Kivu region. Transportation from Goma into the park can with no trouble be prearranged with the National Park at Virunga. The easier way to get about is with one of Congo tour operators that currently offer the mount Gorilla Safaris in Congo. The park can be accessed via the following routes:
- Beginning from the Rwandan side, it takes close to four hours driving from Kigali city to the town of Gisenyi. It is the next town to Goma after journeying the two borders; it takes about 1 and a half hours driving to get to the Park’s Headquarters.
- For one coming from Uganda, linking to Virunga national Park is somewhat tiresome as the tourist may seek an all night stay in Kisoro and in the wee hours of the morning they then could cross to the DRC via the Bunagana border then take a 30 minute drive to Bukima where an all gorilla families trek is done.
- Then another from Bukavu within Congo close to the Virunga National Park: there is a way connecting to Kivu town, this takes over 5 hours of driving but it’s very unsafe and we do not recommend our visitors to opt using that route. The astounding scenery and the presence of the lake will give you a spectacular view.
Visitors who have been to Bukavu on a Safari and want to add up on the extension of the trip so as to cover the Virunga National Park, there are ferries that travel from Bukavu and then to Goma and through Idjwi Island on the Lake Kivu. This ride on a speed boat is about 3 hours and then that on a public boat takes around 4-5 hours. Upon your arrival at Goma, you thereafter will drive in a 4WD Safari jeep so as to gain access to the park. Unique Hires boats are obtainable at the lake shores although it is much better to get pleasure from the communal transport boats for security purposes unless it is prearranged by a recommended tour operator.
A public boat charge can go for US$ 300-400 and for slow boats it costs US$ 50. Swift boats and particular tickets are also sold though we advise that you book ahead to stay away from disappointments. Don’t miss visiting Virunga National park because of transportation ignorance.
Things to note about border crossing to Congo.
Border crossing is uncomplicated and from there it is only a short walk of just 10 minutes to Goma. However, we encourage travelers and visitors to take note of the following:
- Make certain that your paper work is done and in order so as to please the customs and immigration personnel.
- Valid Yellow Fever vaccinations.
- Always check the state’s travel counsel and handy tour information before going aboard on a trip to Congo with the visa having been applied for in advance.
- Traveling overland these paths can be bumpy but a 4WD vehicle is recommended. It is imprudent to travel these routes in the night.
- The park is managed by both the authorities of Congolese national park and the institute of Congolais pour la conservation de la Nature (ICCN), the other partner involved is the Africa Conservation Fund. Due to the recent tragedy that killed over ten mountain gorillas, the gorilla population has improved and recovered at the same time. Many thanks go to the ranger efforts who have risked their lives to save the remaining mountain gorillas.
Book your Congo Gorilla Tour with any of the following Click safari companies