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 low land 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
With six habituated gorilla families in the park, Virunga national park is one of the four parks in the world harboring the only remaining endangered mountain Gorillas in the whole world thus making it the most done activity in the park.
The largest family in the park with roughly 32 members and one silver back is called Kabirizi family. Other families in the park include Humba, Rugendo, Lulengo, Mapuwa and Munyaga. This activity takes approximately 1-6 hours including one hour of interacting with the gorillas. A gorilla permit in Democratic republic of Congo goes for USD$400 per person according to the 2018-2019 Virunga tariff.
Gorilla permits in Kahuzi-Biega National Park
Not just your usual mountain gorillas, this park presents a principal chance to track the eastern lowland gorillas known to be the largest group of the sub-species of gorillas. Just like the mountain gorillas, lowland gorillas feature a jet black coat that turns into silver after maturity but differentiated by their huge hands, large and shorter bodies, short muzzle and shorter hair on their head.
Kahuzi-Biega national park is the only destination with the biggest number of eastern lowland gorillas amounting to over 400 species divided in 9 families, all habituated though only one group is currently open for trekking. Trekking the lowland gorillas is an experience like no other, walking through the tropical forests covered with muddy grounds in search of the forest giants, having to pave your way out and avoid the thorny plants can never fail to thrill any trekker.
And finally when the gorilla family is spotted, it becomes a magical moment. It’s simply the greatest reward of all the hustles and bustles encountered in search of the forest giants. The one hour spent with them makes every step made in the trek worth it.
A gorilla permit in Kahuzi-Biega national park costs 400 US dollars per person, a price so much cheaper compared to Uganda’s 600 USD gorilla permit and 1500 USD gorilla permit for Rwanda. Trekking starts in the morning with a pre-trek briefing at the park headquarters. The entire trekking experience may take between 1 and 8 hours depending on the luck, speed and the location of a particular gorilla family.
All in all, the time taken to trek lowland gorillas is highly unpredictable. All you need to carry after getting the gorilla permit is a smile, expectations, rain jacket, drinking water, camera, snacks, long trousers and hiking shoes and you are good to go.
Booking a Congo gorilla permit
A gorilla permit is a document / card that authorizes a person / tourist to track and meet a designated family of mountain gorillas in its natural habitat. One can book a Congo gorilla permit through respective park authorities, that is Kahuzi-Biega and Virunga national park authorities or use a trusted and professional tour agency to book it on your behalf.
A gorilla permit is a mandatory document without which one can’t meet the mountain gorilla, 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 an up-close meeting with these gentle giants in their natural habitat. In case of cancellation before the date of gorilla tracking, the concerned park authorities refund up to 50% of permit cost.
Before booking your D.R. Congo gorilla permit, it is important that you understand perfect seasons to travel for gorilla trekking. Different seasons, influenced by climatic patterns hugely influence the way people travel. 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 time to visit this country is during months of January, February, June, July, August, September and December. During the above mentioned months, Congo experiences a dry season and therefore jungles can be navigated easily.