Gorilla Trekking In The Democratic Republic Of The Congo : Few African wildlife encounters compare to spending time in their natural habitat watching critically endangered gorillas while also learning about their fascinating family dynamics. You can go gorilla trekking in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where you’ll enter the lush rainforest home to gorillas, forest elephants, buffalo, and numerous bird species.

Tourism is a crucial component of massive conservation efforts to protect the gorilla populations in the DR Congo, which have been drastically reduced by disease and conflict, while also benefiting the local communities. Knowing that your travels are directly affecting their survival makes a gorilla trek a profound and humble experience.


The most renowned locations for mountain gorilla tracking are Rwanda and Uganda. French is the official language of the DRC, but they speak English and are much more compact. Perhaps most significantly, they have been at peace for decades. However, there are a lot of reasons why the DRC is a unique place to see gorillas.

To begin with, this is the only nation in the world where it is possible to track both mountain and lowland gorillas, and since they coexist harmoniously close to one another, it is entirely feasible to see both on a single trip. You can also add on a chimpanzee safari if you’re a true fan of primates.

Second, given the limited number of tourists who visit the DRC, the money collected from park admission fees and tracking permits is crucial for ensuring the ongoing preservation of the gorillas and their natural habitats. While the number of mountain gorillas has increased by more than 50% since 1989, largely due to excellent tourism and conservation initiatives in Rwanda and Uganda, the population of eastern lowland gorillas, which are found only in the DRC, has decreased by between 50% and 75% during the same time period. Both jobs and financial support for the park can come from tourism, which is essential for reversing this unsettling trend.

Last but not least, the DRC is the least expensive location to view gorillas, with permits costing only US$400 as opposed to US$600 in Uganda and US$1,500 in Rwanda. In high season, they are also less likely to sell out quickly, if at all; this simply does not occur in the DRC. In the “low season,” permits may also be reduced to as little as $200 USD. Your primary concern shouldn’t be cost because any permit savings are outweighed by the high cost of travel in the DRC. It does, however, imply that if you’re traveling to the DRC, it would be much more cost-effective to reserve two gorilla safaris, making it possible to see both mountain and lowland groups for less money than the price of a single permit in Rwanda.


Three gorilla species live in the DRC: mountain gorillas, western lowland gorillas, and eastern lowland gorillas.

Mountain gorillas

The most frequently tracked species is the mountain gorilla. They roam all three of these nations and live on the Virunga Volcano’s slopes, which form the eastern border of the DRC with Rwanda and Uganda. Mountain gorilla populations have increased from just 620 in 1989 to just over 1,000 in 2018, making them a conservation success story. Since the mountain gorilla population has increased, they are now classified as endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), down from critically endangered. As they forage, rest, and play in the undergrowth, their propensity to live on the ground makes for some particularly close encounters.

Eastern lowland gorillas

The forests and swamplands just to the west of the Virunga Volcanoes are home to eastern lowland gorillas. The largest of the four gorilla species, also known as the Grauer’s gorilla, males can reach heights of 1.85 m, or over six feet. Although occasionally they will forage high in the canopy, they spend more time in the trees than their mountain counterparts, which can make watching them easier if they are not too far from the ground.

It is very challenging to count eastern lowland gorillas and analyze their behavior due to ongoing conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their population was estimated to be 17,000 individuals in the mid-1990s; according to recent reports, only 25% to 50% of those individuals may still be living in these forests. The eastern lowland gorilla is in grave danger due to the dangers it faces.

Western lowland gorillas

The majority of gorilla species, known as western lowland gorillas, only inhabit the far west of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, close to the Atlantic coast. Other countries where you can find them include the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and Gabon.


A gorilla safari is usually included in DRC tours at least once, usually with mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park. Eight habituated groups, each with seven to 26 members, can be found here. Each has a silverback leader and unique personalities and traits, which your guide will discuss with you while you’re on the trek.

Early in the morning, tours leave from Bukima, which was once a research station but is now the base for the rangers. From Goma, it’s only a short drive. Depending on where the gorillas are, the length of your forest trek could be as little as an hour or as much as five. Because they are experts at locating them in the forest and tracking them there, the rangers will know where they slept the night before.

The nearby Kahuzi-Biega National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with six habituated groups, is where eastern lowland gorillas are tracked. The town of Bukavu, which is about 40 kilometers away and close to the Rwandan border, is the gateway to the park. You can drive along the lakeshore or take a boat to get here from Goma via Lake Kivu. Before driving into the park to start your trek to one of the two habituated groups, you will receive instructions at the Tshvanga Visitor Center.


You must travel through rivers, long grasses, rainforests, and swampy terrain to encounter the western lowland gorillas; this is one of the most adventurous journeys on the African continent. You are now a part of nature rather than just observing it. Focusing on the sounds of your feet as they explore, the alluring aroma of the forest, and the amazing sights.

 Depending on where the families are located, a proper trek can last anywhere from one to five hours, so it’s best to wear the most comfortable footwear possible. Your professional guide and expert tracker will keep you enthralled with their enthusiasm and expertise every step of the way.

Along with more complex information about the environment and its vegetation, insect life, and exotic fruits, you will gain fascinating insights into the lives of these magnificent creatures. Other species like forest elephants, chimpanzees, and mangabeys (forest-dwelling monkeys) may also be seen.


You will put on a mask once you’ve traversed the terrain and encountered a gorilla family to reduce the likelihood of spreading disease. Although gorillas lack immunity to many human diseases, they are just as prone to illness as we are, and it can be fatal for them. This is also the reason you should always maintain a respectful distance of seven meters (23 feet) when you come into contact with them.

 Your time with the gorillas will last up to an hour, and in order to make them feel safe, you will move slowly, quietly, and with care. You will also observe proper camera etiquette by avoiding flash photography and keeping your hands to yourself.

When working with wild animals, there is a certain amount of risk, but your guide and tracker will never put you in danger, and they are well-versed in how to make the experience as enjoyable as possible. Your veins will be filled with the spirit of Africa during this soul-stirring hour of observation.


In Bukima and Bukavu, there are inexpensive but comfortable tourist-class hotels, as well as a few safari lodges near Virunga National Park. The boutique option offers cozy stone bungalows with bathtubs and private verandas, while the first option offers spacious, comfortable safari-style tents with en-suite bathrooms with bucket showers. Both have stunning views; keep an eye out for colobus monkeys as you sip your sundowner. The lava lake of the Nyiragongo Volcano could also turn the night sky red.


There are many guidelines to follow when tracking gorillas; these guidelines are in place for both your safety and the safety of the gorillas. You will need to wear a facemask in the DRC to prevent the spread of diseases; even the common cold can be very harmful to gorillas. The gorillas must be kept at least 7 meters away from you for the same reason, and you are not permitted to track them if you are ill. Once you’ve come across a gorilla group, you can stay in their vicinity for up to an hour. This is a brief but truly magical period during which you can watch the gorillas forage, groom one another, and interact with their young. However, avoid making eye contact because this is perceived as threatening! Do not forget to put your camera down and enjoy the moment. Consider leaving your camera behind on one of the safaris if you are tracking them twice, so you can fully appreciate the experience.

Remembering the Rangers

Even though the aforementioned tracking guidelines are crucial for anyone tracking gorillas anywhere in Africa, there are specific aspects of gorilla safaris in the DRC that make responsible tourism particularly crucial here.

Being a park ranger in Africa is extremely rewarding, but the work is physically demanding, there are only basic living conditions, and there are threats from both wildlife and poachers. Nevertheless, rangers in the DRC face much greater dangers than those in Uganda and Rwanda. More than 180 park rangers have died in the past 20 years in Virunga National Park. The worst attack, which resulted in the deaths of five rangers and a driver, happened in April 2018. A female ranger was shot and killed the following month while defending two tourists. The tourists were abducted over the night and later released without incident.

The oldest national park in Africa, Virunga, is located in one of the most unstable parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where its forest is a haven for armed anti-government rebels and local militia. They can finance their activities by illegally logging and mining in the park, as well as by hunting for bush meat. It is the duty of the rangers to stop them from doing this, which puts them at a high risk of attack. Between 2011 and 2018, the number of park rangers more than tripled in response to these risks, and as a result, the number of civilian fatalities dramatically decreased, though tragically, more rangers perished. Rebels have retaliated by killing gorillas as well.

Because of this violence, not only the rangers themselves suffer but also the families they leave behind. The Fallen Rangers Fund for Virunga National Park was established to help the widows and children of park rangers who died in the line of duty. Since the start of the armed conflict in 1991, it has been able to locate almost every widow. The fund provides childcare facilities, employment for widows, and sewing training.

Are you ready to start organizing your gorilla trekking Safri in the Congo? Our experts on African safaris have personally traveled to the Congo to go gorilla trekking. To begin planning your fantastic African adventure, contact them at Achieve Global Safaris .

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