DR Congo has two rainy seasons. The short seasons that start from October to November while the long ones go on from mid March till the end of May, This rain comes from the tropical rain forests.
With the best months to visit the DRC being June to September all the way to February, many tourists choose to travel then when the rain is reduced and the sun is shining in most of the destinations. December too is known to be one of the busiest months of the year in Virunga National Park and it is prudent to book the gorilla and Nyiragongo climbing permits so as to steer clear of disappointments for these are given out on the early bird catches the worm basis.
Even though the rainy season in Congo might affect people’s engagements, this doesn’t necessarily mean that one is interdicted from traveling completely. Even during the rainy season the sun still appears after a downpour which means safari activities are able to resume minus any interruption.
In addition, Congo has a raised landscape, an explanation for the cool climate. Nonetheless, if you are considering on coming for a gorilla tracking safari, it is ideally vital to observe and note that putting aside the reduced charges in the low season, the most excellent time to do gorilla tracking is in the two waterless seasons of January to February and June to September which becomes much easier also because the gorillas feed in the lowlands.
Tracking gorillas is an extraordinary experience worthy to be taken because of the existence of the primates in Virunga National Park. These apes are charming, friendly and smart to be amongst. They are sub-divided into relational groups and carry different attributes like say the silver backs that act as the leaders, the fully developed female gorillas as the caretakers and the youthful who are only mischievous and are at all times within the trees.
A time period of 1-2 hours is said to be spent on tracking these endangered gorillas depending on where they were left the previous day. These apes are protected officially within Virunga National Park in the DRC, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The other population can be found in the South Western Bwindi Impenetrable National Park of Uganda that is 331km² at the boundary with the DRC.
Virunga National Park is habitat to about 200 of gorillas that live mostly in the southern side of the park. The Congolese National Park Authorities, together with the Institute Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and its associate the Africa Conservation Fund manage the National Park. With a decline in numbers due to brutal attacks in which at least 10 apes were murdered close to seven years ago, the gorilla inhabitants have somewhat recovered. The populace is now more stable largely because of the courageous efforts of the rangers who risk their lives in the park.
Keep the eyes wide open throughout the different excursions you will complete from and about the park and also while here get to spot an array of monkeys together with feathered friends that have made Virunga National Park a home. Also, to further enjoy your Congo safari holiday we suggest you sign up for a car because we don’t recommend you using the self-drive because of the increased unpredicted insurgences and conflicts in Congo.
Gorilla trekking in the DRC involves hiking deep into the mountain jungles to observe a gorilla family in the wild. Visitors will be led by guides and national park rangers who keep records of the gorillas for conservation purposes and help protect them from poachers. They can determine the general area where a gorilla family will be and are skilled in tracking them.
Your gorilla trekking adventure in the DRC will begin early in the morning and you will be driven up to the gorilla trekking starting point at Bukima – a ranger’s station in the mountains of the Virunga National Park, outside the city of Goma. The small agrarian villages you’ll pass, and the people who run to the road to wave at you, will give you a glimpse of a different way of life.
The length of the trek is entirely dependent on the gorillas — sometimes the guides can track them down in less than two hours, other times it takes much longer. Mountain gorillas are nomadic, travelling the jungle in families and staying in an area just long enough to clear it of food. They also don’t follow a clear path, and you’ll realize when tracking them that they like to meander.
On your first sighting, you may see mothers holding their babies, juvenile gorillas playing, or dominant silverbacks keeping an eye out for their family!
There are families of over 35 gorillas and you only have an hour in their presence, wearing surgical masks to prevent any diseases being passed between species. As you watch them, your guide will also explain the various behaviors.
What to Expect On a Gorilla Trip to Congo
Every sight seer should head out on their Congo safari knowing what they hope to discover. The long and uncomfortable journey on plane, in the 4x4s and the pirogues makes this a worthwhile experience not easily forgotten. Congo is anever- stabilizing state in the world and it is likely to become more and more accessible and popular to the tourists who seek true African authenticity. Thus the time to visit is now.
Congo Gorilla Tracking Day, the Real Experience
The guide at the park will take you through a brief preamble before heading into the forest for the awaited trek. He/She will cover the geography, history and some of the truths about the gorilla family you will be seeing. The tour guide shall also offer you guidance on ways to conduct yourself when you are with the gorillas in the forest.
Like earlier said, masks are to be put on to avoid these gorillas from getting any kind of human illness. The length of this trek is determined by the position of the gorillas. On some days it can be 20-40 minute hike from the way into the forest while on others it can take more than an hour’s walk to get to the Mountain gorillas since they are always on the go in the search of food.
Be sure to meet the gigantic chap silver back that will welcome you after it makes sure you are not a danger. After you are accepted, spend a thrilling time watching the gorillas which is truthfully a once in a life span experience. Remember you are given an hour in the forest with these Mountain Gorillas.
What to look forward to on a Gorilla Tracking Excursion.
The time spent while gorilla tracking varies and depends on the assemblage that is tracking, the common location of the gorilla family, the topography and weather to mention but a few. Tracking can take as little as an hour or can even go on longer till 5 hours. While on the hike all the way all the way through the forest, it is recommended that you tag along the leadership of your tour guide. As you ascend onto the precipitous slopes of the volcanoes and into the jungle, you will need to tow yourself up the sharp paths by holding onto branches, plant roots, bushes, and many others. An on foot stick can also be handy. You are likely to get dehydrated so be sure to take a sufficient amount of water. The trek in to the forest can be exhausting but the meeting with these apes is worth every endeavor.
Gorilla Groups in Congo
There are Eight Mountain Gorilla groups in Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo
As of September 2016, there are eight habituated gorilla groups in Congo opened for tourism in Virunga National Park. The groups are: Kabirizi, Humba, Rugendo, Mapuwa, Lulengo, Munyaga, Nyakamwe, and Bageni. Each group has got a unique story to tell. We shall now tell you more about the groups. Please, note that the group dynamics and composition (number of individuals in the group, group leadership/dominant Silverback, etc.) may change from time to time.
An infant in Bageni group
We are giving you details as of October 2016. We shall keep updating the group composition from time to time.
Kabirizi group was previously called Ndungutse group, named after the lead Silverback Ndungutse. Ndungutse, a very humble and giant Silverback was assassinated in 1997 after being caught in crossfire between the DR Congo army and rebel groups in the Bukima patrol post. The group later got its name Kabirizi, a name derived from the ICCN Director who died in a traffic accident in the late 1990s. The group is currently led by a powerful yet humble Silverback Kabirizi, who was previously a wild un habituated gorilla (until 1998). The dominant Silverback is currently facing a stiff competition from a young Silverback Masibo. Kabirizi group is currently composed of 19 group members. Tracking of the group starts from the Bukima patrol post.
The group is located in the Bukima sector of the Park. The group is currently the calmest habituated Gorilla group in DRC. Many tourists prefer tracking this group. The group is named after the lead Silverback called Humba. Silverback Humba is a brother to Senkwekwe Silverback who was executed on 22nd July 2007 by unidentified gunmen. Humba split from Rugendo (His father) in 1998. The group is currently composed of 9 members. There is no current challenge in the group leadership.
Rugendo group is one of the oldest known gorilla groups, habituated in 1989. The group was formerly led by Silverback Rugendo, who is the father of Silverback Humba. The group is currently led by Silverback Bukima. There have been serious group changes since the beginning of habituation. By 1997, the Rugendo group had 18 individuals with two Silverbacks, Rugendo and his son Humba). Humba fought his father in 1998, forming a new group with 10 individuals. Rugendo was left with only 8 individuals. There were several group dynamics after, increasing and decreasing the group members from time to time. The group is currently composed of 9 members after grabbing a sub adult member of a Mapuwa group in June this year (2016).
The group is found in Jomba near Bunagana (Congo Uganda border). The group was formerly led by a Silverback named Mapuwa. Silverback Mapuwa has acquired and protected his family by all means through violent struggles. He was a son of Rugendo, the current leader, of Rugendo group. He left his father’s group in 1998 and started his own family. When he left, he took along 2 adult females named Jicho and Mafaze. In a continuous fight, Silverback Mapuwa has acquired more members from other groups. Pilipili, one of the strongest and well-known Silverback in Virunga was stripped of all his members in 2002, leaving him alone Silverback. In addition to grabbing of members, there have been several births leading to the increase in numbers. Currently, Silverback Mvuyekure is the dominant Silverback in the group. There are 22 me gorillas in Mapuwa group.
The group range in the Jomba area of Virunga National Park (near Bunagana, the CongoUganda border). This group was formerly called Musekura group. The name was, however changed to Lulengo, the name of the dominant Silverback and in memory of the Technical Director of Virunga National Park who was killed by a land mine. Silverback Lulengo is a born and was a member of Rugabo group, the first habituated mountain gorilla group the Mikeno Sector. By then, Silverback Rugabo was the leader of Rugabo group. Rugabo was the father of Silverback Lulengo. In 1994, Rugabo was shot by poachers in the times of the Great Lakes Refugee Crisis. After his death, the family was left in the hands of by then the black back Lulengo, who is now a Silverback and leader of the group. There are 9 members in Lulengo group.
Munyaga group can be located and tracked in the Bukima sector of Virunga National Park. The habituation of the group started in 2008. The group name came from its leader by then, Munyaga. Munyaga group is well known for an adult female Bilali who gave birth to twins after joining from Rugendo group. The twins, however, died in infancy. The leadership of the group shifted from Silverback Munyaga to Silverback Mawazo. As per now, Gasore is the current leader of the group. The group is well-known for a bold headed Silverback, Kadogo. The current leader of the group is Gasore. However, there is a challenge from other Silverbacks. There are 7 members in Munyaga group.
Nyakamwe group is one of the newly habituated gorilla groups in Virunga National Park. They were habituated at the same time as Bageni, the largest gorilla group in Virunga National Park. There are 11 members in Nyakamwe group and the group is led by Silverback Nyakamwe. The group is named after the lead Silverback called Nyakamwe. There is no current challenge in the group leadership.
Bageni group is currently the largest gorilla family in Virunga National Park. Currently, there are 26 members in Bageni group, led by Silverback Bageni. There is although a struggle for leadership in the group and it is expected that the group may split into two or three groups. There are 2 other Silverbacks, who are fighting for the lead (Silverback Kanamaharagi and Kitagenda).