Trekking eastern lowland gorillas
Trekking Eastern Lowland gorillas is quite a common activity done by tourists visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa. Gorilla trekking is already a booming tourism activity in Africa with most tourists trekking mountain gorillas. Gorilla trekking activities in Congo have over the recent years, gained popularity among visitors in the country. Visitors who wish to see Eastern lowland gorillas in the wild can do so in the montane forests of eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Some facts about Eastern Lowland gorillas.
Eastern lowland gorillas are a subspecies of the Eastern gorilla (Gorilla Beringei), and are endemic to central Africa specifically to DR Congo. They are the largest of the four gorilla subspecies and live in low altitude areas of sub-montane forests.
These species is regarded as critically endangered under the IUCN Red List, and their population in the wild is estimated to be less than 3,800 individuals. Eastern lowland gorillas live in areas such as Kahuzi-Biega and Maiko National Parks in Congo, the Tayna Gorilla Reserve, Itombwe Massif, and the Usala forest.
Eastern lowland gorillas are the largest living primates in the world with adult males weighing an average of 210 kg and adult female gorillas weighing about 169 kg. The maximum height of male eastern lowland gorillas is six feet, while females can reach an average height of 5.2 feet.
Compared to other gorilla subspecies, the eastern lowland gorilla has large hands, a short muzzle, sturdy body and a larger chest. Eastern Lowland gorillas have a life span of around 20 to 35 years in the wild and about 50 years in captivity.
They live in groups larger than those of Western gorilla species, with groups of eastern lowland gorillas reaching over 30 members. Their diet is mainly composed of fruits, leaves, stems and bark, however their diet also includes small insects like ants and termites.
Trekking eastern lowland gorillas in Congo.
Visitors interested in trekking eastern lowland gorillas can do so in Kahuzi-Biega and Maiko National Parks, which are located in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, lowland gorilla trekking in Congo is best done in Kahuzi-Biega national park.
Kahuzi-Biega is one of the largest national parks in DRC, spanning over a radius of about 6,000 square kilometers. The national park is located in the southern province of Congo, in Bukavu district. The park can be accessed by visitors travelling by road or water. Travelers can visit Kahuzi-Biega and trekking mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park. Visitors can take a speed boat taking a maximum of 3 hours to get to Kahuzi-Biega or board a ferry of 7 hours to get park. The national park which is located 30km from Bukavu town can be accessed by visitors from Rwanda via the Rwanda-Congo border at Ruzizi, taking about 2-3 hours to get to the park by road.
In order to trek lowland gorillas in Congo, you will need to purchase a gorilla trekking permit at a fee of USD 400 dollars per person. Trekking eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega can take between 2-4 hours, inclusive of an hour that is allocated to visitors to spend with the gorillas once they have been located. It is always good to have your camera ready for this moment, just make sure that your camera’s flash light is disabled in order to avoid agitating the gorillas.
Trekking eastern lowland gorillas in Congo is totally safe for any visitor. Visitors travelling to Kahuzi-Biega national park can be well assured of their security and safety of your property when visiting the park. Visitors trekking eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega are always accompanied by very experienced park guides and armed park rangers to ensure that trekkers are safe when trekking lowland gorillas in the park.
Trekking eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega national park are conducted in groups not exceeding 8 members. This is to ensure the safety on every member of the group and also not pose any threat to the gorillas by taking large numbers of trekkers. Most of the lowland gorillas in the park have been through devastating circumstances caused by poaching and civil wars, which negatively affected them especially in their interactions with humans. Although, the lowland gorilla groups that you will be trekking have been habituated, large groups of trekkers can easily spook a group of gorillas hence it is advisable to trek in small groups of 8 people.
Visitors interested in trekking eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega are always briefed prior to the actual trekking activity. During the briefing, visitors are given guidelines with rules and regulations to follow when trekking the gorillas and also how you should behave while in the presence of a gorilla group. Some of the major guidelines to follow when trekking eastern lowland gorillas include;
- Each gorilla trekking group will have a maximum of 8 members tracking a given gorilla group.
- Always wash your hands before your being your gorilla trekking activity.
- Keep your voice down while trekking gorillas and also while in their presence.
- Keep a distance of 7 meters when in the midst of the eastern lowland gorillas.
- Trekkers are advised to wear a face mask when trekking eastern lowland gorillas.
- Do not maintain eye contact with the gorillas especially the silverback because it could be a sign of a challenge; and a fight between a human and a gorilla is the last thing you want to witness.
- Always minimize your movements while with the gorillas.
- Do not litter the parks during the gorilla trekking expedition.
- Do not use the flash on your camera or phone when taking photos.
Visitors planning on trekking eastern lowland gorillas in Congo need to pack essentials such as; long sleeved shirts, long trousers, a good pair of hiking boots, sunscreen cream and insect repellent, a cap/hat, camera, and mineral water.
There are other activities that visitors can also do aside from trekking eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega, and these include; Guided nature walks, visit to the Lwiro Sanctuary, Hiking Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega, as well as Bird watching, camping, and cultural encounters among others.
Visitors to choose to trek eastern lowland gorillas can get accommodation in facilities such as; Mount Kahuzi Hotel, Lakeside Hotel Bukavu, Orchids Safari Camp, Exodus Bukavu, and Hotel Begonias Bukavu among others.
Trekking eastern lowland gorillas in Congo can best be done between June to September and January to mid-February. However, visitors can always trek lowland gorillas at any time of the year.
Having the opportunity to trek eastern lowland gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo is such a wonderful and memorable experience that every visitor travelling to Congo should include in their tour itinerary.