How To Get To Virunga National Park

You can access Virunga national park by air, water and road transport

Gorilla Tracking In Virunga National Park

Are you looking for gorilla tracking in Virunga national park? Democratic Republic of Congo has gone through series of wars that have cause civil unrest. Democratic republic of Congo is the second biggest country in Africa after Algeria with a total population of 89.56 million people. DR Congo has a lot of untapped human and natural resources. The country is rich in large deposits of oil, diamonds, gold, copper, tin, cobalt, tantalum, lithium and other mineral resources. Moreover, Democratic Republic of Congo is blessed with a number of tourism resources starting from the virgin tropical rain forests, Congo Mountains, crater lakes, birds, rivers, lakes and animals such as pygmy chimpanzees, okapi, bonobo, elephants and many others which have not yet been discovered. Whereas some of her neighbors boast to have a large number of mountain gorillas, DR Congo is the only country in the world with mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas. The country also has endangered golden monkeys. If DR Congo had peace and good governance structures, it would be among the leading tourism destination in Africa.

DR Congo is the only country in the world you can track both mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas in the same wild. DR Congo is the best country to spot eastern lowland gorillas. Lowland gorillas can also be found in the zoos around the world while mountain gorillas can only survive in the wild. In DR Congo, lowland gorillas can be trekked in Kahuzi Biega national park and Mountain gorillas can only be found in Virunga national park. Mountain gorillas are usually bigger in size than lowland gorillas which have darker and thicker coats that are meant to help them survive in cold attitudes. Both gorillas stick to mainly vegetation diet, feeding on leaves, stems, bamboo shoots, insects, termites, fruits and small primates. Both gorillas sub species live in groups that are led by a dominant silverback that is responsible for safety of the rest of the members I n the group. Mountain gorillas are always big in size with an old one weighing up to 153-220 kgs. The males stay in the groups for longer while the female relocate and join other silverbacks once they reach maturity stage.

Mountain gorillas can only be seen in three world country’s that is in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. Gorilla trekking is the most done activity by tourists’ visiting Uganda, DR Congo and Rwanda at the moment. These is because Mountain gorillas are the closest relatives to human beings, they are rare and endangered with about 1004 left in the whole world. These reasons absolutely make watching mountain gorillas a very special wildlife activity. Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park starts very early in the morning at 7am. Trekkers have to wake up early for breakfast and prepare all things they need for the activity and move to the briefing Centre. These include long sleeved cloths, hiking shoes, rain jacket, hand gloves, cameras, binoculars, warm long stockings, gorilla permits packed lunch and water. While at the briefing Centre, you will be told about stories of each gorilla group, gorilla tracking rules and gorilla habits. You should also move with your passports for cross checking which helps rangers in allocating groups according to language of trekkers. While waiting to be allocated a particular gorilla group you can be entertained by traditional local dancers. After briefing, you will be grouped into 8 people to trek a particular gorilla group under the guidance of well-trained guides and armed rangers.

There are high chances of allocation gorillas in the park forests because the rangers always know where the gorillas last slept. However there are challenges encountered while trekking these gorillas such as difficult terrain, heavy rain and thick vegetation which prolong the time taken finding a particular group. When you allocate the gorilla group, you will be allowed one hour with them. This time helps you to learn about their behaviors, you will see them feed, play, patrol, stubborn adolescents climb up the and down the trees  and some go hunt food while you take photos with them and record memories. You might also see some gorilla members build up nests in the afternoon for preparation of the night.

Tips for planning a gorilla tracking safari in Virunga national park

Gorilla watching in Virunga national park is s a very amazing experience but remember that trekking gorillas can make you tired, sweaty and hungry. There are some simple things you must put into consideration in order to enjoy the whole gorilla trekking experience right from the time you enter the forest to allocate gorillas. You should:

You should make sure you are mentally okay and reasonably fit. When you are physically and mentally stable, moving through the hard terrain can be a walk over having your good hiking shoes.

Keep yourself warm and well covered with hand gloves, long sleeved shirts and shorts. Long synthetic stockings will help you to keep your body temperature warm.

Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park is done throughout the year but the dry season is the best time because the pathways are not muddy and slippery. The dry season is in the months of December and February and from June to September. The park can also be visited in the wet seasons which is October to November and March to April but the trails are muddy and slippery.

Work with well-organized tour operators that will get you everything ready after booking such as good accommodation, buying permits as well as transport. A good tour operator will give you detailed information about the tour and thy will remove away the burden of getting everything done by yourself

A well planned gorilla trek comes with a good quality camera, packed food, binoculars, enough water, insect repellents an d waterproof backpack.

In case of heavy luggage, you can hire porters because it might make you tired during the trekking activity

It’s advisable you book your gorilla permits in advance for proper planning and to avoid disappointments.

You should carry out yellow fever vaccination because it’s one of the requirements needed before entering any of the African countries.

You must apply for a DR Congo visa before entering the country and it costs USD 100

Inform your tour operator to book for you accommodation near the starting point of the trek. Accommodation near the starting points in Virunga include Goma and Bukima.

How to get to Virunga national park

After booking your gorilla permit, paying your visa and booking accommodation. You will ask yourself how you will get to Virunga national park. Well you will have to first land at Kigali international airport or Entebbe international airport in Uganda.

Rwanda-DR Congo route:

Flights at Kigali airport usually reach in the afternoon or in the evening which means you will have to first sleep at any of the hotels in Kigali before starting your trip journey to DR Congo border. You will have to start the journey to the DR Congo border early in the morning the following day. A journey from Kigali city to Gisenyi always takes you 4 hours using road transportation. If you hire a private car it will cost you bout $100 and when you use public means it will be cheaper. When you reach Gisenyi you can take a taxi to Congo Rwanda border. But if you are using any tour company all you need is to show up at the airport from there you will be picked up by a guide who will take you to your hotel and pick you next day to Virunga national park.

At Rwanda DR Congo border you will need to show your yellow fever vaccination card and a visa to cross the border. When your passport is stamped, then you will be free to head to Goma town in DR Congo and continue to Virunga national park.

Uganda-DR Congo route:

After landing Entebbe international airport, its takes less than an hour to drive to the capital of Kampala using the new express highway. From Kampala you can drive to kisoro which is the nearest town to DR Congo border and all this journey takes you about 8 hours. If you decide to use public means it can take you about $15-$ 20 depending on the season of the year because these public increase their charges in festive seasons such as eater and Christmas. There are many bus companies travelling to kisoro from Kampala such as jaguar, post bus, Bismarkan as well as horizon buses. But the best comfortable way to reach kisoro is by hiring a private vehicle or use the best tour operators. You can also access kisoro by air transport from Kajjansi airstrip or Entebbe international airport and once you reach Bunagana, you will get to Virunga national park in less than 30 minutes using road.

Water transport:

For adventurous travelers, there is another option of getting to Goma in DR Congo. You can hire a boat on Lake Kivu in Rwanda all the way to Goma in DR Cong. The boat cruise takes about 4 to 5 hours and it costs you $300 to $400. There are also speed boats at Lake Kivu which take you about 3 hours to reach Goma buy they are expensive.

Crossing the border to DR Congo from Rwanda or Uganda takes a few minutes if you have all the necessary requirements. Make sure you have a VISA and a yellow few vaccination card.

The cost of gorilla tracking in Virunga National park

A gorilla trekking permit ion DR Congo costs $400 and $250 in low seasons and this makes it cheaper than Uganda where it is $700 and Rwanda where it goes for $1500. Gorilla permits can be booked from Virunga national park website or through any trusted tour operator or even at the park headquarters. Gorilla permits a just a portion of the total cost of gorilla trekking in DR Congo. One needs to bear in mind the cost of a VISA, transport and accommodation. Gorilla tours are divided into luxury, mid-range and budget so the total cost of the tour will depend on what you have decided to choose.

Accommodation during gorilla tracking tours in Virunga national park

Accommodation also determines whether the safari was good or not. Virunga national park has various accommodation ranging from luxury, mid -range and budget. Below are some of the most popular hotels in Virunga national park

Kubumba tented camp lodge:

This is one of the new lodges in Virunga national park. The lodge is located on the foot of mountain Nyiragongo along a bumpy road to Virunga national park. The lodge has tented camps and well decorated rooms for luxury, mid-range and budgeted travelers. The lodge has self-contained rooms with a budget one going for $200 per night

Mikeno lodge:

This is a luxury lodge situated near Goma town. The lodge has 12 thatched luxurious rooms made up of mahogany and they are all decorated with lava stones. The lodge is located near the park and this allows visitors to have unforgettable wildlife experiences such as watching chimpanzees, blue monkeys, colobus monkeys as well as bird near the rooms. The place has a well-stocked bar, dining hall and a lounging area with a fire place.

Lake Kivu lodge:

This is built with in Goma city on the banks of Lake Kivu. The lodge is made up of 20 rooms overlooking a beautiful garden on one side and Lake Kivu on the other side. The lodge has a swimming pool, Wi-Fi, conference rooms and a fitness Centre.

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