Mountain gorilla treks in Virunga national park
Visiting Virunga national park for mountain gorilla treks is one of the highlights of my entire life. Trekking mountain gorillas in Virunga national park is an amazing activity as you get to encounter habituated gorillas that are used to human presence. Virunga national park is located in the eastern part of DR Congo and protects 1/3 of the mountain gorillas left in the world.
There are 8 mountain gorilla families living in the thick rainforest of Virunga national park. All these mountain gorilla groups are habituated for gorilla tourism at any time of the year. Trekking mountain gorillas in Virunga is done by those that are 15 years and older. Mountain gorillas share 98% of human DNA with human beings a reason why they have attracted thousands of travelers to the country.
Mountain gorilla treks in Virunga national park
Mountain gorilla trekking in Virunga national park is done among 8 mountain gorilla families that are fully habituated for gorilla tourism in this park. Trekking in Virunga starts early in the morning with the briefing and later groups not exceeding 8 are formed. All gorilla treks in the park are led by Virunga rangers who take you through different trails of the park looking for gorillas.
The gorilla treks take 2-5 hours of searching and the time taken to meet the mountain gorilla family depends on the location of the gorilla group as well as the speed of the trekkers. During the search, they are able to meet different animals such as mongooses, okapis, lions, buffaloes, duikers, topis, elephants, monkeys, birds, and different vegetation cover.
When the mountain gorillas are located, the trekkers are able to be around these apes for 1 hour and during that time they will be able to learn about their behaviors, take photographs and spot them doing daily activities such as nesting, eating, hunting, playing, breasting, and more. You will be asked to observe the rules and regulations of the trekking activity while with the mountain gorillas and you must keep your movies low even when you have moved away from the gorilla group. Drivers are always waiting for you at the starting point to transfer you to the lodge or your next destination.
Virunga gorilla permits
Gorilla permits are documents issued by the government body controlling the park to enable travelers to be part of the once-in-a-lifetime activity. Gorilla trekking permits in Virunga national park can be got from the park website or using a trusted local tour operator at a fee of $400 for foreign non-residents, $200 for foreign residents in the dry season. Budget travelers can wait for the rainy season to buy permits at $200 for foreign and non-foreign residents while East African is $100.
Gorilla trekking permits can be got easily using a trusted local tour operator and you can book your permit by sending them an email containing the dates of the month and year you want to travel. Using these dates, they will check for the gorilla permits with those in charge of the national park and once the permits are available, they will send you an email containing the different ways of banking. When you send the money and they have received it, they will book the permits for you and send you a scanned copy.
Packing list for mountain gorilla treks in Virunga national park
A list of things to pack for mountain gorilla trekking in Virunga national park includes waterproof hiking shoes, a pair of gaiters, garden gloves, long-sleeved pants, long-sleeved shirts, cotton stocks, a backpack, a rain jacket, insect repellents, a hat, sunscreen, camera, a pair of binoculars, drinking water bottle, energy-giving snacks, facemask, and sanitizer.
Best time for mountain gorilla treks in Virunga national park
Encountering mountain gorillas in Virunga national park is done throughout the year however there are certain months that are better than the rest. The drier months are the best for mountain gorilla treks in Virunga national park and they occur from June to September and December to February. They are characterized by little or no rainfall that makes the trekking trails muddy and slippery, the vegetation is thin with clear views of the mountain gorillas, and the roads leading to the park are in good condition.
Travelers can still encounter mountain gorillas in Virunga national park in the rainy season of March to May and October to November. During the rainy season, the gorilla trekking permits are sold at 50% normal price and this is a good deal for budget travelers. Travelers are informed that during the rainy season, there is too much rainfall that makes the trekking trails muddy and slippery, the vegetation is tall with unclear views of mountain gorillas, photography is not good because of a lot of fog and the roads leading to the park are in bad condition.
Accessing Virunga national park for mountain gorilla treks
Virunga national park can be accessed using road transport from Rwanda and Uganda. Travelers from Rwanda can drive from Kigali to Gisenyi town where they will cross to DR Congo using Le Grand Barrier border. From the border travelers are picked by Virunga national park security to the park are booked accommodation. Travelers in Uganda can access Virunga national park by driving to Kisoro in southwestern Uganda where they will cross to DR Congo using the Bunagana border. From the border, they will be handed over to the people of Virunga national park to transport them to the park or lodge.
Luxury travelers can access Virunga national park using air transport from Kenya or Rwanda. Those in Rwanda can access Virunga by using Jambo jets that are under Kenya airlines. The Jambo jets fly from Jomo Kenyatta international airport to Goma international airport on some days of the week. From Goma international airport, the travelers will be picked up by security to the park. Travelers in Rwanda can fly to Gisenyi airstrip and cross to DR Congo using the border. At the border, they will be led by the security to the park.