Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park
Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park is the major tourist activity that leads most of the Congo safaris. The gorilla sub species trekked in Virunga national park are endangered mountain gorillas though Congo is blessed with two sub species of gorillas with the other sub specie thrilling in Kahuzi Beiga national park being Eastern lowland gorillas implying that tourists can trek both species while on a safari to Congo by visiting two national parks in Congo. Around the world, Mountain gorilla trekking is carried out in 3 countries with Uganda leading with the highest population of mountain gorillas that reside in Bwindi Impenetrable national park and the remaining population is evenly distributed in Virunga national park of Congo, Volcanoes national park of Rwanda and Mgahinga gorilla national park also in Uganda the pearl of Africa.
Like in any other gorilla trekking destination, Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park is carried out on a daily basis and it starts with the briefing early in the morning at the park headquarters where trekkers have an opportunity of learning more theory about gorillas such as what gorillas eat, the remaining population of gorillas in the wild, what to do when gorillas charge and the how the entire process move without forgetting the dos and don’ts while trekking the jungle trekking gorillas in Virunga national park among others before thrilling deep into the wild for the real practical of an encounter with gorillas in their natural habitat. At the end of the briefing, a group of 8 trekkers is allocated to a particular gorilla family for trekking, allowed to hire a porter or even two depending on your capacity and the size of your backpack and finally penetrate the wild alongside armed rangers as you start the search of endangered mountain gorillas which lasts from 30 minutes to 8 hours or the entire day as there are some factors that determine the time spent in the wild searching for gorillas such as the movement of gorillas according to where they were spotted nesting in the previous evening, the trekking speed as it always favors the slowest person and also the nature of the terrains as the mountain gorillas prefer to reside up in the hills thus require really hikes to reach them.
Once the allocated gorilla family is spotted, it doesn’t matter how long you spent searching for it, only one hour is the maximum during allowed for trekkers to spend with Gorilla in Virunga national park and any other destination in Africa. Spending one hour is so gracious as trekkers closely view gorillas as they go on with their daily activities of feeding, breast feeding, copulation, look out for the Silverback who is the head of the family and always ensuring the protection of all its members and sometimes witness the black backs fighting amongst themselves that makes an entire experience very fascinating and exhilarating. Within the period of one hour, take as many photographs as possible as long as the flash light of the camera is turned off.
Requirements for Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park
- First and foremost, to access any park in Congo, tourists require a Congo visa which costs $100 and this can be applied for online and then obtained upon arrival at Congo borders during clearances.
- A proof of yellow fever vaccination is also a must have before accessing Virunga national park for gorilla trekking.
- A gorilla permit is also a great requirement for Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park since it acts as a gate pass to access the home of endangered mountain gorillas. A gorilla trekking in Virunga national park costs $400 per person during high season and this thinks by 50% during low seasons to $200 per person which is still the cheapest gorilla trekking permit in Africa as compared to a permit to trek similar gorillas in Uganda which goes for $700 per person and that in Rwanda costs $1500 per person making it the most expensive permit. Ensure that the permits are booked as early as possible at least 6 months in advance especially during the high season when there the permits tend to be sold out.
- Fitness level is also a requirement for any person planning a gorilla trekking safari in Virunga national park though there are particular gorilla family that are known of staying close to the park headquarters thus require short time to reach them but their movements are always unpredictable.
- A camera to store all the memories with the gorillas during gorilla trekking. Ensure that the camera is well charged with extra batteries.
- Appropriate gorilla trekking attire ranging from good hiking boats that are fit, waterproof and easy to walk with for longer trails, Warm clothes to keep you warm at every time while in the jungle since it’s in a high altitude and very cold, stocking, garden gloves are also crucial to protect your entire body from injuries, sun glass for eyes protection from foreign materials and direct sunlight, insect repellant to protect your body from insect stings.
- Pack enough snacks on the trekking day with enough bottled drinking water.
- A hiking stick is usually provided by the pack management on trekking day.
- Lastly and not the least, follow all the rules and regulations given by park managements during briefing and the rules given by the rangers and these include;
- Only 8 persons are allocated a particular gorilla family
- The minimum age trekkers is 15 years and above
- Sick people are not supposed to trek gorillas
- In case you feel like sneezing or coughing, turn off your back and cough in your elbow or handkerchief
- In case of visiting the bush toilet, burry your waste at least 30cm deep and cover it completely
- Stay in a group while in wild with gorillas
- No littering the park
- Keeping a minimum distance of 7m between gorillas and trekkers
- Avoiding smoking, eating or drinking anything close to gorillas
- No using flash light while taking photographs
- Keeping the voice low while in the park
- Staying calm in case the gorillas charge
Where to stay during gorilla trekking safari in Virunga national park
Some of hotels and lodges where tourists on a gorilla trekking safari in virunga national park Congo can stay include Bukima tented camp & Mikeno lodge which cater for luxury tourists other accommodations include; Kibumba tented camp, Lake Kivu hotel, Tchegera tented camp, Lulimbi tented camp among others.
Virunga national park is easily accessed either from Rwanda or from Uganda via different border points by road and also by air charter flights are available in Uganda and Rwanda to take tourists on a gorilla trekking safari in Virunga national park thus it’s very possible to trek gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.