Congo Gorilla Trekking Tours – The Ultimate Guide to Gorilla Tours in Congo

Congo gorilla trekking tours offer travelers an opportunity to learn about the behavior of the giant apes – gorillas. Did you know that Congo is the only country in Africa with both lowland gorillas and mountain gorillas? Congo gorilla trekking tours take you to Kahuzi Biega National Park and Virunga National Park. These two parks make the Democratic Republic of Congo a reliable gorilla trekking destination in Africa.

Congo gorilla trekking tours or Congo gorilla safaris are a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It primarily involves visitors walking through the jungles as they look for a habituated gorilla group. On finding gorillas in the Congo’s natural rainforest, trekkers are guaranteed of an hour to enjoy a face-to-face interaction.

In this article, you will learn about the basics of planning the best Congo gorilla trekking tours. Additionally, you will be able to know the price of Congo gorilla permits and other gorilla trekking requirements. Below are some of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Congo gorilla trekking tours.

Congo Gorilla Trekking Tours

Where are gorillas found in Congo?

If you are planning a gorilla trekking tour or safari in Congo, you may choose one or both of the two destinations. The first choice is Virunga National Park.  The next option is visiting Kahuzi-Biega National Park. Each of these two protected areas hosts different subspecies of gorillas for you to see.

Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park

Virunga National Park is majorly known for mountain gorilla trekking. Out of the currently estimated 1063 mountain gorillas, about a third of them survive in the Virunga National Park. Virunga National Park lies in the Eastern DRC. It is one of the biggest and oldest parks in Africa. Virunga National Park was originally established in 1925 as Albert National Park. Today, this park occupies 7800 sq. km of land area in Eastern Congo. On gorilla trekking safaris in Virunga National Park, trekkers explore any of the 10 (ten) habituated gorilla groups. They include the Humba gorilla family, the Kabirizi gorilla family, and the Rugendo group.

Other gorilla groups include Mapuwa, Bageni, Munyaga, Lulengo and Nyakamwe. The two new groups include the Baraka gorilla family and the Wilunula gorilla group. Every gorilla group displays unique behaviors and has a leader and different composition (size). Each of the eight Virunga National Park gorilla family groups is trekked by a maximum of 8 visitors per day. The gorilla treks are done with the presence of an experience of an experienced Virunga National Park ranger guide.

Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park starts from the Bukima ranger post. At Bukima, visitors get briefed about gorilla trekking guidelines and other safety measures. The park official also allocates visitors to gorilla groups to trek during the briefing session. At around 8:00 a.m., the actual trekking through the Virunga jungles begins in search of mountain gorillas.

Eastern lowland gorilla trekking in Congo

Kahuzi-Biega National Park still stands out as the best place in Congo for Eastern lowland gorilla trekking. The Eastern lowland gorillas are a unique species of primates. They are a subspecies of the Eastern gorillas. The Eastern lowland gorillas are also the biggest of the 4 subspecies of gorillas. In Kahuzi-Biega National Park, more than 9 gorilla groups are available. Bonnani, Chimanuka, Mpungwe, Mugahuka, and Nganwa gorilla groups are the only habituated families. Like mountain gorillas, the Eastern lowland gorillas display a distinct behavior and a dominant silverback leads each family. Eastern lowland gorillas also live in Maiko National Park and the remotest Tayna Nature Reserve. Combining Eastern lowland gorilla tours and mountain gorilla trekking in Congo is the best way for you to encounter all the two subspecies that make up the Eastern gorilla species.

How much is the Cost of gorilla trekking permits in Congo?

Congo is the cheapest destination in Africa to visit for gorilla trekking. The price of Congo gorilla trekking permits is USD 400. The cost of the license applies to both Eastern lowland and mountain gorilla trekking experiences. Obtaining the Congo is easier through the local tour operator. Talk to our expert to plan your Congo gorilla tours and also secure in advance the gorilla permit. The process is tedious but our team can assist. Contact us via our active email/direct call.

Share the dates, month, and year you intend to visit gorillas in Congo and the destination of preference. Once you have talked to our reservation team, we shall cross-check the availability of gorilla permits as per the dates you shared. When the permits for the dates you intend to travel for gorilla trekking are available, we shall get back to you. At this stage, you will be required to deposit to enable our team to reserve the permit for you. Once the gorilla permit is booked, details will be shared with you and an original copy will be available on the actual visit to your destination. However, the cost of gorilla permits in Congo is exclusive of other travel expenses like transportation and accommodation. The cost only covers park entrance fees, park ranger guide services, and conservation fees.

When should you book a Congo gorilla trekking permit?

Consider booking your gorilla trekking permits in Congo at least 2-4 months before the actual visit to any destination to see gorillas. The demand for gorilla permits at times rises and becomes worse during the peak season. The peak months/season for gorilla trekking fall in June, July, August to September then from December, January to February. Booking a permit earlier can save you from any inconvenience and you can have adequate time to plan for the rest of the things.

What is the best time of the year to go gorilla trekking tour in the Congo?

The best time to visit the DRC for gorilla trekking (mountain gorilla or eastern lowland gorilla trekking) is during the peak dry season. The first peak dry season runs from June, July, August to September. Another phase of the dry season starts from December, January to February. During the peak dry months, visitors do not encounter challenges trekking through the forest like it is during the wet or rainy season. Low or completely no rain occurs during the dry months. As a result, the ground is kept drier thus making it easier to walk through the jungles. The steep slopes are not slippery which guarantees you a relatively smooth trek through Virunga National Park or Kahuzi-Biega National Park.

Congo Gorilla Trekking Tours

The wet or rainy months occur twice a year in different phases. The longest wet or rainy season is experienced from March to April. The short peak rainy season begins from October to November. Generally, all these months are characterized by heavy rains and slippery steep slopes or muddy forest ground floor.

What to wear on gorilla trekking adventure in Congo?

Whether you plan to trek the Eastern lowland gorillas or mountain gorillas, packing the right clothes should be a must-do. Here is a complete packing list of what to wear during gorilla trekking in Congo.

Waterproof hiking shoes/boots

Do not carry or pack any shoes of your choice but rather find comfortable waterproof hiking boots. These are ideal for you to walk smoothly via the forest which can be muddy or slippery depending on the season. Wearing good and waterproof hiking boots or shoes can save you from muddy areas.

Long-sleeved shirts

Comfortable long-sleeved shirts are ideal for gorilla tracking in Kahuzi-Biega or Virunga National Park in DRC. They can protect your hands as you navigate via thorny plants in search of eastern lowland gorillas or mountain gorillas.

Rain jacket

A rain jacket is essential for anyone planning to visit gorillas in Congo. A waterproof rain jacket can protect you when it rains. Note, trekking gorillas in Congo is done in natural rainforests. These areas can receive rain at any time and having a rain jacket is one way to keep you prepared.

Long hiking/trekking pants

Gorilla trekking in Congo is far away from ordinary walks. Expect navigating through the rainforest and such an environment doesn’t require shorts like beach holidays. Long pants or trousers are essential to keep you safe from scratches or insect bites.

A pair of socks

Trekking to see gorillas in the wild takes several hours and considering the nature of the environment, a pair of socks should be a must-have. They can protect you from crawling insects while you are on a search for a family of mountain gorillas or eastern lowland gorillas.

Daypack

A good daypack –waterproof is an essential item to pack for your gorilla tour in Congo. It will help you store all relevant items including a lunchbox, cameras, bottled water, and rain jackets.

What else to pack for the Congo gorilla trekking adventure?

Once you have exhausted the list of what to wear, the next items to pack for a successful gorilla trekking safari in Congo include.

A good camera –free of a flashlight

Photography is a must on gorilla trekking, a reason you shouldn’t forget to carry your camera. Have a good camera free of a flashlight for taking pictures. The camera should be accompanied by an extra camera battery and storage.

Insect repellent

Trekking to see gorillas is done in the forests and areas such as these have insects and mosquitoes. A tin of insect repellents shouldn’t be left out of your packing list for gorilla trekking in Congo.

Bottled drinking water

It is exhausting trekking for long hours to see gorillas. To keep you hydrated, you require some drinking water with you. Remember the gorilla trek may go for 2-6 hours.

A pack of energy snacks

Bottled drinking water should hand in hand with energy snacks. These can help keep you energized as you search for gorillas.

First aid kit

Emergencies can occur anywhere including the jungles as you search for gorillas. The first aid kit comes in handy in case of any emergency. Among the essentials to have in your first aid kit or medical kit include a plaster, painkillers, bandages, and others.

Toiletries

Consider having toiletries although some lodges may have them. Your toiletry kit may have endless items but ensure that you have some makeup, jewelry, a bottle of shampoo, soap, and deodorant. The toiletry kit should also contain toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, conditioner, garbage bags, and more.

A yellow fever vaccination certificate

Evidence of a yellow fever card/certificate shouldn’t be left out. It will be required when crossing the Congo border. In addition, you may also take vaccination against hepatitis A and B. Have medication with you for malaria, typhoid, flu, and cough.

Is gorilla trekking in Congo safe?

Certain safety guidelines or measures should be put into consideration if you are visiting the DRC for gorilla trekking. It is possible to travel to Congo to enjoy gorilla trekking safely. But first, you need to have updated travel information about the current security of the country. You can follow our updated travel news or your embassy. While in the DRC for gorilla trekking, do not go to trek gorillas alone. You should be accompanied by an experienced and trained park ranger guide. During the face-to-face interaction, make sure that a distance of 7-8 meters is maintained from these apes.

How much does gorilla safari in Congo cost?

Averagely, a gorilla trekking tour in Congo can cost between USD 1200 and 2000 per person depending on the length of your tour.  This can be a 3-day gorilla tour to Kahuzi-Biega National Park to see the eastern lowland gorillas. Overall, some factors play a significant part in determining the cost of the Congo gorilla trip. These include the cost of a gorilla permit, accommodation, transportation, number of days (length of stay), and season.

Gorilla trekking in Congo Vs Uganda Vs Rwanda

Gorilla trekking tours in Congo somehow stand out from those of Uganda and Rwanda. This is because gorilla trekking in Congo involves tracking two different gorilla species. Uganda and Rwanda on the other hand have only mountain gorillas. Visiting Kahuzi-Biega National Park presents visitors with a lifetime opportunity to see Eastern lowland gorillas. Eastern lowland gorillas are not in Uganda or Rwanda.

Additionally, Congo gorilla trekking tours are more of a budget gorilla tour destination than Rwanda and Uganda. A gorilla permit for both Eastern lowland gorilla and mountain gorilla trekking costs USD 400 per person. In Rwanda, you need USD 1500 per person to book a gorilla permit. In Uganda, permits are available for reservation at USD 800 per visitor.

Gorilla trekking guidelines/safety measures

Observing gorilla trekking rules/regulations or safety measures is mandatory.

  • Whether you plan to trek Eastern lowland gorillas or mountain gorillas, the acceptable age limit is 15 years.
  • Visitors on a gorilla trekking tour should be in better health –ill or sick persons are not allowed to engage in the trek to Eastern lowland gorillas or mountain gorillas.
  • The maximum number allowed to trek one gorilla family is 8 pax per day.
  • The park authorities allow visitors to have a face-to-face encounter with Eastern lowland gorillas/mountain gorillas strictly for an hour.
  • When taking photos of Eastern lowland gorillas or mountain gorillas, the flashlight camera should be turned off.
  • A distance of 7-8 meters must be kept away from the family of Eastern lowland gorillas or mountain gorillas.
  • When coughing, it is a good idea to have your mouth covered. In case you are sneezing, consider covering the nose.
  • As you search for gorillas in the wild, your voices should be kept low to avoid disrupting the behavior of gorillas.
  • When a gorilla has charged, please never run away –follow the instructions from your park guide (either from Kahuzi-Biega National Park or Virunga National Park).
More of the Regulations 
  • Eating or smoking in the presence of Eastern lowland gorillas or mountain gorillas is 100% prohibited.
  • Avoid as much as you can cutting the vegetation to have a clear view of the gorillas. Your park ranger guide can assist you or direct you to where you can have a clear view of your gorilla group.
  • Do not leave rubbish in the gorilla habitat- carry all the used items back and drop them in designated rubbish bins or points at the visitor center.
  • Trekking eastern lowland gorillas or mountain gorillas is strictly for persons with valid gorilla permits.
  • Once you have helped yourself in the bush, dig a hole to bury your fecal matter. The depth of the hole should be as directed by the park ranger guide.
  • Restrain yourself from body touches/contact with gorillas even when they rub themselves on you.
How hard/difficult is gorilla trekking in Congo?

Taking on a successful gorilla trekking tour in Congo requires some level of physical fitness. The trek to see Congo gorillas is unpredictable and often lasts for 2-6 hours. Virunga National Park alone has an elevation range of 680m –the lowest point which is found in the Semliki River Valley. The highest altitude is in the Rwenzori Mountains.

What are the chances of seeing Congo gorillas?

You are guaranteed to see gorillas in both parks in Congo. There is at least a 95% chance to meet these gentle giants. The chances of viewing gorillas can be influenced by factors such as the nature of the habitat, location of gorilla groups, and visitor fitness level.

What is a Congo gorilla trek like?

Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park and Kahuzi-Biega starts with a briefing about rules and regulations. The briefing session also includes the allocation of habituated gorilla groups and park ranger guides. The briefing, and allocation of park guides and gorilla families will be conducted by the experienced park official. Every gorilla group family is visited by a maximum of 8 (eight) guests and the gorilla trek is done once a day. Visitors shall be required to have valid gorilla permits. Guests with heavy luggage can have porter services –porters are available at the park offices. A porter can be hired at around USD 15-20. The porters can help you to carry luggage thus giving you a chance to concentrate on the gorilla trek. Gorilla trekking tours in Congo take 2 to 6 hours including the one hour spent with the gorillas upon meeting them.

Accommodation in and around Virunga National Park

Visiting Virunga National Park for mountain gorilla trekking and have no idea of where to stay? Virunga National Park, home to endangered mountain gorillas has budget, midrange, and luxury accommodation options. Here are some of the lodges to stay on mountain gorilla safaris in Congo; Kibumba Tented Camp and Lodge, Lake Kivu Lodge, Mikeno Lodge, and Bukima Tented Camp.

Accommodation in and around Kahuzi-Biega National Park

Top accommodation choices to stay in and around Kahuzi-Biega National Park include Lodge Coco Bukavu, Hotel Panorama, Lake Side Hotel Bukavu, Orchids Safari Club, Hotel Begonais Bukavu, and Exodus Bukavu Hotel.

Getting to Congo for gorilla trekking

Getting to Congo for gorilla trekking safaris is possible by road and air.

Congo Gorilla Trekking Tours

By road

By road, Kahuzi-Biega National Park is accessible 30 km from Bukavu town. From Kigali city center, you can spend 6 to 7 hours driving and cross through the Rusizi border. From Burundi, you can drive to Rwanda for 3 hours and later to the Rusizi border. Starting from Uganda, you can connect to Kahuzi-Biega but the journey can be long because you will need to make a stopover at Musanze before crossing to the park. Visitors with plans to see Virunga National Park gorillas can also travel from Kigali via Gisenyi. This is about 4 4-hour drive, or leave Kisoro in Uganda via the Bunagana border crossing to Virunga National Park.

By Air

By air, take a flight up to Goma Airport and from there, drive to Virunga National Park. Alternatively, you can travel to Congo using water transportation. You take a boat on Lake Kivu to Goma, for about 5 hours, or a speed boat ride for 3 hours. From Goma International Airport, you can also drive to Kahuzi-Biega National Park for about 5 to 6 hours. Before setting off, be sure of the safety of the route that you are taking.

Essential travel documents for Congo border crossing

A valid visa, yellow fever vaccination certificate, and passports. A valid Congo visa can be obtained at USD 100.

In conclusion, gorilla trekking tours in Congo offer primate enthusiasts a lifetime opportunity to interact with all the two subspecies of Eastern gorillas. Visit Congo for gorilla trekking safaris and stand a chance to see mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas. Book a gorilla tour in Congo with Native Africa Tours now.

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