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.

Best Wildlife Safari Experiences On A Visit Rwanda Expedition

Rwanda is one of the leading safari destinations offering some of the best wildlife safari experiences. The country has over the years heavily invested in tourism branding and marketing. It signed a marketing deal with international football teams like Arsenal and PSG that have a visit Rwanda tag on their jerseys. These campaigns aim at uncovering top wildlife tour destinations in Rwanda featuring the country’s best wildlife safari experiences.

Lets explore some of the best wildlife Safari experiences Rwanda has to offer and a Must do while on a safari in the country.

Rwanda Mountain gorilla. Wildlife Safari Experiences
Mountain gorillas in Volcanoes NP Rwanda. Photo by Klaas Jan Jonkman

Gorilla Trekking Safari Experiences

This is the most famous in the land of a thousand hills. Mountain gorillas in Rwanda live in Volcanoes national park located in the northwestern part of the country. The Park is part of the greater Virunga area that extends stretches along the border with Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo and home to the remaining mountain gorillas population.

Mountain gorillas are amazing apes with over 95% DNA similar to humans. They live in families ranging from 2 to 20 or more often headed by the dormant male gorilla called Silverback. These gorilla families are open to tourist visitation offering adventurous wildlife experience that many describe as once in a life time.

The gorilla trekking safari experience starts with a briefing at the park headquarters at 7:00 am. Here you are told about the gorilla trekking regulations and brief summary about these rare apes. You are then guided to the forested mountains amidst sighting of other wildlife species. The trek takes 2 to 4 hours or more and once you get to the gorillas you will be allowed to stay in their presence for an hour taking photos and getting to know more about them.

While planning a visit Rwanda expedition, ensure to add a mountain gorilla trekking safari for unforgettable primate safari experiences.

Big Five Safari Experiences

Rwanda’s Akagera national park is home to the big five mammals that include Lions, Rhinos, Leopards, buffaloes and Elephants. These are seen while on game drives in the only savanna national park in Rwanda. Akagera national park is located in the north eastern part of the country and best place for classic safari experiences.

The big five safari experiences are more amazing with the viewing of other big names in african safari wildlife. These include giraffes, antelopes including waterbucks, Topi, Oribi among others, hippos, birds and so much more.

The northern sector of Akagera national park has the highest wildlife concentration and its where most game drives are done. A boat cruise a long lake Ihema is a must do and Equally offers unique wildlife safari experiences. Here you view a number of hippos, Nile crocodiles, a number of birds among others. Its most enjoyable in the evening as you can wind it with remarkable views of the African sunset.

Chimpanzee Trekking Safaris

Rwanda is a ultimate primate trekking safari destination with major primates including the chimpanzees. These live in Rwanda’s Nyungwe forest located in the southwestern part of the country.

Nyungwe forest is one of the oldest forests in East and Central Africa and its not only home to chimpanzees but other primates including blues monkeys, L’hoest monkeys, colobus monkeys among others. Chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe is the top most and must do primate trekking adventure while visiting the park.

To supplement on a chimp tour in Nyungwe, you can also do other primate treks as well as nature walks long the different trails in the park.

Visit Rwanda today and be part of the never ending wildlife safari experiences. The country is fully open for tourism and it follows strict standard operating procedures amidst the Corona Virus pandemic crisis.

What You Need To Know About Bwindi, The Best Gorilla Trekking Destination

Mountain Gorilla tourism has over the years gained popularity as people seek exclusive gorilla trekking experiences. People travel from different parts of the world to the forested mountains of East and Central Africa for mountain gorilla trekking. One may wonder what are mountain gorillas and why are they special?

Mountain gorillas are endangered primate species with over 95% DNA similar to humans. They live in the forested mountains at elevations ranging from about 8000 to 13,000 feet above sea level. They are covered with fur that helps them survive the cold temperatures of the forested mountains.

Gorillas live in families headed by a dominant male called Silverback and are pure vegetarian with their diet consisting of plant vegetation and bamboo shoots. They are endemic to the Virunga massif along the Rwanda, Uganda & DRC Border and Bwindi impenetrable Forest in Uganda. 

The total mountain gorilla population is now estimated at over 1000 and Bwindi Impenetrable forest has almost half of the total population. Bwindi is currently the best gorilla trekking destination and here is more information you might need to know.

1. Various Gorilla Trekking Sectors

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is an extensive park covering about 321 square kilometers. The park has different gorilla trekking sectors evenly distributed each sector with various gorilla families.

The northern and busiest sector is called Buhoma with 6 mountain gorilla families. Closer to Buhoma is Ruhija the eastern sector with 4 mountain gorilla families. It takes about an hours drive from Buhoma to Ruhija and you can therefore have a gorilla trek there incase you had accommodation in Buhoma.

Rushaga and Nkuringo are situated in southern Bwindi. Rushaga has 8 gorilla families while Nkuringo has 4 gorilla families. The Nkuringo region is however steep and one having a gorilla trek there will require some level of fitness. Ensure to know the exact sector where your gorilla trekking experience will be and book your accommodation accordingly.

Mountain Gorilla in Bwindi. Gorilla Trekking
Mountain Gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable NP. Courtesy Photo

2. Varying Gorilla Trekking Elevation

Bwindi has many hills with a gorilla trekking elevation from 1190 to 2607 meters above sea level. With this, the gorilla trekking experience comes in handy. You must therefore know if the gorilla family you are tracking will require a lot of hiking.

Much as gorilla trekking doesn’t require any levels of fitness, there are some gorilla families that live at high elevations. Those with altitude sickness, the elderly and some health restrictions need to ensure they track families that don’t require a lot of hiking.

Luckily Bwindi has over 22 gorilla families and one has a range of options to choose from. An average hike takes 2 to 4 hours though others take longer and a full day. Talk to your local safari guide or park ranger to ensure you are allocated an easier family to track.

3. Accessibility

Bwindi impenetrable can be accessed by both road and air transport. If you are coming from Entebbe international airport or Kampala by road, it takes a 9 to 10 hours drive. Its a long one but impressive going through the Ugandan countryside. You would have en route stop overs for photography at the Equator and for a lunch break and proceed to Bwindi.

Incase you don’t want the long drive you can fly to an airstrip near the park. There are two airstrips serving the park, one in the north and the other in the south. Kihihi airstrip serves the northern and Eastern sectors. Its 30 to 40 minutes drive to Buhoma sector and about an hour and a half drive to Ruhija

Kisoro airstrip serves the southern sector and its an hour drive to the park. Flying saves a lot of time and its the best option for those who don’t want the long drives. It also offers great aerial views of the countryside and other open savanna parks.

4. Best time for Trekking

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi can be enjoyed anytime of the year. The best time though is in the dry season from June to September and December to March. During this time there is minimal rainfall disturbances and the tracking trails are therefore dry. With this, there is easy movement and great chances for better wildlife photography.

In the wet season from April to May and October to November gorilla trekking is possible but rainfall can occur anytime of the day. Its an adventurous experience having a downpour while in the jungle but some people don’t like it.

5. Gorilla Permits

Mountain gorilla trekking permits for Bwindi cost $700 per person for international tourists, $600 per person for East African foreign residents and Uganda shillings 250,000 for East African citizens.

Gorilla permits are on a very high demand and only 8 tourists are allowed to track one gorilla family a day.  Ensure to book your permits in advance to avoid missing out. You can book and buy permits from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices. Incase you are using a tour operator ensure to pay for the permits in advance.

If you are interested in the gorilla habituation experience, permits are limited to only 4 people. Habituation permits cost $1500 per person for international guests, $1000 per person for East African residents and shillings 750,000 for East African Citizens.

A Trek With Rwanda Mountain Gorillas; A trip of a lifetime

Every year adventure lovers do a trek with Rwanda mountain gorillas to be part of some of world’s safari adventures. Rwanda is among the only three destinations on the planet where one can trek mountain gorillas.

Mountain gorillas are apes that live in the forested mountains of east and central Africa. They are covered in black fur, vegetarian as their diet comprises of plant vegetation and live in families headed by a dominant male. These primates are pretty outstanding with over 95% DNA similar to humans.

For a mountain gorilla family to be opened for tourists it undergoes a habituation process that makes it accustomed to human beings presence. There are over 10 habituated mountain gorilla families in Rwanda making it one of the best places for gorilla safaris. Below are some of the reasons why a trek with Rwanda mountain gorillas is life changing and a must for nature and adventure tourists.

 Rwanda Mountain gorilla. Gorilla Tours
Mountain Gorilla baby in Volcanoes National Park. Photo by Moses Nezehose
Mountain gorilla family set up

These incredible primates not only have over 95% DNA similar to humans but also have a family set up similar to humans. Each gorilla family is headed by a dominant male called silverback that overseas the routine its family members.

A typical gorilla family has females, young or infant gorillas and juvenile gorillas that eventually grow to silverbacks, black backs or adult females. Being in the presence of these gorillas makes one feel like they seeing a distant family members. It’s a very amazing experience and highly recommended.

Ensure to have a trek with Rwanda mountain gorillas to get to a chance to experience how great apes live and bond in the wild.

Vegetation

Much as mountain gorillas live in forested mountains, in Rwanda much of volcanoes national park is covered with a light bamboo forest. This makes it easy for tourists to easily spot the mountains gorillas while on gorilla treks.

The parks vegetation can easily be navigated through also making photography very easy. Wildlife photography is very essential while on safari as you capture memories of a lifetime. For best mountain gorilla photography, a trek in Rwanda’s volcanoes national park is highly recommended.

Diverse wildlife species

A trek with Rwanda mountain gorillas gives you a chance to see a variety of other wildlife species in park. These range from birds, plant vegetation, reptiles among others. The gorilla park is home to the endangered forest elephants and Buffaloes though rarely seen.

There are also golden monkeys in Volcanoes that can supplement the gorilla tours. Golden monkey treks are very much exciting as well giving you a chance to meet another rare primate species. For an awesome wildlife and primate experience ensure to have a trek with mountain gorillas.

Major park activities start in the morning and here you can track mountain gorillas more than once to have an experience of different families.

Gorilla population

Volcanoes national park has half of the mountain gorilla population in the VIrunga massif. The VIrunga massif if a range of dormant and extinct volcanic mountains along the Rwandan, Ugandan and DRC border. It’s in these forested mountains where mountain gorillas live.

With a trek with Rwanda mountain gorillas, you are guaranteed of seeing them all thanks to the steadily increasing gorilla population. There are twelve habituated mountain gorilla families in this beautiful park that are open to tourists. Some families have adorable baby gorillas that make the whole gorilla trek experiences remarkable as they play around or stay at the safety of their mothers hands for comfort.

Every year in the famous Kwiti Izina Ceremony newly born babies are named and officially welcomed by wildlife and primate enthusiast. We hope the gorilla population will keep increasing all thanks to the great conservation efforts that has been put In over the years.

Parks accessibility

Rwanda’s mountain gorilla park is the most and easily accessed of all the gorillas parks. It’s situated just a 3 hours drive from Rwanda’s capital city Kigali. There are also flights operated by Akagera aviation giving a provisos of flying directly to the park.

With this you get enough time not only for treks with Rwanda mountain gorillas but also explore other attractions in the area. There are great and easily accessed facilities like hotels and safari lodges for those who prefer to spend a night or more in the park.

For those with limited time in Rwanda but would still want to be part of the gorilla treks, you can do a 1 day gorilla tour with a 4:30 am pick up from Kigali. All these factors make a trek with Rwanda mountain gorillas an experience anyone must never miss while in a visit Rwanda expedition.

Gato A Female Mountain Gorilla Gives Birth to Twins in Virunga National Park

Female Mountain Gorilla with Newly Born Twins. Virunga National Park DRC
Gato With Her Newly Born Twins. Courtesy Photo

Last week of September was Celebration in Virunga National Park as Gato a female mountain gorilla gave birth to twins. Gato, the Female mountain gorilla is part of Nyakamwe gorilla family that is found in Bukima area of Virunga park.

Mountain gorillas live in families ranging from 2 to 20 or more led by dominant male mountain gorillas called Silver-backs. The Nyakamwe gorilla family in Virunga National park is led by Silver-back Nyakamwe and has about 4 female mountain gorillas.

Nyakamwe gorilla family was formed by Silver-back Nyakamwe in 2014 after he conflicted with his brother Humba. Nyakamwe then decided to separate from Humba starting a new family though he left with 10 other gorillas.

With the birth of twins in the Nyakamwe family, the gorilla family numbers have definitely increased. Given that there are about 4 female gorillas in this family, we hope that there will be more births.

About Female Mountain Gorillas

Female Mountain gorillas usually move from their initial families at the age of 8. They do this to join another gorilla family or start one with a lone male mountain gorilla. After this female gorillas move to different new families several times before they finally settle down with a particular silver-back.

Female gorillas have a gestation period of 8.5 months very similar to human beings. In Virunga National park DRC, there many habituated gorilla families open for tourist visitation. In-case you are interested in visiting gorilla families with many females and infant gorillas inform your guide early enough.

A mountain gorilla trek in Virunga national park is very rewarding with sightings of the major mountains like Mount Nyiragongo. Ensure to book in advance as mountain gorilla permits easily get full booked.

Virunga national park is currently closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and likely to open again early 2021. By the time it opens the twin baby gorillas birthed by Gato will have grown a bit. Infant mountain gorillas only leave their mothers at around 21 months spending most of their time away from them.

Mountain gorilla baby births has tremendously increased during lock-down in the Virunga Massif and Bwindi Impenetrable national park Uganda. Gorillas were born in Volcanoes NP Rwanda, and a gorilla baby boom in Bwindi with 5 births in 5 weeks.

While on a Safari to East Africa, don’t miss out on the mountain gorilla tracking experiences in any of the gorilla parks. Virunga National Park is highly recommended as you might meet Gato the female mountain gorilla mother of twins.

Mountain Gorilla Census Reveals an Increase in Population

Mountain Gorilla in Democratic Republic of Congo
Mountain Gorilla in Virunga National Park. Photo by Blue Skye Photos

A mountain gorilla census was conducted in 2018 in Bwindi Impenetrable forest in Uganda and Sarambwe reserve in the DRC.  This was aimed at establishing the mountain gorilla population in the two primates wildlife ecosystems. The mountain gorilla census results were released in December 2019 showing a steady increase of the mountain gorilla population. This is from an estimated 400 in the 2011 census to 459 as per the released results in December 2019.

With this, total mountain gorilla population is now estimated at 1063 gorillas when combined with those in the Virunga massif. The Virunga massif covers Volcanoes national park Rwanda, Mgahinga gorilla park Uganda and Virunga national park in DRC.

The Conservation Journey

The mountain gorilla conservation journey has not been an easy one but has over time yielded positive results. The population increase portrays conservation efforts as in 1980’s the population in the Virunga massif was as low as 240.

Many gorillas were killed in civil wars, poached and disease since they have a DNA similar to humans. The mountain gorilla habitats had been also encroached on which affected them further making their numbers shrink this low.

At the time, mountain gorillas had been listed as critically endangered primates species by the IUCN. There was therefore urgent need for mountain gorilla conservation to restore numbers and habitats for them.

A 2016 mountain gorilla census of the Virunga massif indicated gorilla population increase from 240 in the 1980’s to 604. With this, the mountain gorillas status in the IUCN Red list records was changed from critically endangered to endangered.

Mountain gorilla conservation has been supported by collaborative efforts from wildlife authorities in the 3 countries with the Mountain gorillas. With teams from these countries, surveys are easily done and with information sharing it makes the whole work very easy.

There has been more continued support from government and mountain gorilla conservation organizations like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

Mountain Gorilla Tourism

The forested mountains of Bwindi and Virunga massif have habituated mountain gorilla families that are open to tourist visitation.

Because of need for conservation, only 8 tourists are allowed to track one mountain gorilla family per day. These tourists buy gorilla permits and part of the money from gorilla permits is used in mountain gorilla conservation.

Another percentage of the money from gorilla permits is given back to the community around the mountain gorilla national parks. This is because these people around where initially forest dwellers who entirely depended on the forests for livelihood. They were now resettled at the edge of the national parks to reduce on gorilla habitat encroachment and poaching.

 A gorilla tour to the misty mountains offers remarkable encounters that most tourists term as once in a life time experience.  Mountain gorilla tours  always leave lasting African safari  and primate tracking memories. 

A gorilla trek can be done any time of the year guided by trained ranger guides in gorilla national parks.

Mountain gorilla tours and safaris are on high demand therefore gorilla permits easily get fully booked. The peak travel seasons from July to September and from December to March is the most busy one.

You can have a Rwanda gorilla tour in Volcanoes national park that is a 3 hours drive from Kigali.  A Uganda gorilla tour can be enjoyed in Bwindi or Mgahinga gorilla park all located in the southwestern part of the country. Lastly, you can visit Virunga for a Virunga gorilla tour in DRC’s Virunga national park. 

We advocate for more conservation efforts towards all wildlife species including the endangered mountain gorillas.  We hope that in the next mountain gorilla census we will notice a further increase in the population. A number of baby gorilla births have been recorded in the three major mountain gorilla national parks.

Rwanda Discounted Mountain Gorilla Permits

Mountain Gorilla. Rwanda Safari Journeys
Mountain Gorilla in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. Photo By Eric Manzi

Information from Kigali indicate that Rwanda Development Board announced discounted mountain gorilla permits for the post lock-down period. This is aimed at boosting local and regional tourism after several months of lock-downs where international flights were halted.

Before the COVID19 outbreak, tourism in Rwanda was normal and gorilla permits costed $1500 per person for all tourists. Now East African community citizens including the local Rwandans can be able to track mountain gorillas at only $200.  Foreign Residents in Rwanda can track gorillas at $500 if they present a valid work permit or resident ID.

Discounted Mountain gorilla permits is a great move that has given an opportunity to local Rwandans to track gorillas. There is an increase in the local tourists visiting Volcanoes National Park Rwanda specifically for Mountain Gorilla trekking.

Note that the discounted mountain gorilla permits offer is only valid until 31st December 2020.

New International Arrival Regulations

Kigali international airport is now open for international tourists who are required to present COVID19 negative results. These must tested not later than 72 hours before their flight to Rwanda from a credible health facility.

On arrival, tourists are further subjected to another COVID19 test with results presented within 24 hours. Here as they wait from a designated hotel before engaging in any tourist activities in the country. All these are safety measures aimed at ensuring the safety of the tourists and local Rwandan community

For international travellers, mountain gorilla permits still cost $1500 per person.  To avoid any disturbances, fill personal locator form because if you don’t, you will not be allowed on flight.

About Mountain Gorilla Tracking

Note that mountain gorilla trekking adventures can only be taken by individuals that are 15 years and above. Due to high demand of gorilla tours, ensure to book gorilla permits in advance as they easily get fully booked.

On the day of gorilla tracking, report at Volcanoes national park headquarters for a briefing. This is done by ranger guides who communicate rules and regulations to follow while in the forested mountains. After briefing, you are led to the forest to start your mountain gorilla trek.

Mountain gorilla tracking takes 1 to 6 hours depending on the movement of the gorilla family you are after. Once you get to the gorillas, you will be allowed to be in their presence for one hour.  You will get to know more about gorillas, taking photos and getting more information about the primates ecosystem.

Why A Post Covid 19 Lock-down Wildlife Safari in East Africa is Essential 

When the COVID19 pandemic outbreak was announced in December 2019, travel and tourism plus wildlife safari adventures were greatly affected.  These came to a standstill once governments instituted lock-downs prohibiting travel and social gatherings within the same country or town. For nature lovers, this was a setback as lock-downs were extended over a long time of up to 5 months.

As lock-downs are being eased and tourism slowly taking pace, a post COVID19 lock-down wildlife safari is very ideal.  The East African region is known worldwide for its wildlife wonders offering unique wildlife safari experiences.

Since lock-down was instated, there has been limited tourism activities in East African national parks enabling rejuvenation of wildlife. A wildlife safari to any of East Africa’s national parks now will be enjoyable offering fresh and exclusive encounters. We have listed some of the leading safari destinations you can opt for to revive your tourism love.  

Volcanoes national park situated in the northwestern part of Rwanda about a 3 hours drive from Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city. The national park is a home to mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, over 180 bird species.

Mountain gorillas and golden monkey tracking are leading wildlife safari activities done in this park offering outstanding primate encounters. The mountain gorilla tracking experience starts with a briefing about the regulations to follow while in the forest. Tourists are then led to the forest as they enjoy the sound of nature from the birds and small insects. The hike takes 2 to 6 hours depending on the movement of the mountain gorilla. Tourists are given an hour in the presence of the gorillas taking photos keeping a 7 meters distance from them.

Gorillas have 95% DNA similar to humans therefore meeting gorillas in the wild is a unique man and wildlife encounter. This an excellent way of getting over the anxiety that pilled over during the COVID19 lock-down.  

Golden monkey tracking also starts with a briefing and then tourists are guided to the forest to meet them. Golden monkeys are covered in golden fur and live in the bamboo forest. They are pure vegetarians that mostly feed on bamboo shoots. For birders, you can’t miss out on seeing the major bird species while on a guided walk.

Mountain Gorilla- Wildlife Safari Rwanda
Gorilla in Volcanoes NP. Photo by Eric Manzi

Other Wildlife Safari Adventures in Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes national park has a number of mountains where one can do hiking for those interested in mountain climbing. Mount Bisoke has a crater lake and can be hiked in one day (a return trip). There is also Mount Karisimbi that is hiked in two days, spending a night in the mountain. While on the mountain hikes you are rewarded with scenic views of the Virunga volcanoes and the surrounding environment.

The views are priceless and refreshing therefore ensure to include volcanoes national park on your post COVID19 wildlife safari destinations. Remember to wear a mask and test for COVID19 because mountain gorillas can contact human diseases and need protection.

This beautiful safari destination is located in western Uganda just 4 hours drive from Kampala Uganda’s capital city. Lake Mburo National park has diverse wildlife species savanna wildlife like antelopes, over 315 bird species.

The park is an ideal escape for a post COVID19 lock-down with game drives where most wildlife is seen. Boat cruises are done on lake Mburo where you see animals especially hippos that spend time in the shallow waters. You can have guided nature walks here bringing you up-closer to animals like zebras and antelopes.  

There is horseback riding in this beautiful park with horses owned by Mihingo lodge.  Ensure to book for this activity in advance as priority is given to Mihingo Lodge guests. You can also do a cycling wildlife safari in the park but should also be booked in advance.  Lake Mburo national park is situated near the Ankole community where one can have a cultural experience.  You will get an opportunity to milk a cow and get to know more about the local people’s culture.

The park is easily accessed by road and the nearest savanna park to get to from Kampala. For those looking for relaxing nature encounters after lock-down, there could be no other option than this.

Lake Mburo National Park. Wildlife Safari Uganda
Views of Lake Mburo NP from Mihingo Lodge Swimming Pool

If in Kigali you can also visit Akagera National park that is located in the eastern part of Rwanda. This is only Savanna national park in Rwanda with Africa’s finest wildlife species. Often seen animals include lions, Rhinos, Elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, leopards, antelopes including Topis, water-bucks among others.

The park offers an opportunity for a boat cruise along lake Ihema where you see crocodiles and hippos.  There are also as primates like baboons and various bird species in Akagera national park.  Major activities in this park include game drives, boat cruises along Lake Ihema and birding excursions.

Those who want to stay overnight in the park can stay in the major lodges in the park.  The lodges in Akagera national park include Akagera game lodge, Ruzizi Tented Camp and the new Magashi Camp.

The time people have spent without working because of the lock-down has left many bankrupt which has greatly affected tourism. The above suggested post COVID19 wildlife safari destinations can be explored in a day a thus less spending yet enjoying. If your budget allows, you can spend a night in the park as people have been locked down for long. A night or day excursion in the park is very important at this point in time for nature lovers.