Mountain Gorilla tracking can be done in three African states namely Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Despite the fact that Uganda and Rwanda have gone imperial on taking it to another level especially because of how they are strategically located, the DRC is also striving to give a face-lift to its tourism sector.
Tracking gorillas is an out of this world inimitable experience that always finds its way to the top of many peoples bucket list. Why? Well, there is nothing as exciting as being amidst the grand apes in the core of an indestructible tropical rain forest and knowing that these animals share 98% of the human DNA.
While on your tracking journey, be sure to hike further into the impenetrable jungles to watch the gorilla families in the wild. The guides and parks rangers will lead you for they can without doubt determine the common area where these gorilla families will be. These are experts in tracking and they keep records of the gorillas for purposes of conservation and protection from poachers.
At the break of day, a drive to Bukima- a wardens post in the elevation of the Virunga National Park which is a gorilla tracking starting point slightly out of the Goma City will mark the beginning your gorilla tracking quest. Along the way be certain to see natives from the small agrarian villages waving tirelessly at any signs of modernization that they may see. This will most likely give you a glance at the different ways of life nearby.
The length of the trek is wholly dependent on the gorillas which hardly follow a clear path. You will get to understand that they wander a lot and that these itinerant gorillas voyage the jungle in families, only staying in an area long enough to clear it of food. Guides will sometimes be able to track them down in less than two hours but during other times it might take much longer.
Your first sighting might be that of mother apes holding their babies or the juvenile gorillas getting playful or even better the dominant silverbacks keeping an eye out for their family! The guides are sure to do more explaining on their range of behaviors.
ABOUT THE MOUNTAIN GORILLAS
Mountain gorillas are very social, highly intelligent and great animals to observe and they live in families, the Mountain gorilla also known as the Gorilla beringei beringei exists in two population where by one population of these gorillas is found in the three parks that lie in the Virunga Volcanoes, such as the Virunga national park in the east of DR Congo, Volcanoes national park in North western Rwanda and the Mgahinga national park in south western Uganda, and another population is found in Bwindi Impenetrable National park in the South West of Uganda.
Having a gorilla trekking safari in DR Congo is something one wouldnt want to miss in a lifetime, watching the Gorillas in the Virunga National Park. The fact that these primates live in families, each family requires a leader where by each family group is headed by a dominant silver back, there are also female gorillas that are in charge of care taking especially to the young gorillas, also there is nothing as amazing as watching the playful juvenile gorillas in the trees. Trekking starts at Bukima Patrol post, so all trekkers are supposed to be there early enough to go through the briefing and also meet their guides.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is still not yet so much explored by various people and if one is adventures this is the way to go since it doesnt provide the mountain gorillas only, but there is also an opportunity of hiking the Nyiragongo Mountain. So the time to take the safari is now!
GUIDELINES ON HOW TO PLAN YOUR DRC TRIP
- Buy a gorilla permit before travel, this is done in all gorilla trekking countries and the better way to book the gorilla permit is through the National Park, since there are less tour companies in DRC. The gorilla trekking permit is at US$400, this makes it cheaper than the cost of permits in Rwanda and Uganda. You can visit the park any all year round, though during some wet seasons like May and October it is a bit had to use some paths while tracking gorillas.
- The visa required for entering DR Congo costs US$ 100 and it must be applied for in advance.
- Make sure you have the yellow fever card which is gotten after getting the injection. This helps you to avoid disturbances as you enter the country, so the yellow fever card acts as proof also typhoid, rabies, hepatitis A, and meningitis injections are recommended.
- Make sure you always have the all equipments needed as you head for gorilla tracking you have the right equipments, since it is a bit tiresome while hiking in the jungles. The equipments include; rain gears, woolen socks, first aid kits, very comfortable clothes, good strong trekking shoes, a light back pack with some snacks and enough water, a water proof camera is advisable since there are always unpredictable rainfalls in the jungle.
RULES AND POLICIES
While in Virunga there are some policies and rules that are a must to be followed by gorilla trekkers while in the park.
- Gorilla tracking takes place or is done between 8 am and 7pm daily.
- Trackers are organized in a group of 8 and that is the maximum number allowed to trek per day, this is so because there is it reduces congestion and the spreading of disease from gorillas to humans and from humans to gorillas.
- Trekkers are permitted to spend one hour while with the gorillas, and the trek usually takes 1-2 hours of hiking, this is dependent on where gorillas spent the night and the steep landscape.
- Trekkers should be 15 years and above in order to be allowed to trek, any one below those years cannot trek.
- Trekkers are not supposed to litter in the park, just in case you have rubbish like mineral water bottles through the in rubbish bins.
- Never go off track or ahead of the guide before they tell you to.
-The gorilla permit costs US$400 for International Adult travelers and US$150 for Adult Congolese and this permit is valid for only one day of trekking.
This 3 Day Gorilla tour in DR Congo is short but rewarding where you will be able to meet face to face with Gorillas in Virunga National Park, found in the Northeastern part of the country. Though it is the least visited gorilla destination; it doesnt take away the fact that it has a lot to offer. The safari will start and end in Kigali-Rwanda.
Day 1: Transfer from Kigali-Rwanda to Bukima-DR Congo
Day 2: Gorilla trekking-Virunga National Park
Day 3: Return to Kigali