DRC Congo gorillas safari, East Africa

Mountain Gorilla family chat, Virunga, DR Congo, East Africa Safari

A Mountain Gorilla silverback lecturing on family values in Virunga National Park, DRC Congo, Africa.

Visiting DR Congo Mountain Gorillas

DRC Congo, going shopping, Africa

DRC was shockingly primitive after traveling through Kenya and Uganda. We barely saw a vehicle on the way to Virunga National Park, a 3, 000 sq mile (7, 800 sq kms) wildlife reserve stretching from the Virunga Mountains to Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth Park. Virunga is a World Heritage Site for wildlife but suffered great losses during the Congo Civil War and recently by continual poaching.

A proud boy with his wooden scooter, DRC, Congo, Central Africa

Health

A pipe-smoking woman in DRC, Congo, Central Africa

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).
Travelers staying for longer periods and/or participating in activities such as hiking, cycling and wild camping should also consider shots against Rabies, Typhoid and Hepatitis B.

DRC Politics

DRC people with their hands out. Congo, Central Africa

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.
Tourism had increased from zero in 2008 to over 3000 in 2011 and tourist attractions were being developed such as visiting chimpanzees in the Tongo forest and a high-end lodge near the center of the three main tourist sights.

Virunga National Park

The Virunga Mountain check-in hut, below the range that is home to mountain gorillas.

Virunga NP 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.
The Silverback is responsible for protecting the family from predators or other threats, including solitary Silverbacks intent on claiming females as their own.
Some families contain more than one Silverback, but only one is dominant and that male alone is responsible for mating with the adult females of the group.

Looking for mountain gorillas in Virunga NP, DR Congo, Africa

A long, wet, hike up the lower hills and through damp vegetation.

Visiting  a Mountain Gorilla family ‘nest’ in Virunga National Park

A visitor observing mountain gorillas in their nest, Virunga NP, DR Congo safari, Africa

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.

A Silverback mountain gorilla at home, Virunga NP, DR Congo, Africa

An actual silver back.

a sulky younger gorilla, Virunga NP, DR Congo, Africa

The depressed and sullen younger brother of the silverback. No females for him. They all belong to M. Silverback, the big stud.

a young gorilla still suckling, Virunga, DR Congo, Africa

The cost of spending an hour with mountain gorillas in East Africa (Rwanda and Uganda as well as DRC) is quite staggering, currently at $400 ++

DRC Safety report from USA

A gorilla giving tourists the finger, Virunga NP, DR Congo, Africa

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.
Remote areas are less secure because of high levels of criminal activity and the lack of adequate training, supervision, and salary for security forces. Individuals purporting to be security officials have detained and robbed U. S. citizens and other foreigners in Kinshasa.
The Embassy recommends that motorists drive with doors locked and windows closed at all times. Do not permit soldiers or police officers to enter your vehicle, and avoid getting into the vehicle of anyone purporting to be a security official. Have color photocopies of your passport and other identity documents on hand that you can give to security or police officials instead of the originals.
The bottom line is if you wish to visit mountain gorillas then go with a reputable tour operator.