Gorilla trekking in virunga national park
Gorilla trekking in virunga national park: Virunga national park is one of the oldest national parks in Africa located within the Albertine rift valley in the north eastern park of Democratic Republic of Congo. Virunga national park offers gorilla trekking activity which is the most popular and interesting activity in the park where visitors are given an opportunity to move into the tropical rainforests in search of the habituated gorilla families and once found spend one hour with them in their natural habitat. Gorilla trekking is a breathtaking activity that is possible in three countries namely Virunga national park, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda, Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda plus Kahuzi Biega national park in Democratic Republic of Congo which harbors the endangered eastern lowland gorillas.
Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park starts in the morning with a briefing at the park headquarters about the expectations, rules and regulations. After the briefing you will be grouped into 8 people and allocated a gorilla family to trek. Allocation of individuals at the park is done according to age, physical fitness and personal preferences so that visitors who are not physically fit are allocated a gorilla family that is near to trek.
Trekking of the mountain gorillas in Virunga national park is done with a park guide who will be showing you the routes to follow as well as sharing information about the mountain gorillas. Virunga national park is a home of 8 habituated gorilla families which are available for trekking daily and they include Humba, Rugendo, Kabirizi, Lulengo, Munyaga, Mapuwa, Nyakamwe and Bageni gorilla families. Gorilla trekking in the park takes about 30 minutes to 6 hours depending on the location of the gorillas and once found you will spend one hour with them in their natural habitat learning about their behaviors, habits, watching them playing as you take photos and record the moments to show people back home after the safari.
Cost of a gorilla trekking permit
A gorilla trekking permit is a legal document that is issued to any visitor above the age of fifteen allowing him or her to visit one of the habituated gorilla families in Virunga national park. Any visitor interested in trekking of the mountain gorillas in the park is require to have a valid gorilla trekking permit which costs $400 for foreign non-residents. Democratic Republic of Congo is the only destination which offers the cheapest gorilla trekking permit compared to other countries like Rwanda where a gorilla trekking permit costs $1500 per person for all nationalities and Uganda where a gorilla trekking permit costs $600 for foreign non-residents and $500 for foreign residents.
Booking a gorilla trekking permit
There are two options of booking a gorilla trekking permit in Virunga national park and the first option is booking through a Virunga foundation in Virunga national park and this can be done by contacting the offices via email and telephone calls. Another option is booking through a trusted and reliable tour operator like Achieve Global Safaris. this is the best option to use in that it saves you all the hustle and when using this option you will contact our offices with the date, month and year when you want to trek the mountain gorillas. We will check for permit availability and ask you to make a deposit for the permit in case there are permits available. After making the deposit, we will ask you to send a scanned copy of your passport which will be used to process your permit. We will then acquire your gorilla trekking permit and unlike Uganda and Rwanda where you receive a scanned copy of the receipt as confirmation that not the case in Democratic Republic of Congo therefore your permit will be reserved based on mutual understanding.
When to acquire a gorilla trekking permit
Gorilla trekking permits in Virunga national park should be acquired 3 to 4 months in advance before the trekking date because the permits are competitive and get sold out quickly especially during the peak season in the months of June to September and December to February when many visitors prefer to travel therefore to avoid last minute disappointments you are advised to acquire the permit in advance.
What to carry for your gorilla trekking safari
There are various gorilla trekking essentials that you should carry on your safari in Virunga national park including long sleeved shirt and trousers to keep you warm when trekking, garden gloves to protect you from germs and thorns, insect repellent to protect your body from biting insects, energy snacks to give you energy during trekking, hiking shoes to keep your feet dry when walking in muddy grounds, rain jacket to protect you from rainfall, backpack to carry your essentials, camera for recording and taking photos, walking stick to support you during trekking in steep slopes among others.
Where to stay on your gorilla trekking safari
Virunga national park has a number of accommodations where you can stay on your gorilla trekking safari and the lodges range from luxury, midrange and budget. Lodges in the park include Lulimbi Tented Camp, Bukima Tented Camp, Mikeno Lodge, Nyiragongo Volcano Summit Shelters, Tchegera Island Camp, Hotel Begonias, Orchids Safari Club, Exodus Bukavu, Lodge Coco among others. The lodges offer various facilities and services like comfortable beds, restaurant, bar, laundry services, spectacular views of Nyiragongo Volcano, bird species, primates like monkeys among others which makes you feel at home during your gorilla trekking safari.
Best time to go for gorilla trekking in Virunga national park
Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park can be done anytime throughout the year though the best period is during the dry season in the months of June to September and December to February. During the dry season there is less rainfall in the forest therefore you will be able to clearly view the gorillas and other primates in the park such as the chimpanzees, monkeys, baboons due to short shrubs and bushes, the access roads and gorilla trekking trails in the jungle will be dry and passable compared to the rainy season when the gorilla trekking trails are muddy and slippery.
Other activities in Virunga national park
There are other activities in Virunga national park that you can engage in apart from gorilla trekking including chimpanzee habituation experience an activity where the chimpanzees are trained to get used to human presence, climbing Nyiragongo volcano where you will view a large lava lake at the summit, birding, nature walk, visiting Senkwenkwe Orphanage a facility that was created to take care of the orphaned gorillas, landscape viewing among others.
How to get to Virunga national park
Virunga national park is located in the north eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo and can be accessed via different routes including
Route from Kigali, when coming from Kigali Rwanda, you will fly to Kigali international airport and then connect by road to the park through Gisenyi town, Goma and then to the park headquarters. It takes about 4 hours’ drive from Kigali to Gisenyi and 2 hours’ drive from Goma to Bukima park headquarters.
Route from Uganda, visitors coming from Uganda will fly to Entebbe international airport and then drive to Kisoro town for an overnight taking about 9 to 10 hours’ drive and the next morning visitors continue to the park through Bunagana border.
Virunga national park can also be accessed by air transport means in that there are international airlines that fly to Goma airport such as Ethiopian airlines, Turkish airlines and emirates. After arrival at Goma airport you will connect by road to Bukima park headquarters.