Wildlife Tours To The Less Traveled Paths in DRC

Democratic Republic of Congo is one tourism giant but the least explored wildlife tours destination in East and Central Africa. The country has been affected by civil wars for a long time thereby discouraging many potential tourists.

DRC is huge with diverse wildlife and ecosystems making it one of the most attractive country in the region. While in East Africa, you can easily access the Eastern part of DRC uncovering all the hidden tourist attractions.

Let us uncover the country’s less traveled paths for unmatched wildlife tours in this beautiful safari destination.

Mount Nyiragongo Hiking Wildlife Tours

Mount Nyiragongo is one of the World’s most active Volcanic Mountains currently. The Mountain is part of the Virunga massif Volcanic Mountains located in Eastern DRC. Mount Nyiragongo has a 2 kilometer wide crater with a lava Lake that adventure tourists are very opportunistic to observe.

Nyiragongo’s lower slopes is covered with a forest that has various wildlife species like Chimpanzees, three-horned chameleon and birds. These are often seen while on the hike as you start the adventurous hike.

The Mountain Overlaps Baratu and Shaheru Volcanic mountains covered with green vegetation an awesome view to look out for. The Mount Nyiragongo hike is divided into 5 major sections each with a 15 minutes break. With these stopovers, hikers get a chance to see wildlife and take photos as they learn more about the area.

Wildlife tours to Nyiragongo are adventurous and rewarding though the mountain is among the less visited destinations in the region.

Mount Nyiragongo Lava Lake; DRC Wildlife Tours
Mount Nyiragongo Lava Lake - DRC. Courtesy Photo

Mountain Gorilla Wildlife Tours

DRC’s Virunga national park is one place in East and central Africa with habituated mountain gorillas. Mountain gorilla are rare apes that live in the forested mountains of sub Saharan Africa.

With about 95% DNA similar to humans, mountain gorillas are among Man’s closest primates. Just like humans, mountain gorillas live in families headed by a dominant male gorilla. Hiking the forested mountains of Virunga National park to meet gorillas is often referred to as once in a lifetime.

Mountain gorilla trekking in Virunga national park gives one an opportunity to meet other wildlife especially birds. This double experience thereby uncovers some of Congo’s tourism treasures whose safaris are very exclusive.

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

Lowland Gorilla tours of Kahuzi Biega

A part from Mountain gorillas, DRC has another gorilla sub species; the Eastern Lowland gorillas. Lowland gorillas inhabit the forested mountains of Mount Kahuzi and Biega in Eastern DRC.

Eastern lowland gorillas differ from other gorillas as they are larger in size with a stocky body and short muzzle. They are the least explored gorilla species and yet offer exclusive primate tracking experiences.

Kahuzi Biega national park is a true definition of less traveled wildlife paths and we encourage tourists to explore it. While on the lowland gorilla tour you also get to meet other wildlife species in the park.

While on wildlife tours in East Africa, ensure to add DRC to your itinerary. The country though less explored will leave you very astonished yearning for more wildlife experiences.

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

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.