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Planning a gorilla safari in Virunga national park

Planning a gorilla safari in Virunga national park

Planning a gorilla safari in Virunga national park

Are you intending to visit DR Congo for gorilla trekking safari in Virunga national park? In this article, we are going to look at some of the frequently asked questions about Virunga so that they help you on planning well for your safari for a once in life experience in Virunga national park. In DR Congo, mountain gorilla trekking can only be done in Virunga national park which is located in the eastern part of the country.

Virunga national park is one of the four national parks in the world where mountain gorillas live, other national parks where travelers can meet mountain gorillas are Volcanoes national park in Rwanda, as well as Bwindi impenetrable forest national park, and Mgahinga national park in Uganda. Virunga national park is home to 8 mountain gorilla families that can be trekked at any time of the year. The national park can be accessed in a single day by road transport from Rwanda or Uganda and by Air transport from Kenya using Jambo Jet.

Tips for planning a gorilla trekking safari in Virunga national park.

When should I visit Virunga national park for gorilla trekking? Travelers can visit Virunga national park for gorilla trekking at any time of the year. However, there are months that are better than the rest and these are the dry months. The dry months are the best for gorilla trekking and they do happen from June to September and December to February. They are characterized by little or no rainfall that makes the trekking trails dry, the vegetation is short with clear views of wildlife and the roads leading to the park are passable.

Travelers can still visit Virunga national park in the rainy season of March to May and October to November and this favors budget travelers because they do get huge discounts on accommodation facilities. Travelers should note that in the rainy season, there is plenty of rainfall, the trekking trails are muddy and slippery, the vegetation is tall with unclear views of the park animals and the roads leading to the park are impassable.

Plan your Virunga gorilla trek in advance: Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park is the most done activity so you need to book the gorilla permits in advance for you to be assured of trekking. It’s better you book your trekking permits 3-4 months in advance to avoid inconveniences. The other reason as to why you need to book the gorilla permits in advance is to prepare well for a successful gorilla safari in Virunga national park.

You can choose which gorilla family you want to trek: In Virunga national park, mountain gorilla trekking can be done among 8 gorilla families that have been so far habituated within this park. These gorilla families are located in different parts of the park and each group can be trekked by 8 people. The 8 gorilla families in Virunga national park are Kabirizi group, Bageni group, Lulengo group, Mapuwa group, Humba group, Rugendo group, Munyaga group, and Nyakamwe group.

Buy a gorilla trekking permit: To trek any of the gorilla families in DR Congo, you need a gorilla trekking permit. You will present this gorilla trekking permit to the park wardens on the day of trekking to be able to join the group and encounter mountain gorillas. Before traveling to Virunga national park, you must buy a gorilla trekking permit and you can buy it from the Virunga national park website or a trusted local tour operator at the same price.

How much is a gorilla trekking permit in Virunga national park?

A gorilla trekking permit in Virunga national park is $400 for foreign non-residents and foreign residents and $200 for East African citizens in the dry season. In the rainy season, the trekking permits in Virunga national park go for as low as $200 per person per trek.

How to purchase a gorilla trekking permit for Virunga national park?

Virunga national park gorilla trekking permits are purchased from the Virunga national park website and this can be done by sending them an email and the days of the month and year you want to travel. They will check if permits are available and they will send you an email containing banking details. Once they have received the money, they will keep your permits for you and you will find them at the park offices.

Another alternative is using a local tour operator like Africa Adventure Vacations to book the Virunga permits for you. You will simply send us an email containing the dates of the month and year you want to travel and using these dates we shall check for the availability of the permits with the park authorities. If we find them available, we shall send you banking details and when we receive the money, we shall book the permits for you.

How challenging is gorilla trekking in Virunga national park?

Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park is not so challenging compared to other gorilla national parks. Although it’s not challenging, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t prepare well for the treks. It’s good to be physically fit when you are planning to trek mountain gorillas as the activity takes you through different steep slopes when searching for the apes. There are sometimes mountain gorillas that move up high altitudes to look for food so you will have to fit enough to hike those slopes. Mountain gorillas can be located after 2 hours but it can take even up to 5 hours in Virunga.

Accommodation in Virunga national park

Virunga national park has several accommodation options that offer different services and prices. Accommodation facilities in Virunga national park do range from budget to mid-range to luxury options such as Lulimbi Tented Camp, Nyiragongo Volcano Summit Shelters, Bukima Tented Camp, Mikeno Lodge, Tchegera Island, and Kibumba Tented Camp.

What to pack for Virunga gorilla safari?

While trekking mountain gorillas in Virunga national park, you will need waterproof hiking shoes, a pair of gaiters, a backpack, gardening gloves, cotton stocks, long-sleeved pants, long-sleeved shirts, a rain jacket, insect repellents, a hat, sunglasses, backpack, camera, a pair of binoculars, facemask, sanitizer, drinking water bottle, and energy-giving snacks.