Gorilla trekking rules for Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park isn’t just the oldest national park in Congo but also in the whole of the African continent. Virunga National Park is one of the most bio diverse regions on the continent and home to the elusive Mountain Gorillas making it the prime Congo gorilla trekking safari destination. Mountain Gorilla tracking in Virunga National Park was at a pause in late 2018 to early 2019 because of political instability but then in February, the park was opened again to tourists.
Gorilla trekking or tracking as you could prefer is the process of hiking through a dense tropical forest on an altitude ranging 680m-5,109m above sea level. The trek offers you about a 4-6 hours experience with a 1 hour up close glimpse of the gentle giants. Congo gorilla trekking safaris are undertaken on a daily with a total of 8 tourists (This is mainly to minimize behavioral disturbance to the gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases) allowed to trek a single gorilla family with a permit that costs 400 USD. To conserve the natural habitat of the Mountain Gorillas and themselves, rules have been set up for trekkers to follow.
Why Virunga National Park Gorilla trekking safari rules were set
Congo gorilla trekking tours are the key tourist activities in Congo alongside hiking Mount Nyiragongo. Gorilla trekking is an extremely sensitive activity, and for anyone to indulge in it, they should adhere to the recommended rules and regulations.
Gorillas are susceptible to human diseases and therefore protecting them from contracting diseases means conserving them.
There many numbers of tourists who trek gorillas each single day and therefore regulating their actions in the forest helps to conserve the gorilla habitat and the gorillas themselves.
Gorilla trekking safari rules in Virunga National Park Gorilla
Prior to gorilla trekking in Congo, each tourist must book a gorilla trekking permit that costs about USD400-. Permit booking is best done by a local tour operator in Congo for all prior bookings since they can be out of stock on your trek day yet you can’t trek without a permit.
Ensure to have a trekking stick, this is given to you as you head for the trek to help with movements within the jungle.
Always wash your hands before you move out to the gorillas, to reduce risk of any kind of disease spread.
Do not make noise within the jungle, try to lower your voices. Asking your guide questions is however allowed.
Carry your camera but remember that flash photography is not allowed, so take a recommendable camera for capturing these amazing memories.
When you get close to the gorillas, these simple rules are a must observe for the good of the gorillas and the tourist.
Maintain a 7m distance away from the gorillas at all the times. The more you keep a distance, further you give them space the more they become free and comfortable with your presence.
Always remember to stay in tight groups during the whole trekking process.
Don’t smoke, drink or eat in the forest. Eating or drinking increases the risk of food/drink droplets falling, which could intensify the chances of spreading diseases.
Sometimes the gorillas can charge and become furious towards visitors. In this case, follow the ranger’s example (crouch down slowly and do not be tempted to run as this may aggravate the situation).
Do not try to touch the gorillas, because however much they have been habituated to behave normally in the presence of humans they remain wild animals and should be treated as so.
The maximum time you can spend with the gorillas is one hour. However, if the gorillas become upset or frightened, the ranger guide may end the trek early.
After the trek and meeting the gorillas, keep your voices down until you are 200 meters away from the gorillas even with the excitement.
We would all love to go gorilla trekking again and again and see our children go there too, so lets be responsible on our treks. The mountain gorillas in Congo are found within the Virunga massif adjacent to it is Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park are located on the same massif. These gorilla trekking rules as applicable in Congo can also be applicable during a Uganda gorilla trekking safari or on a gorilla safari Rwanda trip with a few modifications that are informed to you before the trek.