Virunga gorilla trek
Virunga gorilla trek takes you to Virunga national park one of the largest and oldest national parks in Africa. The national park is found in the eastern part of DR Congo and its harbors 20 primates, 218 mammals, and 706 bird species. Virunga is famous for the endangered mountain gorillas that are not common in all countries in the world. There are over 400 mountain gorillas in Virunga among these are 8 fully habituated gorilla families that are open for trekking at any time of the year.
Virunga national park is also famous for hosting 2 active volcanoes in the world and these are mountain Nyiragongo which last erupted in May 2021 and mountain Nyamuragira which last erupted in November 2011. Mountain Mikeno is another mountain in Virunga national park but it’s a stratovolcano. Virunga national park can be accessed from Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya and the gorilla trek in this park can be done at any time of the year.
All Virunga gorilla treks start from Bukima ranger post where trekkers get a briefing from the park wardens. Trekkers with excess luggage hire porters at a fee to carry them luggage throughout the trekking activity. Groups not exceeding 8 are formed and the treks are led by armed ranger guides. The trekking activity takes 2-5 hours basing on the location of the mountain gorillas, the nature of the terrain, and the speed of the trekkers.
During the trek, the trekkers are able to spot different park animals like buffaloes, topis, leopards, okapis, bongos, duikers, monkeys, birds, and much more. When the mountain gorilla family you have been looking for is located, you will be given 1 hour to be around them, take photos, learn about their habits, and watch them do daily activities like coupling, nesting, hunting, and much more. Later you will trek out of the jungle, meet your driver for a transfer back to the lodge or next destination.
How much are Virunga gorilla trekking permits?
Virunga gorilla trekking permits happen to be the cheapest in all the countries that host mountain gorillas. Virunga gorilla permits go for $450 for foreign non-residents and foreign residents, $200 for Congolese and East African citizens in the dry season. In the rainy season, the trekking permits go for $200 per person per trek and this is when most budget travelers visit the park.
Travelers can book Virunga gorilla permits in DR Congo by;
Booking by themselves: Virunga gorilla permits can be booked by a traveler themselves using the Virunga national park website but it’s quite challenging they don’t get quick replies. Travelers can buy the permits using the Virunga national park website by simply sending them an email containing the dates of the year and month they want to travel and wait for a response whether the permits are available or not. Once they are available, they will be asked to send money for their permits to be booked.
Using a tour operator: Africa adventure vacations limited is a local tour operator in Africa that helps travelers wanting to trek mountain gorillas in Virunga by booking permits for them. Once you have decided to use us in booking Virunga permits, all you will have to do is send us an email containing the days of the months and year you want to travel and by using these dates, we shall contact those in charge of permits at Virunga national park to see if they are available.
When the permits are available, you will receive an email containing banking details of how you can send us money and once we have received it we shall go ahead and book the permits for you. Remember that gorilla trekking in Virunga national park is done among 8 gorilla families and therefore there are 64 gorilla permits every day in this park.
What to pack for the Virunga gorilla trek?
What to pack for Virunga gorilla trek includes waterproof hiking shoes, a pair of gaiters, a backpack, gardening gloves, cotton stocks, long-sleeved pants, long-sleeved shirts, a hat, sunglasses, a rain jacket, backpack, camera, a pair of binoculars, insect repellents, facemask, sanitizer, drinking water bottle, and energy-giving snacks.
When to do Virunga gorilla trek?
Virunga gorilla trek can be done at all times of the year but there are certain months that are better than the rest. The drier months are the best to have Virunga gorilla trek 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 less muddy and less slippery, vegetation in the jungle is thin with clear views sod the gorillas, and the roads leading to the park are passable.
Virunga gorilla trek can also happen during the rainy season and those who benefit most are the budget travelers who get discounted gorilla permits and accommodation facilities. Travelers need to know that in the rainy season, there is plenty of rainfall that makes the trekking trails muddy and slippery, the vegetation is thin with clear views of the gorillas, and the roads leading to the park are impassable.
How to access Virunga?
Virunga can be accessed using both air transport and road transport depending on the traveler’s budget. Travelers using air transport to Virunga can fly to Kigali international airport and use chattered flights to Gisenyi airstrip. From there they will drive to Goma border and get handed over to the security of Virunga national park to lead them to the park or lodge.
Other travelers can fly to Jomo Kenyatta international airport and use Jambo jets to get to Goma international airport. Jambo jet is under Kenya airlines and it does fly to DR Congo during some days of the week. From Goma international airport, you will be picked up by security personnel of Virunga national park who will drive you for about one hour to the park.
Travelers using road transport to Virunga can drive to southwestern Uganda and cross to Goma city using Bunagana border. From Goma city, they will drive for a short distance to Virunga national park. Another alternative is driving from Kigali to Gisenyi town where you will be taken to the Congo Rwanda border and cross to DR Congo. Here you will be given tight security to drive you to the national park or booked lodge.