The Mountain Gorillas In Virunga national park
Virunga national park is home to about a third of mountain gorillas that reside in the dense tropical forests that form canopies, covering the lush slopes of the Virunga volcanoes. The total number of mountain gorillas in the world is estimated to be around 1000 individuals.
Virunga national park is the oldest national park in Africa and was gazetted in 1925 and second oldest in the world after Yellowstone national park of the United States of America. The park was mainly established to protect the endangered mountain gorillas however, more animals were discovered and this created more attention for the conservation of the park resources including fauna and flora. Such wildlife in Virunga national park includes; elephants, lions, hippopotamuses, okapis, antelope, warthogs, and pelicans
Mountain gorillas are the main attractions of Virunga national park and attract travelers all over the world to meet eye to eye with the gentle endangered primates of the jungle! Virunga is more interesting and allows visitors to fully enjoy their tour because it is less crowded compared to other gorilla tracking destinations of Uganda and Rwanda.
Currently, Virunga national park of DR Congo has 8 gorilla families which are ready for tracking and tourism activities. The price of a gorilla permit in Virunga national park is USD 400 per person per trek and it is exclusive of the accommodation and transport. Yes, the gorilla permit in Virunga national park DR Congo is the cheapest in Africa compared to Uganda and Rwanda.
The Kabirizi gorilla family was the first habituated group in 1994 in the Virunga national park with 34 members at Bukima sector. In1998 and 2012, the group split as a result of Kabirizi’s son, leaving with 21 individuals. Despite Kabirizi’s troop shrinking dramatically as a result of the feud, the family grew again to 24 members between January 2013 and March 2020.
Other gorilla families in Virunga national park include; Bageni Family, Munyaga Family, Mapuwa Family, Lulengo Family, Humba Family, Rugendo Family, and Nyakamwe Family.
Only 8 tourists are allowed to visit a particular gorilla family in Virunga national park per day and are given a full hour to interact with the mountain gorillas in the mist jungles upon encounter.
Facts about Mountain Gorillas In Virunga national park
Habitat of mountain gorillas: Over one third of the estimated remining 1,000 mountain gorillas live in the protected forests of Virunga National Park. If we compare the eastern lowland and mountain gorillas, the mountain gorillas have thick hair to protect them against the sub-zero temperatures which normally happened in areas of altitudes between 7 – 14,000 ft.
Mountain gorillas in Virunga national park live in stratified vegetation zones which are influenced by altitude. In most cases gorillas spend most the time near the Volcano base with dense vegetation. The air throughout the mountain zones is moist and misty.
Behavior of mountain gorillas: Just like any other primates, mountain gorillas in Virunga national park are very social; they live in families called troops, led by a silverback which is a dominant alpha male. The silverback protects its members of the group and directs family activities like nesting, feeding and movement in search for secure areas.
Challenges to dominant silverbacks are encountered with impressive displays of strength and aggression, chest-beating, and vocal intimidation. Regardless of this, mountain gorillas are generally calm.
Mountain gorillas are herbivorous animals and do feed on roots, plant leaves, fruit, bark and pulp, with about 0.1% coming from invertebrates.
Physical Characteristics of mountain gorillas: After a gestation period of 9 months, infants are produced weighing about four pounds. Four months later, infants start clinging their mothers’ backs for about two to three years. Despite of all this, the male adult mountain gorillas weigh 430 pounds and can stand five feet tall.
The streak of silver hair among mature males develops following adolescence. Mountain gorillas walk on their knuckles, possess unique nose prints, and have dark brown irises encircled by black rings.
Adult mountain gorillas in Virunga national park have thicker and longer fur which tends to be smaller than other subspecies.
Best time to see mountain gorillas in Virunga national park
Very many travelers look for the best time to visit Virunga national park to see the mountain gorillas; well we are here to help you make a decision when to book your upcoming gorilla safari in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The fact is that mountain gorillas in DR Congo can be tracked all year round and travelers almost get the same experience and satisfaction. Some clients tend to avoid the rainy season and forget that Virunga national park is a dense forest and experiences an equatorial climate with large quantities of precipitation all year round. Just be ready for any weather changes.
On paper, the best time to track mountain gorillas in Virunga national park of the Democratic Republic of Congo is during the drier months of June, July, August, and early September. During those months, less rainfall is expected compared to the months of April, May, and November.
Most travelers tend to book their gorilla trips during the dry season but gorilla permits tend to sell out quickly and all those interested in trekking gorillas during the peak season are advised to book their gorilla tours in advance – at least 4 months to avoid disappointments.
Always remember to pack the following items for the mountain gorilla trek in Virunga national park DR Congo; Hiking Boots, Rain Jacket, Garden Gloves, Long Trousers, Long sleeved shirts/ long sleeved blouses for the Ladies, A Pair of Binoculars, Cameras, Extra batteries and lenses, Sun Glasses and a Wide brim Hut, Flash light/ head lamp, Energy giving Snacks, Gaiters and thick cotton stockings.