Gorilla trekking in virunga national park
Gorilla trekking in virunga national park: Virunga national park is located in eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo bordering Uganda and Rwanda. The national park was gazetted in 1925 which makes it the oldest national park in Africa. Virunga national park was gazetted mainly to conserve the endangered mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas are the major attractions that are found in Virunga national park and other destinations like Kahuzi Biega national park which harbors the Eastern lowland gorillas, volcanoes national park in Rwanda, Bwindi impenetrable national park which harbors half of the world’s mountain gorillas and Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda.
Gorilla trekking is an exciting activity in Virunga national park where visitors move into the tropical rainforest in search of the mountain gorillas and once found spend one hour with them in their natural habitat. Virunga national park harbors about 8 habituated gorilla families including Humba, Rugendo, Kabirizi, Lulengo, Munyanga, Nyakamwe, Mapuwa and Bageni which are available for trekking daily. Gorilla trekking is the most done activity in the park and it starts at around 8:00am with a briefing which is done earlier at the park headquarters. After the briefing you will be grouped into 8 individuals to trek each habituated gorilla family and grouping is done according to personal preferences, age and physical fitness so that visitors who are not physically fit are allocated a gorilla family that is near to trek.
Trekking of the endangered mountain gorillas in Virunga national park takes about 30 minutes to 6 hours depending on the location of the gorillas because they like to move from one area to another in search of food. Once the gorillas are found, you will be allowed to spend one hour with them in their natural habitat learning about their behaviors, habits, taking photos, recording videos, watching them carry out their daily activities among others which gives you unforgettable and lifetime experiences on your safari.
Cost of a gorilla trekking permit in Virunga national park
A gorilla trekking permit is a document or card that is issued to any visitor who is fifteen years and above allowing him or her to visit any habituated gorilla family in Virunga national park. Visitors interested in gorilla trekking activity are required to have a valid gorilla trekking permit which costs $400 per person for foreign non-residents. This is the cheapest gorilla trekking permit compared to Rwanda where the permit costs $1500 for all nationalities and Uganda where the gorilla trekking permit costs $600 for foreign non-residents, $500 for foreign residents and UGX 250,000 for East African citizens. Of the three countries Democratic Republic of Congo is the only destination which offers a cheap gorilla trekking permit and this is due to political instabilities.
How to book a gorilla trekking permit in Virunga national park
A gorilla trekking permit in Virunga national park can either be booked directly through Virunga tourism office by contacting the office via email or telephone calls or you can book through a trusted tour operator. When booking through a tour operator you can contact Achieve Global Safaris with the date, month and year when you want to trek the mountain gorillas. We will then check for the availability of the permits and in case there are some permits available, you will be asked to make a deposit for the permit. When the deposit is made, you will be asked to send a scanned copy of your passport which will be used to register for the permit and then we will acquire the permit on your behalf. Unlike Uganda and Rwanda when booking a gorilla trekking permit in Democratic Republic of Congo, a scanned copy of the receipt will not be sent as confirmation therefore your gorilla trekking permit will be reserved based on mutual trust.
There are about 64 gorilla trekking permits available on daily basis for visitors who want to trek the mountain gorillas hence visitors are advised to book in advance before the trekking date because the permits are competitive and usually get sold out especially during the peak season in the months of June, July, August, September, December, January and February therefore in order to avoid last minute disappointments you are advised to book in advance which is 3 to 6 months.
What to pack for you gorilla trekking safari in Virunga national park
when going for gorilla trekking in the park there are some essentials that you should carry including warm sweater to give you warmth because it’s always cold during morning and night hours, long sleeved shirt and trouser to protect your body from being injured, hiking shoes to keep your feet dry especially during the rainy season, insect repellent to protect you from biting insects such as tsetse flies, rain jacket/poncho to protect you from rainfall, camera to takes photos and record the moments, energy snacks such as drinking water and packed lunch, a pair of binoculars to view far wildlife species like birds, backpack to carry all your gorilla trekking essentials among others.
Best time to go for gorilla trekking in Virunga national park
Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park can be done all year round though the best time 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 park therefore access roads and gorilla trekking trails that lead you to the gorillas will be dry and passable. Though the dry season is known as a period with less rainfall it can rain anytime of the day due to the fact that Virunga national park is comprised of tropical rainforests. During the dry season many visitors like to travel therefore the gorilla trekking permits will be competitive hence visitors are required to book in advance.
Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park can also be done in the rainy season also known as the low season during the months of March to May and October to November. Though the rainy season is the period when the park receives heavy rainfall there are some advantages for the travelers such as discounted prices for luxury lodges, less crowds in the park and the last minute travelers will be able to acquire a gorilla trekking permit.
Where to stay on you gorilla trekking safari in Virunga national park
Virunga national park has many luxury, midrange and budget accommodation where you can stay during your gorilla trekking safari including Mikeno Lodge, Bukima Tented Camp, Tchegera Island Tented Camp, Lulimbi Tented Camp, Nyiragongo Volcano Summit Shelters, Kibumba Tented Lodge among others. The lodges provide great views of the park, primates, birds, offer activities like bird watching, nature walk and offer amenities and facilities like comfortable beds, en-suite bathrooms, siting lounge, gardens for relaxation, restaurant, bar among others.
How to get to Virunga national park
Visitors can access Virunga national park by flying to Goma international airport and this is when you use Ethiopian airlines because it’s the only airline company that operates daily flights to Goma airport and on arrival you will connect to Virunga national park by road.
Virunga national park can be accessed from Kigali Rwanda where by you will fly to Kigali international airport and then connect by road to Gisenyi which is the nearest town and then to Goma, from Goma town you can continue to Virunga national park which takes about 30 minutes’ drive.
When coming from Uganda its tiresome because you will have to fly to Entebbe international airport and then drive for about 9 hours to Kisoro where you will connect via Bunagaga border and then drive to Bukima park headquarters. When travelling to Democratic Republic of Congo from either Uganda or Rwanda, you will cross the borders where you have to present valid documents such as visa, passport and yellow fever certificate.
Virunga national park can also be accessed by water transport means in that there are ferries on Lake Kivu which move from Bukavu to Goma taking about 3 hours or you can use public boats that take 4 to 5 hours ride.