Congo is a country found in central Africa and one of the three countries where you can trek mountain gorillas from, the other places for gorilla trekking are Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and in Bwindi and Mgahinga national park in Uganda. Gorilla permits in Congo cost less; $400 each compared to Rwanda that charges $1500 and Uganda $600. A gorilla permit can be obtained through the park or you can use a trusted travel agency to get one.
Gorilla permits should be bought in advance especially in the dry seasons due to high demands, you should book your gorilla permit 3months in advance before traveling to trek mountain gorillas. Below are gorilla families you can trek after getting a permit.
A gorilla permit is valid for only one day, a maximum number of eight people will be allowed to visit a certain gorilla family in a day and a maximum of one hour is given for observation, the guide is most likely to end the visit early if gorillas tend to charge. 50% of the gorilla permit fee will be refunded to the tourists if they show any sign of illness prior to gorilla trekking this is because gorillas are subject to human diseases like flu, Ebola, cold and many more. You won’t be allowed to trek to avoid disease transmission in case you’re sick.
After obtaining a gorilla permit, be prepared to hike, mountain gorillas live in high altitude forests of volcanic mountains this means you will require some energy for trekking. You must carry good hiking boots, garden gloves, insect repellents, energy snacks, drinking water and other things you might need. Below are gorilla families you can trek in Congo Virunga national park after obtaining a permit.
Kabirizi gorilla family
The Kabirizi gorilla family was formerly led by Ndugutse a silverback who was assassinated in a crossfire between Dr Congo army and rebel groups in Bukima patrol post in 1997. The family was named Kabirizi after a CNN director who died in a traffic accident in 1990s, the group comprises of 19 members.
Bageni gorilla family
The Bageni gorilla family is led by the dominating silverback Bageni though two other silverbacks Kitagenda and Kanamaharagi are struggling to dominate the group, there are higher chances of the group splitting as it’s composed of 26 members making it the largest gorilla family in Virunga national park.
Humba gorilla family
Humba gorilla family can be trekked within the Bukima sector of the park, the group is dominated by the silverback Humba in which it derives its name from. Humba split from his father Rugendo in 1998 to form his own gorilla family.
Nyakamwe gorilla family
This group is led by the dominating silverback Nyakamwe and its the newly habituated gorilla group in Virunga national park made of 11 members
Rugendo gorilla family
Rugendo gorilla family was habituated for tourism in 1989 making it one of the oldest gorilla groups in Virunga national park. The group split in 1998 when Humba split away to form his own gorilla family living his father with only 8 members and it’s now led by Bukima.
Munyaga gorilla family
This is one of the groups in Virunga national park who was blessed with twins who died later at a young age, Bilali the mother of the twins joined from Rugendo group, the name of the group was derived from the former dominating silverback Munyaga. The group is now led by Gasore and it’s composed of only 7 members.
Mapuwa gorilla family
This family is found near Congo and Ugandan border, the current dominating silverback is Mapuwa son of Rugendo, Mapuwa left his father’s group in 1998 to form his own family and took along 2 adult females with him. Mapuwa is well known for fighting other gorilla families in order to acquire more members in his group, the group is now made of 15 individuals.
Lulengo gorilla family
This gorilla family is also found along the Uganda and Congo border and it’s dominated by Lulengo the silver, Lulengo split off from Rugabo family to form his own gorilla family which is now composed of 6 individuals. The name Lulengo was given to the family in remembrance of the Virunga national park Technical director who was killed in a land mine.
The best months to buy a gorilla permit for in Congo in during the dry seasons of June to September and December to February. During this time the roads to the park are so accessible and hiking trails to trek mountain gorillas are not muddy and slippery. The wet season can also be an advantage because gorillas don’t go to higher elevations looking for food as its abundant on the slopes.