Gorilla Trekking in Congo
Gorilla trekking in Congo is one of the most sought after tourist activities, and it is thought to be the best place to see these endangered mountain gorillas. The Democratic Republic of Congo is a Central African country named after the Congo River that flows throughout the country. The Congo is a diverse country with beautiful attractions that are fit for an African adventure.
Gorilla trekking is an activity that involves hiking deep into the forests and mountains in search of the mountain gorillas, an activity that creates an unforgettable experience for a lifetime. Skilled and armed park rangers and guides who are well informed, knowledgeable and professional lead tourists for a gorilla trekking safari in Congo. These rangers have a diverse knowledge of the parks and whatever they inhabit, in regards to gorilla trekking, in particular, these rangers know exactly where to take the tourists to the exact places where the gorillas are.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has diversity in the gorillas that can be found in the country say mountain gorillas and the lowland gorillas in a number of national parks. Mountain gorillas can be found in Virunga National Park whereas the Eastern and Western lowland gorillas can be found in Kahuzi Biega, Maiko, Noubale Ndoki and Ntokou Pikounda National Parks.
Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park is the most visited national park in the Congo. the park is majorly visited because of the endangered mountain gorillas that find it a home. Mountain gorillas live in the Virunga massifs that make part of the Virunga National Park of Congo, Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park of Uganda; and in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganda that inhabits about more than a half to the total gorilla population in the world. Virunga National Park has about 250 mountain gorillas with 8 habituated mountain gorilla groups that are open to tourists to do gorilla trekking in Congo. The park’s Nyiragongo mountain is another attraction that sees many tourists visiting the park just to see the boiling lava lake at the peak of the volcano.
Kahuzi Biega National Park
This is located near Bukavu town and is the home to the Eastern lowland gorillas that are worth a visit as well. Many tourists already visit and the number is growing steadily, thanks to the current political stability of the country.
Maiko National Park
Maiko National Park is found in the remote forests of the Congo with a number of primates including the Eastern lowland gorillas. Endemic animal species like the Congo peafowl can also be seen in Maiko National Park.
Ntokou Pikounda and Noubale Ndoki National Parks
These Congo national parks are the inhabitants of the Western lowland gorillas. The number of western lowland gorillas in Ntokou Pikounda National Park is estimated to be very high as compared to Noubale Ndoki park, whose gorilla trekking activity takes place in Mbeli bay. Other wildlife and plant life do inhabit these parks though, say African leopards, African bush elephants, African forest buffaloes and so much more than a tourist cannot miss seeing.
Gorilla trekking in Congo starts very early in the morning with a briefing that starts at 7 am at the park headquarters by the park rangers who will share the expected rules and guidelines that all tourists should comply with at all times. The rangers then group tourists in groups of eight and allocated different gorilla groups to track. gorilla family allocation is dependent on the fitness levels of a tourist. In Virunga National Park, gorilla trekking starts from Bukima. During the trek, tourists are advised to keep an eye out for other animals in the parks like the elephants, chimpanzees among others plus a number of bird species. Tourists are only allowed one hour with the gorillas once encountered, utilizing this time appropriately to make the best of the gorilla trekking experience is up to the tourists. They can choose to take pictures and videos of the gorillas or take time to just wonder at the beauty and gentility of these creatures as they feed, play and groom each other. Below are some of the rules and guidelines that tourists should expect to be shared with by the park rangers during the gorilla trekking in Congo brief;
- A 7 meters’ distance away from the mountain gorillas must be observed at all times. If the inquisitive juveniles come too close, move at least 5 meters away from them slowly.
- Keep within your group. Do not surround the gorillas either as they find this threatening
- Noise is not allowed and whisper if you really need to speak
- Avoid direct eye contact with the gorillas, this threatens them and causes them to charge.
- Keep calm when a mountain gorilla charges. When charged at, never run but instead stand still, show respect to it by lowering your head and gaze. Follow whatever instructions your guide/ranger instructs you to do.
- Do not use flash photography
- Do not throw rubbish in the park. Carry back all that you came with including food wraps.
- Do not eat near the mountain gorillas. Eating should be done at least 200 meters away.
- Do not touch the gorillas.
- Persons below 15 years are not allowed to trek
- Unhealthy tourists with contagious diseases must not trek the gorillas. Kindly volunteer to not proceed with the gorilla trek if you fall sick on the day of the trek.
To be able to take part in gorilla trekking in Congo, tourists are advised to first purchase a gorilla trekking permit that can be booked from the park some time in advance at a cost of only $400 for all tourists and $150 for the Congo citizens only.
Having secured a gorilla trekking permit, travelers are advised to secure a valid visa to be allowed entry into the country alongside a valid yellow fever card and a valid passport. VISA processing for the Congo should be done online before traveling.
For a successful gorilla trekking safari in Congo, tourists are advised to pack right for the trip. Below are some of the essentials recommended for a successful gorilla trekking in Congo experience;
- Hiking boots with a good grip and preferably waterproof that your feet do not get wet when you do step in mud, puddles, small rivers or when it actually rains.
- Long-sleeved shirts
- Long safari trousers
- Waterproof jacket or raincoat that is light but not too light that the vegetation can easily tear them
- Waterproof backpack to safe-keep your important items like camera equipment, phones and the like.
- Garden gloves to keep your hands from bruising from plants that are rough, prickly and also reactive. Garden gloves also help to have a good and firm grip on your hiking stick and a hold onto the vegetation during the trek.
- Energy giving snacks that can rejuvenate you during the hike as the altitudes are quite high, plus enough drinking water for the hike can take some good time.
Gorilla trekking in Congo is best done during the dry months spell that stretches from June to October and mid-December to February. These months have the parks being more accessible with roads being less slippery and the vegetation cover not being too thick. Rains in the rainforests and mountainous regions fall at any time though, tourists are advised to keep this in mind and so pack appropriate wear and also use 4WD vehicles to be able to manage at the park.
Gorilla trekking in Congo gives tourists an opportunity to experience that wildness touch that only a few places in Africa still have. Take time to plan a Congo safari and have a gorilla trekking safari included on your plan and be sure to experience the very best that not so many have.