Amongst the three famous mountain gorilla habitat in the World that is Uganda, Rwanda and D.R. Congo, Virunga National park in D.R. Congo is the most unsafe. From the 1990s, the area has been experiencing civil unrest which is affecting mountain gorilla conservation and gorilla trekking activity too. May be this is one reason why gorilla trekking in Virunga National is unpopular here and here is what makes Virunga National Park a dangerous place for gorilla trekking in Africa.
At the moment, Virunga National park inhabits so far 6 gorilla trekking families enjoying space of approximately 8090 sq. km. in 1925, King Albert of Belgium gazette this as a national park which makes it one of the oldest conserved parks in Africa. The habituated gorilla families D.R.Congo include Mapuwa gorilla family, Lulengo gorilla family, Rugendo gorilla family, Munyaga gorilla family, Kabirizi gorilla family and Humba gorilla family
Virunga national park is home to other primates like chimpanzees, Hamlyn’s monkeys, De Brazaa’s monkeys, olive baboons, Dent’s Mona monkeys, blue monkeys, olive baboons, red tailed monkeys, bush babies to mention but a few.
Despite the unrest in this area, other animals also find home in this park including aardvark, blue duikers, yellow-backed duikers, elephants, buffaloes, okapi, warthogs giant forest hogs, and the list is endless.
For keen birders, Virunga has a variety of birds including Albertine endemics for you to identify widening your list of African birds.
Nyiragongo Mountain is one of the still active Volcano which last erupted in 2022 spreading magma over 30 km. This rare occurrence attracts many tourists to have at least a day or night over at the top of the mountain.
Gorilla trekking in D.R.Congo is conducted in Virunga National park in the eastern side of the country. This is almost the same area with rebel activities since 1996 to date. These civil wars do not exclude the gorilla trekking area making it a danger zone at times.
In this area are precious minerals that everyone wants to control. Innocent rangers and wardens have been victims of this dubious fight. The most recent is the 24th April 2020 ranger guide were ambush and killed claiming about 12 rangers and wardens
Not only are the rangers affected but the mountain gorillas are victims too. Time for habituating the gorillas is spent fighting to protect them. those that are injured may be had to give treatment so end up dying. This is one of the reasons why the mountain gorilla population in the Virunga National Park is smaller than its counterparts. A few people risk there lives to do gorilla trekking in this area.
As rebel activities are still active in this area, few people are ready to join the park rangers and wardens to protect the mountain gorillas. Because of this limited manpower, a few rangers are available to give tourists protection and defend the mountain gorillas too. Even those around still need to learn more about the mountain gorillas.
The Nyiragongo Volcano in Virunga National park spits larva at any time and it last did this in 2022.This larva flew for over a week for approximately 20km displacing a number of people. On top of Nyiragongo mountain is the largest caldera in the world. In the night while on top you may get to see red hot magma but one with a fait heart is advised not to attempt this.
In case the mountain erupts when you are gorilla trekking, you need to vacate this location as soon as you are advised too.
Where gorilla trekking permits for other parks like Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Volcanoes National park are purchased in advance, those of Virunga National Park are purchased on ground. In case you board flight hoping to do gorilla trekking in D.R.Congo, you are uncertain if you will be allowed to do gorilla trekking. You may find that all the available gorilla permits have sold-out which is frustrating. You may cancel your only chance to travel to Africa and do gorilla trekking because of such happenings.
D.R. Congo has a number of Airports but almost all of them are fur from Virunga National park. this calls for driving long distances or even spending days on the road before doing gorilla trekking.
Some of the International Airports in D.R. Congo include Ndjili International Airport or Lubumbashi International Airport or Mbandaka Airport. Even the road network in D.R. Congo is very poor making gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park a challenging activity to be part of. The safety on these roads is not guaranteed too because of the political instability.
The quickest access is through Kigali Airport in Rwanda but you need an extra day to get to Volcanoes National park. To do this you need to pay for border crossing twice to and fro Virunga National Park.
The Communication gap between the rangers and the tourist is quite wide as most tourists are English while Congolese French. This language barrier creates mistrust and dissemination of information is broken. Just in case of any danger during gorilla trekking it may be quite hard to understand each other.
With the limited number of tourists booking gorilla trekking permits in Virunga National park, it is quite scaring to overnight in this park. The more the merrier and security is better with more people together. Virunga National Park is an ancient forest with huge trees and dense canopy.
While searching for the mountain gorillas, you use trails but because this park is less visited the path is covered with plants. To create a path, you need a machete to trim them down which is tiring at times yet you have to trek.
For emergency injuries, during gorilla trekking you may need to be rushed to a health center close to Virunga National park which closed because of the insecurity in this area. Most business in and around the national park closed for fear of attacks from the rebels in the forest, To do any activity here you need to pack personal first Aid box with the relevant medication before travelling for gorilla trekking in this park.
The people close to this area eat wild meat and if not well cooked outbreak of diseases like Ebola are transmitted to the humans. Mind a lot about the Health status of the people around this gorilla trekking park at that time.
It is common for communicable infections like cholera, Ebola to breakout here. Those that are immunizable do so prior to travelling but personal care is also required when on ground. Do not taste anything you are not sure about.
All year round gorilla trekking is open but you need to buy your permit for Virunga National Park when on ground. At the moment the gorilla permits for Virunga costs $450 per person per trek.
15 years and above is the age limit for doing gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park. this is because of the nature of the terrain surrounding this area. The forest has very thick vegetation which you may need to walk through to get to the gorillas. This may scare a child below this age.
Contact us for more information about Virunga National Park.