A face to face encounter with the rare mountain gorillas has become the most sought after adventure in Africa. Staring at the large primates in their natural habitat is the most humbling thing in life. Gorilla trekking occurs in an elevation of 2500 meters above seas level. Therefore, visitors are encouraged to take their time. The early morning briefing will start at 7:00am and at 8:00am you will hit on the jungles to search for your gorilla group. The Congo gorilla trek takes place in high mountain tropical forest where there is thick vegetation cover and heavy rains are experienced. This calls for interested trekkers to be physically prepared to hike through the jungles of Virunga National Park.
If you have heavy luggage, there is no need to stress the mind because there are porters to be hired and they will help you to carry your luggage as you enjoy your trek, take as many photos as possible without any inconvenience. Porters are around the briefing station. By hiring one, you would have impacted on the lives of these ex-poachers.
If you physically disabled or find any hardships in hiking, there are special solutions including hiring the special service of stretcher with porter. Everything is possible in the park and every trekker has hopes of achieving his or her dreams. The time that visitors spend in the forest is unpredictable and tracking can last from 3 hours to 8 hours which nearly an entire day.
What to carry on gorilla trekking
Most importantly, you will need to come with your passport, Inoculation certificate against yellow fever, money to cater for your personal expenses, strong waterproof hiking boots but they should be of light weight, long sleeved shirts/T-shirt, trousers, a camera with no flashlight, extra batteries, snacks, bottle of water, insect repellents, gardening gloves, sun glasses, hat among others.
What to wear on gorilla trek
You need long sleeved shirt/T-shirt and other clothing that environmentally friendly. The wear should be fitting and makes you to relax, and that can keep you warm incase of coldness. Most lodges around the park offers laundry services at a pocket friendly cost.
Gorilla permits are in high demand and this means that visitors have to book for their permits before the safari date that they wish to travel for the adventure. Payments can be done through your trusted tour operator or direct through park authorities. Gorilla permits in DR Congo are obtainable at $400 per visitor.
What to expect on gorilla trek
There are currently 8 gorilla families in DR Congo. There are only 8 permits that are always issued per day per family and time allowed for visitors to be with gorillas is strictly 1 hour. The trek occurs through the Bamboo covered by the Virunga Mountains in Virunga National Park. Whereas trackers are always sent to the forest to ascertain the location of gorilla groups, allowing them to weigh every family as simple, medium or hard, mountain gorillas like any wild creatures keeps moving throughout the course of the day. The trek begins at 7:00am at the parks headquarters and by 8:00am after the early morning briefing, you will set off to the jungles to look for your assigned gorilla family. Every trek begins with relatively flat hike from the trailhead car park to the bottom of the slopes and after, it may not easy to predict. Treks can go from 30 to 8 hours with guides who will be clearing way for you using the machetes. As you get closer to these apes, the guide will request you to leave the bags with the porters and only take your camera with you. At this time, you will have one hour with gorillas, explore their daily behavior but at a distance of 8 meters.
Acquiring a DR Congo visa
To apply for Congo visa, you will need original passport valid for about three months. There are two types of visas-the Congo tourist visa and business. You can choose the type that you need depending on the reason of your travel in the country. Those who wish to visit the park for gorilla adventures and hiking safaris, they can get visas through visitvirunga.org webpage. You will be required book your visa in advance and in order for you to apply for single entry visas, you will need about $105. The process goes for the 7 working days and then you get your scanned file of a fax copy from Kinshasa.
Best time to visit Virunga National Park
Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park is best in the dry season which starts in the month of June to September to February. At this time, the habitat for these species remains dry and hiking also becomes easier. The wet season starts in the months of March to April and October to November. Trekking gorillas during this season is hard because the terrains tend to be muddy.
Safety and security:
If you are planning for your safari to DRC it is important that you ascertain with the current security situation of the country before traveling to the country. The security in DRC isn’t stable particularly in places such Ituri, North and South Kivu, Haut Lomami, Kasai, Kasai central, Kasai oriental, Maniema and Tanganyika areas to the west and east of Kananga as well as Tshikapa and Mwene-Ditu (The Foreign and Common Wealth Office FCO. About cross border security in the DRC, the security divisions and Virunga national park authorities are available to safeguard and provide information regarding safety and insecure places and visitors are always advised to get updated information before taking a trip to the destination. Contact any nearest British Embassy or visit the official website of the Virunga National Park for further information.
In conclusion gorilla trekking is a breathtaking adventure that requires intending trekkers to be well prepared to hike through the jungles of Virunga National Park to view the magnificent primates in their wilderness. DR Congo is also blessed with the incredible Eastern Lowland gorillas on top of the critically endangered mountain gorillas.