Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s Top Tour Experiences

Democratic Republic of Congo has diverse wildlife species and offers by far some of the most outstanding tour experiences. The country is now part of the East African community adding to the great tourism diversity the region has. In the Congo you will find endemics that occur only there and can not be found in any other place.

The country is among the less traveled destinations and a lot of it is still untouched. This gives one an opportunity to enjoy exclusive tour experiences that range from primate treks to the rich culture and heritage experiences. Let us look at some of the highly rated tour experiences that you must be apart of when exploring the Congo.

Golden Monkey in Virunga National Park. Wildlife Tour Experiences
Golden Monkey in Virunga National Park. Photo by Steve Woods

Democratic Republic of Congo is among the 3 countries with mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas are primates with over 95% DNA similar to humans. This makes them among man’s closest wild relatives and mountain gorilla trekking tours are now among the highly demanded and sought after tour experiences in East Africa.

Mountain gorillas in Congo live in Virunga national park Africa’s oldest national park. The park is part of the great Virunga massif that is a chain of Volcanic mountains shared among the three countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Mountain gorillas just like their name prefer to live in the forested mountains. They mainly feed on plant vegetation and bamboo shoots.

They live in families of up to 20 individuals or more that are led by a dominant male gorilla called Silverback. There are ten habituated mountain gorilla families that are open to tourism visitation. For now the park is currently closed due to insecurity issues but it offers incredible mountain gorilla tracking tour experiences. Unlike the other three gorilla parks, Virunga national park receives few tourists making it an ideal gorilla trekking destination especially for those who seek exclusive tour experiences.

Mount Nyiragongo is among world’s most active Volcanic mountains with its last eruption having happened in May 2021. The eruption was very destructive displacing over 364,000 people. Before the eruption mount Nyiragongo had gained momentum ranking among the leading adventurous tour activities in Virunga national park.

The mountain has a lava lake on it’s summit that is best seen early morning or in the evening. Hikers of this mountain would spend a night on the mountain summit to be able to catch a glimpse on the hot lava lake on the mountain. Much as hiking was temporarily halted, once open again the Nyiragongo will still offer by far the top mountain hiking tour experiences in the region.

It is over a year since the last eruption happened and so far no serious seismic action has been reported. We anticipate that by the end of next year maybe the mountain and park will be open again to tourism.

Democratic Republic of Congo is also home to the eastern lowland gorillas. Eastern lowland gorillas live in Kahuzi Beiga national park situated in Eastern Congo. These are endemic to the forested mountains of Kahuzi and Beiga and it is the only place to see them in the wild. Kahuzi Biega national park can be accessed via Rwanda to Bukavu on the shores of Lake Kivu.

Eastern lowland gorillas just like mountain gorillas live in families led by a dominant male gorillas. They are also vegetarian but are bigger in size compared to the mountain gorillas. Congo is therefore the only destination in the planet where you can enjoy two gorilla species tour experiences. Just like many other wildlife destinations in Congo, Kahuzi biega national offers exclusive tour experiences. There are few tourists to the park enabling one to enjoy the lowland gorilla trek without any disturbances.

For many other primates and savanna big five mammal experiences destination east Africa got you covered. You can visit Democratic Republic of Congo for the less disturbed and exclusive primate experiences. Kenya and Tanzania have the big five where you can enjoy classic savanna game drives. Uganda and Rwanda offer both the primates and savanna wildlife experiences.

Birding tour experiences

There are a number of bird species in Democratic Republic of Congo including endemics of the Albertine rift and the Congo forests. This makes the country among the ultimate birding safari destinations. Birding in the country is done in the major protected areas including Virunga national park. There are over 706 bird species recorded in the park. Some of the birds here include Yellow-Billed Barnet, Rwenzori Turaco, Narrow-tailed starling among others.

There are trails in the park that you can take on a birding expedition with chances of seeing other primates especially monkeys.

Other national treks in Congo also include golden monkey trekking in Virunga national park. The country much as it has gone through a number of insecurity issues it is still the best less disturbed wildlife destinations in East Africa. Tour experiences here can be enjoyed any time of the year. You can directly fly to Goma international airport if interested in Visiting Virunga national park. Alternatively you can fly into Kigali international airport and then connect to Virunga or Kahuzi Biega by road.

If interested in having a combined tour with Virunga and Kahuzi Biega you can connect to the two parks by Ferry along Lake Kivu.

French is widely spoken along with a number of Congolese native languages. English is also spoken but by few especially in towns. For easy communication and getting around it is advisable to get a local guide. The country can be visited any time of the year but the months of April, May and November have a lot of rainfall and double as a low tourist season. With the rainfall disturbances, some roads become impassable and tracking trails become hard to hike. This does not mean that you can not visit the country during these months. For birders it time when migratory birds set in.

There are many descent accommodation options in the major towns and near the parks that one can choose from. To avoid any inconveniences it is better to book lodging option within the proximity of the area you are visiting.

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.

Chimpanzee at Lwiro Sanctuary. Congo Primate expeditions
Chimpanzee at Lwiro Sanctuary. Courtesy Photo

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.

What to Know About Eastern Lowland Gorillas

Eastern lowland gorillas also known as Grauer gorillas inhabit and are endemic to the tropical rain forests of Democratic Republic of Congo. They are the largest of the four gorilla sub species and are unique primates species to explore on a primate safari.

Gorillas are great apes that and the largest living primates species that live in the tropical forests of Equatorial Africa. The gorilla species we are discussing today live in Kahuzi Biega National Park. The park is situated in Eastern DRC and can be easily accessed through Rwanda via cyangungu border.

Lowland Gorilla in Kahuzi Biega National Park. Congo Safari Adventures
Juveline Lowland Gorilla in Kahuzi Biega National Park. Photo by Shannon

Lowland Gorillas Diet

Just like other gorillas, eastern lowland gorillas are also vegetarian. They spend most of their day feeding on plants, leaves, stems and tree barks. Eastern lowland gorillas also feed on shoots and often the vegetation in the reach of their arms.

Social Behaviour

They live in groups or families headed by a dominant male known as a silverback. A lowland gorilla family can have 2 to 20 gorillas or more. The dominant Silverback gorillas often determine the daily routine of the gorillas and is also in charge of protecting its family members against any attack.

As the young males (Juveniles) grow, they tend to move away from their original families. They do this to establish themselves and often times try attracting females in their new families.

Lowland gorillas are also very sociable animals and only charge if they detect danger. This is why while on a lowland gorilla trek one is advised to keep 7 meters away from the gorillas. Its intended to avoid confrontation.

Lowland Gorilla Trekking

Kahuzi Biega National park in eastern DRC is the only place where you can see Eastern lowland gorillas. If you are interested in trekking the forests to these rare and endemic apes then a visit to the park is highly recommended.

You will be required to report to the park headquarters for a briefing about the gorilla trek. Later be led to the forest as you enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Hike in the forest and once you get to the lowland gorillas stay in their presence for an hour. Here you will get a chance to take photographs and get to know more about the gorillas. After this experience you will be brought back to the park or proceed to your hotel depending on Schedule

The National park can be easily accessed through Rwanda via Cyangugu border. Those in southwestern Rwanda in National Parks like Nyungwe Forest National park can easily add lowland gorilla treks on their primate safari packages.

The dry season from June to August and January to February are the best times of trekking lowland gorillas as there are usually minimal rainfall disturbances. The wet season also a great time to visit through there are high chances of rainfall.

Visit East Africa now and take on your favourite primate trekking safari adventures with us.

Exploring The Eastern Lowland Gorillas of Kahuzi Beiga National Park

Eastern Lowland Gorillas in Kahuzi Beiga NP DRC
Eastern Lowland Gorilla in Kahuzi Beiga NP. Photo by Shannon

Eastern Lowland gorillas are endemic to the forested mountains of DRC and live in Kahuzi Beiga national park. The Park is located in Eastern DRC near Lake Kivu and can be accessed through Rwanda.

The Eastern lowland gorillas are the largest in size compared to the other four gorilla subspecies counterparts. Just like mountain gorillas, they are covered with black fur but their hair is shorter on the head and body.

Diet

The diet of Eastern lowland gorillas often comprises of wild fruits, leaves, tree stems, soft barks and small insects.

They are vegetarian and mostly feed on plant vegetation just like any other gorilla species. They spend most of the day feeding growing in big sizes with a fully grown male weighing about 210 Kilograms.

Gorilla Family Setup

Lowland gorillas live in families that are headed by the dominant male called Silver-back that dictates the daily routine. The gorilla families usually range from three to over 20 gorillas including females plus off-springs

The silver-back gorilla is in charge of protecting the family from external invasions and to keep the family together. Young male gorillas grow into silver-backs, leave their families attracting females to start new families where they can be head.

Female Eastern lowland gorillas have a gestation period of 8 and half weeks or 9 months just like human beings. After birth, they breast feed young ones for 3 years as they slowly introduce them to their usual vegetarian diet.

Gorilla Tours

DRC has struggled with security issues with many rebel activities in a number of protected areas thus threatening gorilla population. Eastern lowland gorillas are also endangered as many been hunted down for meat and their habitat destroyed in deforestation.

Tourists interested in visiting this gorilla specie can visit Kahuzi Biega National park in and meet them in the wild. Gorilla tracking starts with briefing at the park head quarters and then tourists are led to the forested mountains.

The Eastern lowland gorilla trek takes a 1 to 6 hours depending on the movement of the gorillas. Once you get to the gorillas a distance of 7 meters is required away from them. This is to avoid invasion as they could easily charge much as they are social animals.

You can have a lowland gorilla tour to Congo anytime of the year.