Congo is one of the most intriguing destinations in the world to visit and Congo’s most eye catching for travelers today is gorillas tracking and Nyiragongo active Volcanoe hiking in Congo. D.R.Congo comprises of both Eastern low land gorillas which can be visited in Kauzi Biega national park and Mountain gorillas in the Virunga national park, which is part of the of the Virunga Volcanoe chain which stretches to southern Uganda and western Rwanda.
Lowland gorillas can be tracked in Kahuzi Biega national park which covers about 6000 square KM ,a UNESCO heritage site located south of Lake Kivu, East of D.R.Congo. Despite the political instabilities which were affecting the North Lake KIVU of Congo region, Kahuzi Biega national park park has been open to tourists coming to visit low land gorillas in Congo since its located in the south. The park boosts a total number of about 140 gorillas in 9 families of which only 2 gorilla groups have been habituated and ready for gorilla tourism and 7 groups are not yet ready for tourism.
This park is named after Mt. Kahuzi – 3308m and Biega – 2790m stretching from the Congo river Basin to northern Bukavu. The park is managed by the ICCN – Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation which is protecting the gorillas and the national park.Aside from low land gorillas, the park boosts a number of other wildlife like chimpanzees, bush hog, forest elephants, antelopes and lots of birdlife.
For a long time, D.R.Congo has been politically unstable with fierce fighting among several rebel groups which has made Virunga national park dangerous to visit. Since November 2013 when the M23rebel group surrendered, the region has become very stable and according to park officials, the southern section – the Mikeno region of the gorillas home is very secure and open for visitors to come visit mountain gorilla in Congo.
Virunga national park is the oldest national park in Africa and a UNESO World heritage site comprising of over 3,000 square miles has so much to offer tourists with lots of biodiversity concentrations including tropical rainforest, spatular landscapes, Nyiragongo active lava volcano, wildlife, mountain gorillas and low land gorillas can be found in the park, tree climbing lions, okapi and boosting hundreds of bird species, mammals than any other national park.
Since the end of war in the Virunga region, focus on protecting wildlife is ongoing so as to achieve sustainable tourism in the region and recovery so that the community neighboring the park can improve on living conditions.
How to get there
Accessing Kahuzi Biega national park can be done from Rwanda and Uganda. From Uganda, you can cross from Kisoro to Congo via the Bunagana border driving to Goma town and from Rwanda, you cross to Congo via the Cyangugu border driving about 10km to Goma town
To Access Virunga national park from Uganda, its still from Kisoro crossing via the Bunagana border and from Rwanda, you cross via the Goma border droving to Goma town.
NB: Visa costs apply and a visas can be got at the border crossing point on arrival.
What to Carry for Gorilla Trekking
The following Packing List with be convenient for your gorilla hiking adventure
- Good Hiking ankle level boots with a gripping sole is a must carry as it may rain and the group becomes very slippery
- Gloves to protect your hands from nettles and mud
- Rain coat and a water proof bag for your camera backpack
- Thick trousers and a long sleeved cotton top
- Carry enough batteries, Video filming, camera
- A pair of binoculars will be handy for bird lovers.
Tips when Trekking with the gorillas
- Hire a porter to help you with your backpack as it gets tough during the hike
- Get a walking stick, it will come handy when hiking gets tough
- Once you meet the gorillas, you should show submissiveness, this shows them your not a threat
- Do not look direct into their eyes, they find it a threat, especially for the silverbacks
- Speak in s low tone
- Once you meet the gorillas, take some time to observe them other than taking your whole hour taking pictures. Keep the magical moment in your heart too
- Do not use flash photography
- Do not go gorilla trekking if you are sick, you will transmit human diseases to the endangered gorillas. They easily catch human diseases
Is it possible to touch a Gorilla?
Gorillas are wild animals even though they have been habituated, they are still animals which means they are unpredictable and its very important to follow the advice of your trekking ranger once you meet the gorillas.
A gorilla can come as near as touch, and when that happens, follow every single instruction from your ranger guide as its very unpredictable what can happen to you or the gorilla.
Therefore its important to observe for the following once you encounter the gorillas
- Don’t go gorilla trekking under 15 years
- Don’t try to feed gorillas or entice them with food
- Don’t try to catch the gorillas eye, you may be tempted to catch eye contact
- Keep a distance of about 7 meters
- If a gorilla approaches you, remain very still, abrupt movements may scare it
- Don’t dump rubbish in the pack as it can get the gentle giants sick
- Avoid spitting in the forest. Gorillas can easily catch human diseases
What level of fitness is good enough for gorilla tracking
As you prepare to go gorilla trekking in Africa’s forested jungles, its important to know how fit you should be to handle the trek.
Gorilla tracking takes place in forested volcanic regions of altitude 2000 to 3500 meters which is a manageable range for average fitness. You just have to get fit enough.
Its very advisable to hire a porter once entering the forest to carry your back back, to help you through slippery grounds and to watch your movement if the trek gets hard
The ranger guides who guide you through the forest to the gorillas are very encouraging, patient, knowledgeable and ready to answer all your question,leave no one behind – you walk in a group with one guide at the front leading the way and one at the end of the group so you move at a good pace. Ask for a stop if you need one