A calm and stoic local woman.
The Proud owner of a scooter.
Lovely people, but always with a hand out. OK the first few times but 20 times a day for a month?
The political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo had been improving over the last five years though armed groups and elements of the Congolese military remain security concerns in eastern and northeastern DRC. These armed groups, are known to pillage, steal vehicles, kidnap, rape, kill, and carry out military or paramilitary operations in which civilians are indiscriminately targeted.
In spite of security concerns the park was experiencing a resurgence of tourism and investment and Virunga's management appear efficient. The population of mountain gorillas more than doubled in numbers since the late 1980s.
The Virunga Mountain check-in hut, below the range that is home to mountain gorillas.
Virunga National Park is home to about 200 of the world's remaining 790 Mountain Gorillas. A gorilla family can number from four to fifty individuals headed by a single dominant adult male known as the 'Silverback', a name derived from the grey hair that develops on a male's back as it reaches adulthood.
A long, wet, hike up the lower hills and through damp vegetation.
Et voila! Gorillas in their nest, which they change daily. The big boy in the centre is the boss silverback.
Mountain gorillas are generally quiet and tranqil spending their time foraging for food, playing, and grooming each other. Apart from mock fighting amongst juveniles, displays of aggression are reserved for challenges to the Silverback's dominance or direct threats to the family's well being.
The actual silver back.
The depressed and sullen younger brother of the silverback. No females for him. They all belong to M. Silverback, the big stud.
The cost of spending an hour with mountain gorillas is quite staggering, currently at $400 ++
Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park, Africa's oldest national park, shows no sign of stopping as fighting between the Congolese army and rebel group M23 took a turn for the worse in July 2012.
Rangers of Virunga National Park got word of a possible attack on a military base just a few kilometers from park headquarters in Rumangabo, and the decision was made to evacuate rangers and their families, approximately 800 people, to a temporary camp in Goma, a city in eastern DRC.
Deteriorating economic conditions continue to foster crime, especially in urban areas. Most reported criminal incidents in Kinshasa involve pick-pocketing and petty theft committed by homeless street children.
Malaria and Dengue Fever (also delivered by mosquitoes) are problems in some regions of DR Congo so make sure to take anti-malarials if you're going to a malarial area and keep the mosquitoes off you! Travelers who become ill with a flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention.
Other recommended protection for short term tourists is vaccinations against Hepatitis A and Yellow Fever (this last one is required for entry into DRC).
A visa obtained beforehand by email or in person is necessary, as is proof of yellow fever vaccination.