If you plan to embark on a gorilla trek in Virunga National Park, it is essential to follow the established set of rules and regulations. These guidelines have been carefully developed to ensure the health and safety of the mountain gorillas that call the park home. Due to their susceptibility to human diseases and infections, it is crucial to minimize their exposure to visitors. Additionally, it is imperative to avoid causing undue stress to these animals by limiting close interactions and allowing them to maintain their natural behaviors. By adhering to these rules and regulations, visitors can help protect these incredible creatures while also enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Nestled in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Virunga National Park boasts an unparalleled natural diversity, making it one of Africa’s most cherished treasures. Among its many attractions, the park is best known for being home to the endangered mountain gorillas, offering visitors an opportunity to trek these gentle giants.
But gorilla trekking isn’t the only activity that draws visitors to the park. There are also opportunities for nature walks, chimpanzee tracking and habituation, bird watching, and even hiking the active Nyirangongo volcano.
It’s worth noting that of the three countries in the world where mountain gorillas are found, Congo’s Virunga National Park is the only one where they are located. The other two countries are Rwanda, where the gorillas are in Volcanoes National Park, and Uganda, where they are found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. All three parks are close to each other and form what is known as the Virunga Massif.
With its rich biodiversity and unique attractions, Virunga National Park is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an unforgettable experience in the heart of Africa.
Are you planning a gorilla trekking adventure in Virunga National Park, Congo? Before you go, it’s important to know and follow the rules and regulations that have been put in place to protect the health and safety of these amazing animals. Below are some of the key rules and the reasons why they are important.
Rule 1: Sick Tourists Will Not Be Permitted to Visit Gorillas
Reason: This is to prevent the transmission of diseases or illnesses from humans to gorillas, which can be extremely dangerous and even fatal for the animals.
Rule 2: Only One Visit per Day with Limited Tourists Per Group
Reason: This is to minimize the risk of behavioral disturbance, stress, and potential infection for the gorillas. Limiting the number of visitors also helps ensure that each group has a more personal and enjoyable experience.
Rule 3: Visitors Must Be 15 Years or Older
Reason: To reduce the risk of exposing gorillas to childhood diseases, as well as cold and flu viruses that can be transmitted by younger visitors.
Rule 4: One Hour Maximum Visit Time
Reason: This is to minimize behavioral disturbance, stress, and potential infection for the gorillas, as well as to allow the animals time to eat, rest, and socialize without being disturbed.
Rule 5: No Flash Photography
Reason: Flash photography can be upsetting or frightening to the gorillas and may provoke an aggressive reaction. It’s important to respect the animals and their environment by using non-invasive methods to observe them.
Rule 6: Maintain a Safe Distance from Gorillas
Reason: This helps to minimize the risk of disease transmission, behavioral disturbance, and potential aggression towards tourists. Following the guide’s instructions and keeping backpacks and other items out of reach of curious juveniles also helps prevent habituation to humans.
Rule 7: Tourists Should Stay in a Tight Group
Reason: This allows the gorillas to move freely without feeling threatened, which can reduce the risk of charging or other aggressive behaviors.
Rule 8: Sit or Crouch While Observing Gorillas
Reason: Standing taller than the gorillas and staring can be intimidating or threatening to the animals and may provoke aggressive behavior. By sitting or crouching, visitors can observe the gorillas without causing undue stress.
Rule 9: Avoid Threatening Behaviors
Reason: Raising hands or arms, pointing, and staring are all signs of threat or aggression to the gorillas. It’s important to avoid these behaviors and instead use nonverbal cues to communicate.
Rule 10: Do Not Clear Vegetation Near Gorillas
Reason: This can disturb or frighten the gorillas, and the guides will clear vegetation if necessary. It’s important to respect the animals’ habitat and avoid causing unnecessary disturbance.
Rule 11: Stay Calm if a Gorilla Displays or Charges
Reason: Although it can be frightening, running away can provoke a more aggressive response. The safest thing to do is remain still and follow the guide’s instructions.
Rule 12: No Eating, Drinking, or Smoking Near Gorillas
Reason: These behaviors can distract the gorillas and potentially cause problems if they approach out of curiosity. Food and other remains can also be a source of infection.
Rule 13: Keep Noise to a Minimum
Reason: Loud noises can be disturbing to the gorillas and may cause them to flee. It’s important to be as quiet as possible and whisper if necessary.
Rule 14: Cover Your Mouth and Nose if You Need to Sneeze or Cough
Reason: This helps to minimize the spread of airborne bacteria or viruses that you may be carrying.
Rule 15: All faucal materials must be buried. If you need to relieve yourself while in the park, a machete can be borrowed from the guides to dig a 30 centimeter (10 inch) hole. Afterward, the hole should be filled. This rule is in place because fecal matter can be highly infectious to great apes and other animals that call the park home.
Rule 16: All rubbish must be removed from the park, and visitors should be especially mindful not to drop small items such as film boxes, tissues, or handkerchiefs. Not only is litter unsightly, but it can also attract animals, cause problems if ingested, and be a source of germ or disease transmission. Therefore, it is imperative to take all rubbish with you and dispose of it appropriately.
By following these waste management rules, you can help preserve the natural beauty and health of Virunga National Park, ensuring it remains a safe and sustainable destination for generations to come.
If you’re planning a trip to Virunga National Park for the unforgettable experience of gorilla trekking, you may be wondering when is the best time to go. The good news is that Virunga National Park experiences a tropical climate all year round, which means you can go gorilla trekking any time of the year. However, there are certain months that are more favorable than others.
The dry season months of December, January, February, June, July, August, and September are the best months for gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park. During these months, the trails are drier, making it easier to walk through the park. Additionally, the vegetation is not fully grown, making it easier to spot the gorillas and have clearer sightings.
That being said, gorilla trekking is still possible during the wet season months of March, April, May, October, and November. Although the trails may be muddy and more challenging to navigate, the lush vegetation during these months offers a unique and beautiful setting for gorilla trekking.
Regardless of when you choose to go, gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park is an experience of a lifetime that you won’t want to miss.
Located in the eastern part of Congo, accessing Virunga National Park for gorilla trekking can seem daunting at first. However, with the following guide, you’ll be well on your way to this stunning park:
Step 1: Fly to Kigali International Airport. This airport is well-connected to major cities across the world, and serves as the gateway to the region.
Step 2: Connect to Gisenyi town, which is located in Rwanda. This can be done via a short flight or a long road journey, depending on your preference.
Step 3: Cross the Rwanda-Congo border from Gisenyi town to Goma town in DR Congo. This is a quick and straightforward process, and you’ll need to have your passport and other relevant documents ready.
Step 4: Drive towards the park headquarters of Virunga National Park. This is approximately a two-hour drive from Gisenyi town, and can be done via private vehicle or by joining a group tour. Once you reach the park headquarters, you’ll start the gorilla trekking experience.
While the journey may seem long, the stunning natural beauty and incredible gorilla trekking experience of Virunga National Park make it all worthwhile. With this guide, you can confidently plan your trip and create unforgettable memories.
When planning your trip to Virunga National Park, choosing the right accommodation is essential. Whether you’re on a budget or looking for a luxurious experience, there are plenty of options to suit your needs. Here are some of the top choices:
For those looking for budget-friendly options, Bukima Tented Camp and Kibumba Tented Camp are great choices. Both offer comfortable tents and basic amenities, with prices ranging from $90 to $100 per night per person.
If you’re looking for a bit more comfort and luxury, Tchegera Island Camp and Lulimbi Tented Camp are excellent mid-range options. With prices ranging from $100 to $200 per night per person, these camps offer comfortable accommodations and a range of amenities.
For those seeking a truly luxurious experience, Mikeno Lodge is the perfect choice. With prices ranging from $200 to $400 per night per person, this lodge offers the ultimate in comfort and style, with stunning views and a range of amenities.
Once you’ve decided on your preferred level of comfort and budget, let us know and we’ll be happy to help you find the best accommodation to suit your needs. With the right accommodation, your trip to Virunga National Park will be an unforgettable experience.
Trek Africa Expeditions, established in 2019, is a professional tour operator providing high-quality tour and travel services in Uganda, Dr. Congo, Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda. With an experienced office and field team, we take care of all your inquiries and requests, ensuring a seamless and unforgettable gorilla trekking experience. We are proud members of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators and work closely with Uganda Wildlife Authority to provide sustainable and responsible tourism.
Our reputation speaks for itself, with high ratings on popular review platforms like Trip Advisor and Safari Bookings. Our website is a comprehensive and reliable source of information for planning your DR Congo mountain gorilla safari from Kigali. As a team of Ugandans, we have first-hand knowledge of the region and are passionate about showcasing the beauty and diversity of East Africa. When you book with Trek Africa Expeditions, you can trust that you are in good hands.