A gorilla permit in Congo costs $400 each. D.R. Congo, also known as the heart of Africa prides in hosting about 1/4 of world’s total population of mountain gorillas in Virunga national park, together with Uganda and Rwanda. It is also home to the lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega National Park on the south – eastern border with Rwanda. In addition to gorillas, Congo is also a hub to an array of iconic wildlife including the endangered chimpanzees, forest mammals as well as lush tropical forests, mountain ranges and so much more.
Virunga National Park Gorilla Permits
Habouring up to eight habituated gorilla families in the park, Virunga national park remains one of Africa’s most famous parks that inhabit the only surviving population of mountain Gorillas, with Volcanoes NP, Mgahinga and Bwindi impenetrable N/parks in Rwanda and Uganda respectively all located in the Virunga region.
The biggest family in Virunga park comprising of approximately 32 members and 1 silver back is the historical Kabirizi family. There are more gorilla groups in the park which include Humba, Rugendo, Lulengo, Mapuwa and Munyaga and others. Gorilla trekking in Virunga lasts between 1-8 hours including one hour of actual encounter with the allocated family. Unlike other mountain gorilla destinations, D.R. Congo permits remain ideally the cheapest, only costing $400 per permit per trek as per the 2018/2019 Virunga Conservation tariff.
Gorilla permits in Kahuzi-Biega National Park
Not the normal mountain gorillas, Kahuzi – Biega national park offers an unusual opportunity to meet different subspecies of gorillas, known as lowland gorillas. These are arguably the biggest of all other sub-species of gorillas, including mountain gorillas.
Eastern lowland gorillas have a jet black coat just like their counterparts, the mountain gorillas. Upon maturity the black coat changes into silver though lowland gorillas are differentiated by their huge, short bodies, large hands, shorter hair on their head and short muzzle.
Kahuzi-Biega is the only national park in Africa with the largest population of eastern lowland gorillas totaling to over 400 species which live in 9 different families. These are fully habituated but only one family has so far been opened for trekking on a daily basis. Low land gorilla Trekking is an unusual experience that only few travelers have considered to undertake.
Lowland gorilla trekking involves walking amidst the tropical forests of Kahuzi-Biega covered with muddy, slippery grounds in search of these gentle giants. The forest can be impenetrable and hard to navigate especially during rainy season but having to pave your own way until you find an allocated family is truly rewarding.
The joy of finding a lowland gorilla family presents magic and it is simply worth all the hustles of trekking amidst dense and slippery forest.
Kahuzi-Biega national park’s gorilla trekking permit costs only 400 USD per person, per trek which makes it way too cheaper than Uganda’s 600 USD gorilla permit and 1500 USD gorilla permit for Rwanda. Trekking lowland gorillas commences in the morning at 7:30am preceded by a pre-trek briefing at the ranger station located in the heart of Kahuzi-Biega. Total trekking time may be between 1 and 8 hours dependent majorly on the speed of trekkers or location of allocated gorilla group.
But generally, gorilla trekking time can never be predicated and all you need after securing your trekking permit is expectations, happiness and other requirements like camera, strong jungle shoes, long pants, waterproof jackets, drinking water and snacks/box lunch. See full gorilla trekking packing list here.
Booking a Congo gorilla permit
A gorilla permit is an official card / document that gives one permission to access, visit or trek a given group of gorillas in its natural habitat for a maximum of one hour. Travelers book gorilla permits to Congo through Virunga or Kahuzi-Biega national park offices; alternatively one can hire services of a trusted and professional tour agency to book a permit on your behalf.
In other wards, a gorilla permit is the only recognized document without which a traveler can’t be allowed to access a particular family of gorillas, and only 8 individuals are permitted to trek a given family on a daily basis. Gorilla trekking lasts between 1-8 hours, plus one hour of direct encounter with a gorilla family; this offers trekkers a one – on – one meeting with these shy primates in their natural home. Depending on season and destination, gorilla permit cancellations done before the actual date of trekking attract refunds of up to 50% of total permit cost.
Before booking your D.R. Congo gorilla permit, it is vital that you put into consideration perfect seasons to travel for gorilla trekking. Different climatic seasons influence the way people travel and the kind of activities / experiences undertaken. However, there are no seasonal discounts for gorilla permits in Congo, and advance booking is highly recommended (3 months prior booking is recommended) especially during peak season months of June-September and Mid December-February.
The best season to visit this country is during the dry months; from mid – December to late February, and June through to late September. During these months, Congo experiences a dry spell, with little or no rains and so jungles can be navigated easily.