Eastern Lowland Gorilla Trekking in Congo: Permit Costs, Prices/Fees, when to book and more tracking Guide
Gorillas are huge and calm forest-dwelling Apes that call the Tropical rainforests, lowland and swampy areas of East, Central and West Africa home. Presently, gorillas are categorized into two main species-western gorillas further categorized into Western Lowland Gorillas and Cross River Gorillas as well as the Eastern gorillas that are also further categorized into the extraordinary mountain gorillas and huge Eastern lowland gorillas. Eastern lowland gorilla trekking in Congo has currently become one of the leading tour activities in the country.
Talking of the Eastern lowland gorillas, they are only found within Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and currently only trekked within Kahuzi-Biega National Park much as they are also distributed in other Protected Areas such as Maiko National Park. Unlike their close relatives (mountain gorillas), the Eastern Lowland gorillas are larger (if not largest of all four sub-species) and have lighter as well as browner coats. They are also endangered under the IUCN Red List of species hence their protection as well as their natural habitats is paramount to their survival.
How the Eastern Lowland Gorillas are trekked in Congo (Kahuzi-Biega Park)
Of the estimated 5000 Eastern Lowland Gorillas still surviving, about 400 of them are found in Kahuzi- Biega National Park, living between altitudes of 2100 and 2400 meters above sea level. There are about 9 gorilla groups/families in this Park, five of which are fully habituated and open for trekking. This magnificent Park is situated within the Eastern side of Democratic Republic of Congo, adjacent to Bukavu and Lake Kivu. This UNESCO World Heritage Site sprawls for over 6000 square kilometers with mountain rainforest, high altitude rainforest, bamboo forest, swamp forest, swamp, sub-alpine heather as well as peat bog.
Trekking Eastern lowland gorillas is a perfect adventure for primate lovers yearning for an extraordinary trekking experience. The activity usually kicks-off at Tshivanga Visitor Center with registration and briefing (don’t forget to carry your passport for crosschecking). This allows visitors to properly understand the journey they are about to embark on, get acquainted with the rules and regulations of lowland gorilla trekking in Congo and simple interesting facts about these large Apes. Participants are then lead to the different trailheads to search for the allocated gorilla group and unlike mountain gorillas, the Eastern lowland gorillas are more mobile given the fact that their habitats are more open and terrains are less hilly hence it will take 1-6 hours to find them. Trekkers will get a signal from the Ranger guide on their closeness and once located, you will probably spot the infants playing, adult females breastfeeding their young ones, juveniles in grooming groups, others resting and all these take place under the watchful eye of the dominant silverbacks (mature male marked by silver saddle on their back).
Permits for Eastern Lowland Gorilla Trekking in Congo
Permits for trekking the Eastern Lowland Gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo cost only $400 and allow persons of 15 years to venture into the natural habitats of these Great Apes and spend one hour with them at a distance of 7 meters.
Guidelines of trekking Eastern Lowland Gorillas in Congo
The guidelines followed when trekking the Eastern lowland gorillas are not different from those undertaken during mountain gorilla trekking. Therefore, only persons of age (15 years and above) can be allowed to trek these Gorillas.
On locating the Eastern lowland gorillas on the trek, participants are allowed to spend a maximum of one hour to relish these creatures interacting and going about their daily activities.
Participants are required to maintain a distance of 7 meters when observing and photographing the Eastern lowland gorillas to prevent any possible transfer of human diseases and vice versa.
The number of persons allowed to visit each habituated group of Eastern lowland gorillas is limited to 8 to avoid causing stress to the gorilla group and limiting exposure to diseases.
Visitors are advised to first wash hands and wear face masks before undertaking Eastern lowland gorilla trekking in Congo, to avoid any germs that would spread diseases to these endangered creatures.
Avoid eating, drinking and smoking in the presence of the Eastern lowland gorillas.
Dumping of rubbish within the Eastern lowland gorilla natural habitats is totally prohibited because these rubbish and leftover foods are potential germ carriers, hence ensure that you leave the forest just the way you found it.
Avoid making noise while trekking to avoid scaring other amazing creatures in the forest especially birds that would otherwise spice up your trekking experience.
Packing List for Eastern Lowland Gorilla Trekking in Congo
For smooth, successful and unforgettable lowland gorilla trekking experiences, participants are advised to pack long sleeved shirts, khaki safari pants, rain jackets, sturdy waterproof hiking boots, cotton socks, backpack for carrying items required during the trek (such as gorilla permit, camera, binoculars, snacks and drinking water), insect repellant, a hat, first aid kit, sunglasses, toiletries such as sunscreen, toothpaste, lip gloss, hand sanitizers, wet wipes and toothpaste among others), warm sweater and many others.
Best time of the year to go Eastern Lowland Gorilla Trekking in Congo
Lowland Gorilla Trekking in Congo is conducted throughout the year although the recommended time is dry season for a number of reasons. These months (June to September and December to February) are marked by drier forest floors and therefore hiking isn’t as challenging as it is during the wet season (March to May and November) when grounds are muddy and slippery after rains hence more challenging to trek the Eastern lowland gorillas.
Where to stay during Lowland Gorilla Trekking in Congo
You can stay at L’Orchids Safari Club, Hotel Begonias Bukavu, Coco Lodge Bukavu, Lakeside Hotel Bukavu and Exodus Hotel Bukavu among others during your Eastern lowland gorilla trekking tour in Democratic Republic of Congo.
How to get to Kahuzi-Biega National Park
Kahuzi-Biega National Park is situated in the Eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo, about 40 kilometers from the Town of Bukavu hence it takes only one and a half hours to get there. After arriving at Kavumu Airport (in Bukavu), visitors continue to the Park by road although arrival into the country can also be via Goma International Airport then embark on the 5-6 hours’ drive to Bukavu.
However, most visitors prefer arriving via Kigali International Airport then take 6-7 hours’ drive from the City/Airport to Bukavu via Cyangugu and crossing the border at Le Grande Barrier to Goma, then finally to the Town of Bukavu.
Water transport is also commonly used when accessing Bukavu Town, using ferry from Goma to Bukavu on Lake Kivu with breathtaking views of Idjwi Island and this takes only about 3 hours.