Eastern Lowland Gorilla Trekking in DR Congo

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Eastern Lowland Gorilla Trekking in DR Congo

Eastern Lowland Gorilla Trekking in DR Congo Kahuzi-Biega

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the Eden’s in Africa to see the variety and high endangered wildlife like the Lowland gorillas, mountain gorillas, Bonobos, Okapi but the countries continued political instabilities has forced the country to be one of the lists visited countries in Africa due to its rich but less protected wildlife. There are two subspecies of the lowland gorillas found in the Democratic Republic of Congo the less threatened being the Eastern lowland and the Western lowland is critically endangered.

History of Eastern Lowland Gorillas

The eastern lowland gorilla—also known as Grauer’s gorilla—is the largest of the four gorilla subspecies. It is distinguished from other gorillas by its stocky body, large hands, and short muzzle. Despite its size, eastern lowland gorillas subsist mainly on fruit and other herbaceous materials, just like other gorilla subspecies.

Years of civil unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have taken their toll on both the eastern lowland gorilla and the mountain gorilla. The eastern lowland gorilla makes its home in lowland tropical rainforests in the eastern DRC. In the last 50 years, its range has decreased from 8,100 square miles—about the size of the state of Massachusetts— to about 4,600 square miles today. This subspecies may now occupy only 13% of its historical range. There were nearly 17,000 eastern lowland gorillas in the mid-1990s but scientists estimate that the population has declined by more than 50% since then. An accurate accounting of the animals has been impossible for many years because of violence in the region.

Throughout the unrest, the gorillas have been vulnerable to poaching, even in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, home to the largest population of protected eastern lowland gorillas. Rebels and poachers invaded the park and people set up illegal mines. But, with help from WWF and other organizations, park staff is re-establishing control over the land.

Where to find the Eastern Lowland gorillas in DR Congo

Kahuzi Biega National park

Kahuzi Biega national park is located in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo just 50 km away from Bukavu town which is one of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s biggest business districts bordering Rwanda’s Rusizi which is also a big business Hub and beach holiday destination on the shores of Lake Kivu. Kahuzi Biega national park is listed as the world heritage sites as it’s known to be holding one of Africa’s few remaining eastern Lowland gorillas in the base of Mount Kahuzi and Biega, being the only habitat for the eastern lowland gorillas which are only found in Democratic Republic of Congo in the entire world. The 75,000 ha eastern sector is entirely montane. The massif is part of the Mitumba Mountain range, the western mountains of the Great Rift Valley. The two main peaks, Mount Kahuzi (3,308 m) and Mount Biega (2,790 m) are extinct volcanoes, and the massif dates from the late Tertiary or early Quaternary.

See our popular Republic of Congo Gorilla trekking safari packages

How many Eastern Lowland gorillas are there in the wild?

There are far fewer eastern lowland gorillas compared to western lowland gorillas. According to a 2004 report, there were only about 5,000 eastern lowland gorillas in the wild, down to fewer than 3,800 in the 2016 gorilla census.

Eastern Lowland Gorilla families in Kahuzi Biega national park

With disrupted research in Kahuzi Biega National Park, the park remains the last stronghold of the eastern lowland gorillas, numbering just over 200 individuals with three habituated families that are currently being protected by the park and they are open to tourism.

What to expect on Eastern Lowland gorilla trek in DR Congo

There are several reasons the Eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla Beringei Graueri) is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. One is that their habitat has been cleared for farms and ranches, and the mines in the area which has caused severe degradation, Deforestation in this area allows for the trade of bush meat and even more poaching. Bush meat hunting and timber harvesting in the western lowland gorillas habitat have negatively affected the probability of its survival. The western lowland gorilla is considered to be critically endangered by the IUCN.

Generally the gorilla trekking easy since Kahuzi Biega is a low land forest and the gorilla movements are really not that bad and you should expect easy gorilla treks during your visit to DR Congo however the road conditions in the area make it more of an expedition than a safari.

Impact of Eastern Lowland gorilla trekking in DR Congo

Like many gorilla trekking areas in East Africa where the locals get 10-20% of the gorilla permit fees currently, Kahuzi Biega receives the least number of Clients in a year compared to Uganda and Rwanda so most funds go directly to protecting the endangered Eastern Lowland Gorillas as the park hardly makes money from the gorilla tourism.

The actual encounter with Eastern Lowland gorillas in DR Congo

After hours of driving from Bukavu to the park headquarters for gorilla briefing, you will be led by the experienced rangers to see the family of the Eastern Lowland gorillas and this is made special by Coming face to face with one of Africa’s biggest species of Habituated Eastern Lowland gorilla is considered as one of the greatest wildlife encounters in Africa, despite the big size the Eastern Lowland are pretty easy going and they will continue to eat, groom as you photograph the gorillas, the hikes are pretty easy.

How long is the Eastern Lowland gorilla trek DR Congo?

Typically the Eastern Lowland gorilla trekking experience in Kahuzi Biega takes anything from 2-6 hours on relatively flat terrain and you will spend one hour with the Eastern Lowland gorillas from the time you find them.

Booking Eastern Lowland Gorilla Permits in DR Congo

Booking things online can be easy but booking a gorilla permit maybe just a bit tricky and this is where we considered Africa’s top safari operator as we are closely working with the Congolese national park organizations and through our close partnership we can book gorilla permits within the shortest time possible.

Congo gorilla permits cost USD 400 per gorilla permit person per day and this will be booked before its guaranteed and we will fully secure that for you and organize an all-inclusive Exclusive Journey by design to see the critically endangered lowland gorillas in DR Congo.

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Refunds/ Cancellations of Eastern Lowland Gorilla Permits in DR Congo

With the permission granted to Acquire gorilla permits from the office of the Virunga conservation area there are usually minimum risks of cancellation during your safari to Kahuzi Biega however should there be any problem during your trek there is, unfortunately, no refund given to the clients and this is one of the reasons why you must book your safari with Wilderness Explorers Africa and we will give you our terms and conditions for Eastern Lowland gorilla trekking in DR Congo which gives clients win-win chances.

Age Restrictions for Eastern Lowland gorilla trekking in DR Congo

The gorilla trekking age limit for Eastern Lowland gorilla trekking in Kahuzi Biega is 15 years and above

How to get to Kahuzi Biega National Park

Kahuzi Biega can easily be accessed since it is located 40km away from Bukavu town, and the means of transport depends on the tourist’s interest. But due to the rough terrains, most visitors prefer to go by the road that is, the 4×4 fleets, which take a 90minutes drive to the park.

By road

The easiest way by road to access Kahuzi Biega National Park is via south-western Rwanda, Clients are advised to fly into Kigali and take a drive through Nyungwe Forest to the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in Bukavu and Rusizi and spent a night at a beach resort in the Rwandan side before crossing to the Congo side the next day.

The drive can take up to 6 hours but through good road conditions using a 4×4 safari car.

By Air

Airlines are also available whereby visitors use domestic charter flights from Kigali to the Rusizi border and then cross to Congo (Bukavu town) after then you are required to take a 4×4 fleet to the park that might take about 90 minutes to reach.

What to pack for Eastern Lowland gorilla trekking safari in DR Congo

What to pack before traveling to DR Congo is the key to a successful African safari experience as some parts of the content are remote and getting access to the areas can be tough and maybe nothing to buy below is a pack list.

  • Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots with good ankle support. Make sure your shoes are well worn-in before departing to avoid any nasty blisters.
  • Light, breathable, waterproof jackets and trousers, and long-sleeved shirts. It’s important to wear light, long layers due to the variable weather and to avoid any bites from insects.
  • Warm layers for the chilly mornings and cold nights.
  • Long, lightweight woolen socks.
  • Wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses for sun protection.
  • Toiletries such as sun cream, insect repellent, after-sun, bite relief cream, and lip balm.
  • Garden gloves to protect your hands as you grip the vegetation during your trek.
  • A small backpack to carry your water, lunch, extra clothes, binoculars, and a camera.
  • Camera with extra lenses and batteries. Bring more memory than you think you need.
  • Binoculars have a clear view of everything and spot other wildlife such as birds and monkeys.
  • Snacks – the trek can be quite strenuous, lasting anywhere from two to nine hours, so bring some snacks for extra energy.
  • A reusable water bottle to limit waste – you’ll need to bring plenty of drinking water on your trek.
  • Multi-way travel adaptor. DR Congo uses plug types C (two round pins) and J (two round pins and a grounding pin) and operates on a 220V supply voltage and 50Hz standard frequency.
Best time to visit DR Congo for Gorilla Trekking experience

If you are probably looking for the best time to visit Congo, then you should think of the period between Mid-May to October based on average temperature and humidity from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. However, you can read more about the weather and climate structure in Congo to get the basic insights for an all year round safari expedition

Where to stay in Volcanoes national park

Kahuzi-Biega National park offers accommodation though in form of camping for visitors who do not wish to go camping way, there is accommodation offered by the nearest city of  Bukavu which is high class, mid-range, budget, and basic accommodation during the safaris while in Congo. The standard luxury facilities will offer the visitors services that are extraordinary and these lodges are located usefully with attractive views of Lake Kivu such as L’Orchids safari club which offers a mix of contemporary and traditional African Style decorations.

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