Are there Gorillas in Congo? Rwanda and Uganda are the most well-known sites for mountain gorilla tracking. They have excellent tourism infrastructure, are substantially smaller in size, speak English (French is the official language of the Democratic Republic of Congo), and, probably most importantly, have been at peace for decades. However, there are other reasons why the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a particularly great area to watch gorillas.
To begin with, this is the only country in the world where you can track both mountain and lowland gorillas, and they live so close together that you can see both in a single trip. A chimp safari is also available for true primate enthusiasts.
Second, considering how few people visit the Democratic Republic of Congo, revenue from park fees and monitoring permits is critical to ensuring the gorillas’ and their environments’ continued preservation. While the mountain gorilla population has increased by more than 50 percent since 1989, owing largely to excellent tourism and conservation programs in Rwanda and Uganda, the population of eastern lowland gorillas, which live only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has decreased by 50 to 75 percent over the same time period. Tourism can both support the park and provide jobs in the local towns, both of which are critical to reverse this troubling trend.
Finally, the DRC is the least expensive site to observe gorillas, with permits costing 400 USD Vs 700 USD in Uganda and 1,500 USD in Rwanda. They’re also less likely to sell out quickly, if at all, during high season; this just does not happen in DRC.
In ‘low season,’ permits may be reduced to as little as 200 USD. The low cost of the permit should not be your primary concern, since it is offset by the high expense of traveling in the DRC. However, if you are visiting DRC, it is considerably more cost effective to schedule two gorilla safaris, and it is also possible to view both mountain and lowland populations for less than the cost of a single permit in Rwanda.
Gorilla Species Found in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is the habitat of three gorilla species: western lowland, eastern lowland, and mountain gorillas, the latter two of which may be tracked in eastern DR Congo.
Mountain Gorillas in Virunga National Park.
The most often monitored species are mountain gorillas. They live on the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes, which form the eastern boundary of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with Rwanda and Uganda. Mountain gorillas are a conservation success story, with their population increasing from 620 in 1989 to slightly over 1,000 in 2018. Because of the progress in increasing the mountain gorilla population, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has classified them as endangered (from severely endangered) as of November 2018. They like to reside on the ground, which makes for some close encounters as they graze, rest, and play in the greenery.
Eastern Lowland Gorillas in Kahuzi Biega National Park.
Eastern lowland gorillas are found in the woods and swampland close west of the Virunga Volcanoes. The biggest of the four gorilla species, sometimes known as Grauer’s gorilla, males may reach 1.85m (almost six feet) in height. They spend more time in the trees than their mountain counterparts, which makes observation simpler if they are not too far from the ground, though they will forage high in the canopy on occasion.
Because of the continuing insecurity in eastern DRC, counting and studying eastern lowland gorillas is exceedingly challenging. Their population was believed to be 17,000 in the mid-1990s; contemporary assessments suggest that just a quarter to half of those left in these woodlands. The eastern lowland gorilla is extremely endangered due to the risks it confronts.
Western lowland gorillas are the most abundant of all gorilla species; yet, they are only found in the DRC’s extreme west, along the Atlantic coast. They may also be found in other countries, most notably the Central African Republic, but also the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and Gabon. The western lowland gorilla is in critical condition.
Why you should trek gorillas in DR Congo?
The majority of Congo Safaris Tours include at least one gorilla safari, usually with the mountain gorillas of Virunga National Park. There are eight habituated groups with seven to 26 individuals each; each has a silverback leader and its own different personalities and qualities that your guide will discuss with you during the trek.
Tours leave early in the morning from Bukima, a former research facility that is now the rangers’ camp. It is a short distance from Goma. The length of your forest excursion is determined by the location of the gorillas; you might be trekking for as little as an hour or as much as five hours. The rangers will remember where they slept the night before and are experts at tracking them through the forest to determine where they settle each day.
Eastern lowland gorillas are tracked at Kahuzi-Biega National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with six habituated groups. The park is reached via the town of Bukavu, which is about 40 kilometers distant and close to the Rwandan border. You can get here from Goma by driving around Lake Kivu’s shoreline or taking a boat. Before traveling into the park to begin your journey to one of the two habituated groups, you’ll be informed at the Tshivanga Visitor Centre.
Where to stay during your gorilla safari in DR Congo
In Bukima and Bukavu, there are simple but comfortable tourist class hotels, as well as a few of safari lodges on the fringes of Virunga National Park. The first offers spacious, comfy safari-style tents with en suite bathrooms and bucket showers, while the second offers lovely stone bungalows with bathtubs and private verandas. Both have fantastic views; when sipping a sundowner, keep an eye out for colobus monkeys. The lava lake of Nyiragongo Volcano may also cause the night sky to appear crimson.