As the Coronavirus continues to spread across the globe and continues to infect many people with no segregation, this has become a big concern for conservationists in Africa and around the world, with a major focus on the mountain gorillas only remaining in the protected areas of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo this has resulted into imposing unprecedented restrictions on gorilla tourism in all the mentioned countries, hence DR Congo Suspends Gorilla trekking. According to the recent census of mountain gorillas, it is approximately 1004 mountain gorilla individuals living in the protected areas of Bwindi Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Congo.
Why DR Congo has suspended gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park?
Due to the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic based on the advice of the conservationists who indicate that primates most especially the mountain gorillas are susceptible to be infected by the COVID-19 complications given the fact these apes share more than 98% DNA with the humans who are likely to pass it to them like other countries, also DR Congo also took a difficult decision to close all mountain gorilla tourism activities in Virunga National Park with effect from Monday 23rd March 2020 and new booking will only be accepted again starting on Monday 1st June 2020 depending on the COVID-19 situation by that time. The closure of mountain gorilla tourism in Virunga National Park is based on precautions and is in line with the guidelines set by World Health Organization to avoid social contact.
About Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park is one of the most diverse tropical rain forests and oldest national park in Africa mostly famous for mountain gorilla trekking in Congo, among other activities done here include Nyirangongo volcano hike, bird watching, Nature walks, Chimpanzee tracking and Habituation. It should be noted that there three countries that have mountain gorillas in the whole world. These countries include Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. Rwanda mountain gorillas are found in Volcanoes National Park, Uganda gorillas are found in Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park while Congo mountain gorillas are located in Virunga National Park. All these national parks are close to each other in what is termed as the Virunga massif.
Mountain gorilla trekking, this is one of the major activity done in the Virunga National park, 6 gorilla families are open for gorilla trekking activity, these include Kabirizi gorilla group, Humba gorilla group, Rugendo gorilla group, Mapuwa gorilla group, Lulengo gorilla group, Munyaga gorilla group, Nyakamwe gorilla group and Bageni gorilla group. Among these groups, it is Kabirizi that is popular for gorilla trekking and loved by many tourists because it is the largest group with over 3 dozens of gorilla individuals. Virunga National Park offers both normal and discounted gorilla permits for trekking mountain gorillas in Congo. It is during the high season or peak season of the months December, January, February, June, July, August, September and early October that the gorilla permit of Virunga National Park costs 400 USD per person per trek, these months the park receives many visitors because it is the holiday season for many travellers and it is as well a dry season which makes it easy for the gorilla trek and walks through the trails in the Virunga forest. With this, if you plan to visit Congo for gorilla trekking during these months we do advise you book your trek in advance at least 3 months early so that you don’t miss out on the gorilla permits. Then for the discounted gorilla permits trekking in Congo Virunga National park, these are offered during the off-season months of early March, April and May then early October, November and early December annually at 200 USD per person per trek and this offer runs from 15th of March to 15th of May and then from 15th of October and 15th of December.
The temporary closure of mountain gorilla tourism in Virunga National Park comes as a difficult decision given the fact this is the major and important source of revenue however protecting the mountain gorillas is now a major focus for the conservationists, this will directly affect the revenue earnings of the park, jobs of rangers and porters and the anti-poaching activities exposing the mountains to poachers. Virunga National Park has 6 gorilla families open for trekking each day, each group is trekked by 8 tourists plus two park ranger guides and porters, this means for this durations of closing due to COVID-19 the park will lose approximately USD12800 each day for the gorilla permits money, the closure also affects transportation, tour operators and accommodation services respectively among other services.
When again to visit DR Congo for mountain Gorilla Trekking?
The closure of gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park due to the COVID-19 comes when this time is low season months which are a bit wet that is March, April and May which most travellers avoid visiting gorillas during these months because the vegetation is fully grown and trails are much slippery making the trekking much harder. During this same period annually Virunga National Park gives a discounted offer of gorilla permits for tourists visiting gorillas during the rainy months at USD200 only for the gorilla permit basically to accommodate the budget travellers to have a chance trek the gorillas during the low turnout of tourists visiting gorillas. This offer will still be available after reopening of the gorilla tourism in Virunga National park on 1st June 2020, from 15th October to 15th December we hope by that time the COVID-19 pandemic will be gone.
Good months to visit this park is during the dry season which occurs in the months of December, January, February, June, July, August and September during these months it always easy to walk through the trails which are drier compared to the wet months then as well the vegetations are not fully grown and this makes the sighting of gorillas easy and more clear, during this period the gorilla permit costs USD400 per person per trek. However all year round any time you visit Virunga National Park for gorilla trekking you will be able to see the mountain gorillas.
What other things to do apart from Gorilla trekking in Congo?
Nature walks through the Virunga Forest, Virunga National Park is one of the oldest tropical rain forest in Africa with super dense vegetation, a nature walk through this forest will give a chance to discover and see the breathtaking beauty of the unique Virunga Landscape as well as learn about the various tree species, spot birds and if keen enough you will see some mammals and reptiles.
Nyirangongo Volcano Hike, Hiking the Nyirangongo Volcano is one of the once in a lifetime adventure one should do and this can as well be done in Virunga National Park, the Nyiragongo Volcano one of the most active volcanoes in the world with an elevation of 3,470 m (11,380 ft), Not much is known about how long the volcano has been erupting, but since 1882, it has erupted at least 34 times and the most recent eruption happened in 2002.
Bird watching, Virunga Forest being one of the most diverse forest in the tropics it has various habitats and landscapes ranging from Forests, swamps to grasslands, these have thus attracted a vast number of bird species making the birding expedition one of the must-do activity on your visit to Virunga national park. There are more than 706 recorded bird species that one on a birding safari will have a chance to spot and see. Contact us and we will organize for you this safari accordingly.
Where to stay in Virunga National Park
Accommodations in Virunga National Park range from budget, mid-range to luxury. Budget options include Bukima Tented Camp and Kibumba Tented Camp among others fares range from 90-100 dollars a night per person, mid-range options include Tchegera Island Camp and Lulimbi Tented Camp among others fares range from 100-200 dollars a night per person and then Luxury options include Mikeno Lodge fares range from 200-400 dollars a night per person. You let us know the best option that works for you and we will for availability and book you according.
Why book DR Congo gorilla safaris with Encounter Africa safaris after the COVID-19 pandemic is gone?
Encounter Africa safaris was established in 2011 with an aim of providing unrivalled and professional tour and travel services in Uganda, Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda. Since then, Encounter Africa safaris as established herself as one of the leading tour operators for Uganda and Rwanda. Encounter Africa boosts of a professional office and field team that takes care of all your requests and inquiries. We are full members of AUTO (Association of Uganda Tour Operators) and work closely with Uganda Wildlife Authority. We are highly recommended on TripAdvisor as well as Safari bookings. Our website is one of the best and reliable point to help you start preparing for your DR Congo mountain gorilla safari from Kigali as we have the best and update information that you can rely on. Encounter Africa safaris is owned and run by Ugandans and as such, you will be dealing with a team that sells what they know.