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Congo (DRC) Gorilla Trekking & Safari Tours

The name Congo evokes images of a vast tropical jungle cut through by the mysterious river for which it is named. Who hasn’t dreamed of setting foot there? Unfortunately, much of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the region’s largest country, is unsafe for travel. One exception is Kahuzi-Biega National Park, where eastern lowland gorillas can be tracked in the wild with relative ease as an outing from neighboring Rwanda. Elsewhere, Virunga National Park was open for mountain gorilla trekking and Nyiragongo volcano climbs for several years prior to closing in 2020, but it looks unlikely to reopen anytime soon.

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1-20 of 34 gorilla & safari trips, holidays and vacation packages to Congo (DRC)

6 Questions About Congo (DRC) Gorilla Trekking and Safari Tours

 
 

6 Questions About Congo (DRC) Gorilla Trekking and Safari Tours

Answered by Ariadne van Zandbergen

What are the main tourist attractions?

“The main attraction of Eastern DRC is gorilla trekking. The region is home to two subspecies of these endangered gentle giants. This includes the eastern lowland gorilla, which is endemic to the DRC (it occurs nowhere else in the world) and can only be tracked in Kahuzi-Biega National Park. Kahuzi-Biega is a short distance northwest of the city of Bukavu, which lies at the southern tip of Lake Kivu on the border with Rwanda. Tracking eastern lowland gorillas is just as rewarding as visiting the better-known mountain gorillas. Indeed, some might say it is actually more so, as they are even larger than their mountain-dwelling cousins, and low visitor numbers at Kahuzi-Biega make for a more adventurous and less-touristy experience. Eastern DRC is also an important stronghold for mountain gorillas. These live on the bamboo-covered slopes of the Virunga Mountains, a scenic volcanic range that extends into Rwanda and Uganda. Unfortunately, although mountain gorilla trekking is offered in the other two countries, the Congolese portion of the Virungas (protected in Virunga National Park) has been closed to tourism since March 2020 and is likely to remain off-limits for the foreseeable future. When Virunga NP does reopen for gorilla trekking, other activities are likely to include climbs of volcanic Mt Nyiragongo, which contains the world’s largest lava lake, and relaxing on Lake Kivu’s beautiful Tchegera Island.”

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How does gorilla trekking in DR Congo compare to other countries?

“The gorilla trekking experience in Kahuzi-Biega (and when it reopens, Virunga NP) is very similar to what is offered in Rwanda and Uganda. The same one-hour time limit to spend with the gorillas applies. However, as visitor numbers are still very low, the Kahuzi-Biega experience feels more exclusive and the setting is more remote. The number of permits allocated per gorilla group is only four to six (less than the eight permits allocated per group in Uganda and Rwanda). A big difference between trekking in Kahuzi-Biega and doing the same activity in Uganda or Rwanda is that you will be visiting eastern lowland gorillas as opposed to mountain gorillas. Based on recent reports, trekking conditions are generally easier in DRC than in Rwanda or Uganda, and you are unlikely to have to walk for more than an hour to locate a habituated group. Last but not least, a gorilla trekking permit in DRC costs US$400 per person as opposed to US$800 in Uganda or US$1,500 in Rwanda.”

2

Is a DR Congo safari safe?

“Visiting Kahuzi-Biega has been considered safe for a few years now. In order to attract visitors to this park, security measures have been put in place to make a day or overnight return visit from Rwanda very straightforward and secure. That said, the DRC has a long history of political turbulence and unrest, and most other parts of the country, including Virunga NP, cannot be regarded as safe at the time of writing. Even where Kahuzi-Biega is concerned, the security situation might change, so check with your tour operator before booking.”

3

Can I extend my East African safari with a trip to Congo (DRC)?

“Most people don’t visit DRC as a stand-alone trip. Instead it makes a perfect extension to a classic safari in Kenya or Tanzania. A short flight from either gets you to Rwanda’s capital city Kigali. From there you can fly or arrange to be driven to the Rwandan border town of Kamembe (also known as Rusizi/Cyangugu), which lies on the Lake Kivu shore near the Congolese port city of Bukavu. Some operators offer gorilla trekking in Kahuzi-Biega as a day trip from Kamembe, while others will arrange overnight accommodations in Bukavu or closer to the park. A gorilla trek in DRC also slots well into an extended holiday in Rwanda, where you can go chimp trekking in Nyungwe National Park, which is very close to Kamembe and Bukavu. You can also enjoy a couple of nights in Akagera National Park, the country’s Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino) destination. Wildlife densities in Akagera are not comparable to the most famous parks in East Africa, but this off-the-beaten-track destination is incredibly scenic and rewarding in its own right.”

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How much will a DR Congo safari cost?

“Most visitors to Kahuzi-Biega opt for a 3-day gorilla trekking package out of Rwanda’s capital city Kigali. This typically costs US$1,200 to US$1,500 per person. Another possibility is a 4-day package that also includes chimp trekking in Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park, which you pass through on the way between Kigali and Kahuzi-Biega. This will add around US$600 to the price. A variety of longer tours incorporating a visit to Kahuzi-Biega are also available.”

5

What is the best time of the year to visit DR Congo?

“The best time to visit Eastern DRC is during the Dry season from June to September. The area has a very wet climate and it can rain at any time, but June to September is drier and the forest trails tend to be less slippery. March to April and October to November are the peaks of the short and long rains. The drier period between the long and short rains, from December to February, is a great time to travel too. It shouldn’t be too wet and there are very few visitors around at this time. Whenever you visit, make sure you bring lots of waterproof clothing, and be prepared to get wet a few times.”

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