Virunga national park lies in the Eastern region of Democratic Republic of Congo close to its capital city “Goma” and its a distance of 32 kilometers only form the capital. It is approximately 8,090 square kilometers and it is bordered by Mgahinga national park in Uganda and Volcanoes national park in Rwanda. All these national parks are home to the endangered gorillas.
Virunga national park is more than 3000 faunas and flora species of which 300 are endemic to the Albertine rift valley. The park has over 250 gorillas, habituated with 8 individual gorilla families available for trekking all year around. Other species of primates include the common chimpanzees, golden monkeys, central African red colobus monkeys, De Brazzas, Blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, Dena Mona monkeys. It also has over 196 mammal species such as African bush elephants, bay duiker, yellow duiker weaver, topi, waterbuck, common warthogs and many more. Birds found in Virunga include Mountain yellow warbler, yellow-white eye, variable sunbirds, brown woodland, mountain greenbul, Alphin swift, olive woodpecker and many others. It also has over 2077 species of plants like the Kowai fruit, Africa caper, conkerberry, paperbark thorn and many more. The park became a UNESCO heritage site in 1994.
Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park can be conducted in the tropical montane rainforest which leads you to different trailheads where 8 gorilla families have been habituated for trekking. These include Kabirizi, Rengendo, Humba, Lulengo, Nyakamwe, Bageni and Munyanga. The Gorilla trekking experience is led by the experienced trackers who guide you throughout the day but based on where they are located. People allowed to participate in gorilla trekking activities are a maximum of 8 people per group per day per group. Finding the gorillas can be hectic since they keep moving around the forest. It can take 1 to 7 hours or even all day trekking. Congo Gorilla permits are cheaper at costs USD 400 only per person. Uganda gorilla permits are sold at USD 600 and Rwanda gorilla permits are a bit expensive & cost USD 1500 per person.
On the gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park, you can get a chance to view mount Nyiragongo and Mount Nyamuragira. You can as well see various species of birds like the olive woodpecker, black saw-wing, mountain green bul, brown woodland, and many others.
The park is protected by armed soldiers who risk their lives protecting the wildlife gazetted area and the local communities.
Gorilla Trekking Rules
Before starting your activity for gorilla trekking, you are advised by the rangers to keep noise levels as low as possible and to those with sneezing flue you have to keep a distance of 5 to 7 meters away from these endangered gorillas, because they are wild animals and can easily catch diseases from humans.
Fortunately, when you’re on gorilla safaris in Virunga national park in Congo, you can as well engage in very many activities like nature walks, Nyiragongo hiking, chimpanzee trekking, bird watching, landscape viewing, boat cruise along Lake Kivu where you will see water animals like hippopotamus, crocodiles and bird waters and many more.
Things to carry on gorilla safaris: Cameras, Hiking boots, Waterproof Long sleeved shirt and sweaters together with insect repellents.
Accommodation is available including comfortable hotels ranging between mid-range, budgets with great beautiful views like Bukima tented camp, Kibumba tented camp, Tcheggera island camp, Lulimbi tented camp, Mikeno lodge, Mt Nyiragongo summit shelters. You can as well sleep in Goma at hotel cap Kivu, Lac Kivu lodge, Ihusi hotels and many more but depending on your budget.
The best time to do gorilla safaris is in dry seasons from the month of January, March, June, August, October, and December. You can also visit in the wet season, though the area can be slippery. Carrying out gorilla safaris in Virunga national park will be undoubtedly one of the highlights of your tour in Congo.