Mountain gorillas are a specific type of subspecies of Gorilla that ONLY exist in the Virunga mountains. This mountain range is shared by D.R. Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. The Mountain Gorilla has been put on the endangered species list because of the low population numbers due to poaching and human settlement.
Mountain gorillas are some of the most vulnerable animals on earth. They are classified as critically endangered, meaning that there are fewer than 1500 mature mountain gorillas in the world. The population is fragmented into four distinct populations in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Western Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park and Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park.
Mountain gorillas live at a high elevation because of the thin air and lack of food. But you know what, they don’t drink water- oh yea! They eat so many plants every day that it provides enough liquid for their entire body to function.
Within each mountain gorilla family, one alpha silverback usually leads. This can be agreed upon by other silverbacks in the family, but always one leader. He may have 10-30 female mates hanging around at various times.
The gorilla trekking permit in DRC is the cheapest out of all three countries. It costs $400, whereas Rwanda is $1500 and Uganda has a permit for $700. To take the entire tour package, you may need to pay for lodging and meals as well as your transportation and park entry. Your tour package will also come with a guide.
Despite the high costs of mountain gorilla trekking, it is worth it for a number of reasons. A portion will go towards the conservation efforts, then the funding rangers to protect the gorillas, while some goes back to the local communities and villages near where they live.
Located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Virunga National Park is Africa’s oldest national park. The park is special because of its remarkable biodiversity and landscape. All this is because of its location in the middle of the Albertine rift which has a wide range of elevations, soils, and climates.
Virunga National Park is one of the most bio-diverse places on earth, this is Africa’s oldest national park. It is home to 12% of the world’s population of mountain gorillas, as well as forest elephants, golden monkeys, chimpanzees and many other species.
Anyone with a permit and the right age (15 yrs and above) who’s up for the trekking is welcome to go gorillas trekking, as long as they can be physically fit. Gorillas have a similar DNA makeup to us so they are very susceptible to human diseases and sicknesses. A simple cold or flu or even COVID could wipe out an entire gorilla family. So if you find yourself feeling under the weather the day of the trek, please let staff know and reschedule your trek for the safety of all gorillas!
Gorilla trekking is always available because you can get a permit for any day of the year. The best time to go might be during drier months though because there will be less rain.
From June-September and December-February is the best time to go. The weather is mostly sunny, with a chance of rain in the forests. These are high season months so expect for there to be a higher demand for permits.
If you don’t care about the rain, then plan to visit during the low season, where there are fewer crowds & cheaper rates. Plus, it’s a more intimate way to experience the gorillas.
It takes about 3 hours hike around in the mountains to find some gorillas in DR Congo. It’s fairly easy because the trackers go looking for them like beforehand, so when you get to your group, they’ll know exactly where to take you. You can leave directly from the Lodge, and it takes about 1-1.5 hours to get there & same time to get back.
This sanctuary is located near Bukavu and is home to the Eastern lowland gorillas. It’s a popular tourist destination, and the number of visitors there is steadily growing thanks to the country’s temporary political stability.
Maiko National Park is home to many primates & other animals. It’s best visited for wildlife viewing and gorilla trekking. One of the best times to visit Maiko National Park is during the dry season. Some of the most popular animals in this reserve are primates, buffalo, wildebeests, zebras and a wide array of birds.
These Congo national parks have a number of Western lowlands gorillas. All over the world, they seem to be in large quantities in Ntokou Pikounda National Park when compared to Noubale Ndoki park. Gorilla trekking at this place is also much more popular among tourists due to the greater opportunity for them to see these rare mammals in person.
Other wildlife does inhabit these parks, not just the African leopards, African bush elephants and African forest buffaloes.
To start the experience, 7 am will be briefing time at park headquarters. Tourists are expected to comply with safety guidelines outlined by the park staff.
Finally, park rangers then allocate tourists to different gorilla groups. The allocation is based on the fitness levels of tourists and their ability to keep up with a group. In Virunga National Park, gorilla trekking starts from Bukima
On safari, tourists are encouraged to keep an eye out for other wild animals like the elephants, chimpanzees etc. You also have a chance of spotting some bird species. Once you spot gorillas on your safari, only one hour is given to spend time with them.
They can take photos or videos of the gorillas or spend their time admiring them. They feed, play, groom each other.
Below are some of the guidelines that may be provided by park rangers during your gorilla trekking in Congo experience.
Avoid getting too close (7 meters away at the most!) and ensure to give them some space. If they come closer, back away slowly.
Stay with your group. Avoid getting too close to gorillas – they will see this as a threat.
Silence is required with whispering allowed in an emergency.
Keep your distance from the gorillas as staring directly into their eyes can cause them to charge.
When charged at by a mountain gorilla, one should do the following: Never run but instead stand still. Gaze respectfully at it by lowering your head, and follow whatever advice the guide/ranger instructs you to do
Do not use flash photography in the park.
Avoid placing rubbish around the site and pick it up if you come with any food in wrappers.
Please keep your food with you during your visit. Eating should be done at least 200 meters away.
Persons below 15 years are not allowed to trek.
In order to maintain a safe space for the gorillas, it is important that you don’t come with a contagious disease if you’re going on the gorilla trek. We kindly ask volunteers who know they are coming down with a cold or flu not to join in with this event.
Tourists to Congo are unable to take part in gorilla trekking without first purchasing a permit from a recognized gorilla trekking tour operator in Congo. It costs $400 for all tourists and $150 for those living in Congo.
If you end up picking the Congo as your country to visit, be sure that you have a valid visa and visa processing has been done online before traveling. Also remember to take a valid passport and yellow fever card with you.