Congo the Ultimate Primate Trekking Destination
The Democratic Republic of Congo is no doubt the ultimate primate trekking destination all thanks to the country’s wildlife diversity. Congo remains one of the less explored wildlife destination offering virgin and authentic wildlife experiences. The country is home to East Africa’s leading primates including endemics found in no other place on the planet.
Much as the country is disturbed by security issues, tourism activity is still ongoing in the Kahuzi Biega national park area. Virunga national park is still closed since the Mount Nyiragongo Erupted but we hope it will eventually be opened.
Let us briefly look at Congo’s major primates trekking experiences that make the country an ultimate primate trekking destination.
Democratic Republic of Congo is among the 3 countries on the planet with the remaining populations of mountain gorillas. These rare primate have over 95% DNA similar to humans and their total population is currently estimated at 1100. They in live in the Virunga massif a chain of volcanic mountains along the Uganda, Rwanda and DRC border and in Bwindi impenetrable forest.
The Virunga massif has over 600 mountain gorillas and rest of the population is in Bwindi impenetrable forest. The Virunga massif has 3 major gorilla parks Virunga national park included which is also Africa’s oldest national park.
Virunga national park has a number of habituated mountain gorillas families that are open to tourist visitation. Mountain gorilla trekking here is very enjoyable as you get to meet some of man’s wild relatives. Much the park is currently closed, it will open again with time when it is safe for visitation giving way to the much desired primate trekking expeditions.
Eastern lowland gorillas live in the forest mountains of Kahuzi Biega national park. These are the largest of the all the gorilla subspecies and also live in families headed by a dominant male called Silverback. Just like the mountain gorillas, eastern lowland gorillas are also vegetarian and depend on plant vegetation and wild fruits.
Eastern lowland gorilla offers a great primate trekking experience and an opportunity to see other wildlife species in the park. Kahuzi Biega national park is home other primates including chimpanzees, Colobus monkeys, L’hoest monkeys among others. There are also birding opportunities here as the park is home to over 400 bird species.
There are however lowland gorilla trekking regulations to be followed while in the park. Only tourists are allowed to track a gorilla family staying in their presence for a minimus of 1 hour. This is to limit behavioural change among the mountain gorillas which results from the long hours of human and mountain gorilla exposure. Since they have over 95% DNA similar to human beings they can easily adapt human behaviour.
One is also required to keep a distance of about 7 meters away from them as they can easily charge when they feel threatened. Flash photography is strictly not allowed and one is advised to wear clothes that blend with nature colours.
Lwiro Sanctuary is a rehabilitation centre for chimpanzees but it is also home to other wildlife species. The sanctuary is located just 4 kilometres from Kahuzi Biega national park in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite its wildlife diversity and abundance, the country has the highest rates of poaching in the region. Many wildlife species are poached to be sold for food in local markets while others are hunted for medicine.
The Lwiro sanctuary was therefore set up as home to look after primates especially chimpanzees that are rescued from the poachers. There are currently over 107 chimpanzees, various monkey species including red tailed monkeys, Patas monkeys, Blue monkeys among others. Other wildlife at Lwiro include porcupines, parrots that are highly poached in the Congo.
A visit to the Lwiro Sanctuary is highly recommended for more exciting primate expeditions. The sanctuary can be visited after gorilla trekking in Kahuzi Biega national park.
Senkwekwe Gorilla Sanctuary Experience
Senkwekwe Mountain Gorilla Sanctuary is the only facility for orphaned mountain gorillas. It was set up in 2009 and now acts as home to mountain and lowland gorillas rescued from poaching or traps (snares) in the park.
A visit to the centre gives one more insight about mountain gorillas offering exclusive primate experiences. Looking after the gorillas here follows a routine that must be maintained for the safety and well being of the gorillas. They are given early morning breakfast and then left to go out and play. Later in the evening they are lured back into their sleeping area with food where they stay until the next morning.
While seeking for more intimate primate trekking experiences in Virunga national park ensure to add Senkwekwe Mountain Gorilla Sanctuary to your itinerary.
Golden Monkey trekking experiences
Golden monkeys are other rare primates species endemic to the Virunga massif. Just like their name golden monkeys are covered with golden fur and also live in families like other major primates. Congo is one of the few places where you can experience golden monkey trekking.
Other places with golden monkeys include Rwanda’s Volcanoes national park and Uganda’s Maghinga gorilla park. These are all part of the great Virunga massif.
Golden monkey experiences can be enjoyed in Virunga national park as you get to know more about these least explored primate species of the Virungas’.
As the security situation is slowly getting back to normal, many primate adventure travellers would love to Visit the Congo. For now Kahuzi Biega national park is open for those interested in Eastern Lowland gorillas. The Lwiro sanctuary is also currently open for Visitation. Virunga national park the most famous of all the primate parks will eventually open.
Visit East Africa’s other leading primate destinations that include Rwanda and Uganda. In Rwanda Nyungwe forest in the south western part of the country is home to 13 primates including the chimpanzees. For Mountain gorilla trekking then a visit to Volcanoes national park is very ideal. In Uganda, Kibale national park is popularly known as the primate capital of the world because of the parks high chimpanzee population as well as other primates.
Other popular chimpanzee trekking destinations in Uganda include Budongo forest, Kyambura forest, Kalinzu forest among others. For Mountain gorilla trekking, Uganda has 2 gorilla parks that are Bwindi impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla park.