If you think of trekking mountain gorillas in Democratic Republic of Congo, think no further than a trip to the magnificent Virunga National Park. The park is a UNESCO Heritage site and one of Africa’s most biologically diverse conservation areas. This park is situated in the eastern side of Democratic Republic of Congo on the boarder of Uganda and Rwanda.
With a total surface area of 7,800km2, Virunga National Park is home to approximately 1/4 of the world’s total population of mountain gorillas. Travelers are beginning to trace their way back to the DRC to see these elusive mammals. The experience of trekking mountain gorillas in Virunga national park is simply breath-taking and authentic.
A visit with a mountain gorilla family in Virunga Park is a life changing experience. Mountain gorillas are highly intelligent, good natured, and fascinating to observe. The silverback’s powerful presence is awe-inspiring, yet his calmness clearly earns him the title, “gentle giant”. People are equally struck by the tenderness and care that mothers show their young ones. And then, of course, there are the juveniles who spend most of every hour at play and never cease to make visitors smile.
This national park is a home to 25% of the world’s estimated 900 mountain gorillas with some unique ape species that can be sighted in this place, including the eastern Lowland Grauers gorillas and the Chimpanzees. Covering an area of over 4,000 square miles, the Virunga is a combination of volcanoes, forests, savannah, lava plains, swamps, erosion valleys and the glaciated peaks of Mountain Rwenzori and also inhabited with some distinctive animal species like the endangered species of okapi that looks like a zebra but closely related to the giraffe, large colonies of hippopotami, both savannah and forest elephants, lions and its numerous distinctive bird species.
This park is now the best possible destination for adventurous travelers to visit the once again accessible southern section of the Virunga National Park for the amazing Gorilla trekking experience. Gorilla trekking takes place in Mikeno area, close to the park headquarters about two hours’ drive from the gateway town of Goma. With an early start you can visit the gorillas as a day trip from Goma with good range of descent hotels like the luxury Mikeno lodge situated close to the Gorillas habitat in lush tropical woodland with stunning views over Virunga lowlands.
Going on a gorilla trek is an outstanding once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it is at the top of many travelers bucket list. It’s just so thrilling to be amidst these great apes in the middle of an impenetrable jungle. These unique animals are so canning, well mannered, and appealing to behold. The silverback’s mighty and formidable physic yet calm earn him the name “gentle giant”.
You will be struck by the affection and care that mothers give to their young ones. Obviously, the juveniles spend most of their time playing and they never cease to make visitors happy. Your time with the Virunga’s mountain gorillas won’t leave you the same way you came you will have changed your perception about these calm creatures. Some tourists go back calling them family, and not animals anymore.
All treks are led by park rangers and usually depart from Bukima patrol post. Treks usually require 1-2 hours of hiking in each direction, depending on where the mountain gorillas spent the previous night and the complication of the terrain.
In the urge to safeguard health of Virunga’s gorillas, visitors are required to put on the provided masks whilst the gorilla’s presence. Only children of 15 years of age or older are allowed going on a gorilla trek. Time with the gorillas is strictly limited to one hour. Your gorilla trekking adventure in Congo will commence in the morning and you will be driven up to virunga starting point. You will pass by small countryside villages and the people who run to the road to beckon at you; will give you a notice of a different way of life.