Arguably the most visited town in the Democratic Republic of Congo is Goma town. Goma is the capital of North Kivu province in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The town is located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, next to the Rwandan city of Gisenyi. The Lake and the two cities (Goma and Gisenyi) are in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift system. Goma is within easy access to the worldly famous Virunga National Park, home to the endangered mountain gorillas. Goma also lies only 13–18 kilometers (8.1–11.2 miles) south of the active Nyiragongo Volcano.
Virunga National Park, in Goma, is Africa’s oldest park, created in 1925 as Albert National Park in a commemoration of the then King of Belgium, King Albert 1. It is one of the three national parks under the Virunga conservation area (Virunga massif), the other two being Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, of which all these three Parks are well known for inhabiting the endangered mountain gorillas. The three parks are all contiguous to each other as it was one park, way back, before splitting into Virunga, Volcanoes and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks.
The Virunga massif passed through two East African countries (Rwanda and Uganda), and one Sub-Saharan Central African country, DR Congo. In the whole world, mountain gorillas can only be tracked from two destinations; Virunga massif (Virunga, Volcanoes, and Mgahinga), and in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, which is also found in the southwestern parts of Uganda as Mgahinga. Hence the tracking of mountain gorillas can only take place in three countries worldwide Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda.
The most fascinating thing with taking your gorilla trekking safari in Goma (Virunga National Park) is that you will trek these endangered primates at lower prices than any other gorilla trekking national park such as Volcanoes, Mgahinga and Bwindi. A Democratic Republic of Congo gorilla trekking permit is the cheapest as it costs only US$ 400, almost four times cheaper than that of Rwanda which costs US$ 1500. Democratic Republic of Congo gorilla permit is also cheaper than that of Uganda which costs US$ 600, thus making Congo gorilla tours the most affordable ones and a tourist will therefore save more while getting the same experience of trekking these giant mountain gorillas in Virunga.
Of current, the endangered mountain gorillas in Virunga are the main attraction in this park given the fact that this is among the few parks in the world with these endangered gorillas. People prefer to track the gorillas here also because the cost is low and the park is also less congested compared to other tracking centers like Volcanoes and Bwindi Forest National Park.
This park is still fresh for new discoveries since it has not had a lot of tourism activity for a long time since its inception and it would be a good idea for those who want research and adventures in the same line. For some good time, the area has been free for rebel activity and it is safe to travel, there is of course propaganda that the place is not safe but what of the influx of tourist coming in every day.
Virunga National Park comprises of 8 habituated gorilla families which are open for trekkers; Bageni gorilla family, Nyakamwe gorilla family, Mapuwa gorilla family, Kabirizi gorilla family, Humba gorilla family, Lulengo gorilla family, Rugendo gorilla family, and Munyaga gorilla family.
Many travelers to Virunga National Park prefer flying to Kigali International Airport, and then connect by road through Gisenyi town, and cross to Goma in Democratic Republic of Congo by dirt road. From Gisenyi it is an average of 2-hour drive to reach the park headquarters at Bukima. Travelers from Uganda side just cross at Bunagana border post in Kisoro town and take an hour drive to Bukima, the Mountain gorilla trek starting point in Virunga. Contact your chosen tour agency in advance and pay some deposit to secure your safari with the agency, and for a proper planning of your gorilla safari in Democratic Republic of Congo hence returning back home with great memorable escapades ahead of disappointments.
After enjoying the trekking of mountain gorillas, still in Virunga you can hike the Nyiragongo volcano for a more memorable safari in the park. At the summits of the volcano you will be amazed by the large bubbling lava lake, which at your first sight you may think that you are in front of a photo shopped stuff but as you continue viewing, you will then begin realizing that you in reality and begin taking as many photos as you can for a remembrance of this world’s largest lava lake resided at the summits of Nyiragongo volcano.
The Nyiragongo volcano hike permit costs US$ 300 and it can be purchased from the volcano’s headquarters. The hiking of Nyiragongo can take two days (one night at the Nyiragongo volcano shelter summits, at the summits of the volcano), achieving a lifetime experience while there which you will narrate to your friends, relatives and children back home to inspire them too. Many other wildlife species can also be found in Virunga including; chimpanzees, elephants, golden monkeys, and many others.
Some of the possible rules and regulations for gorilla trekking to follow:
-Arrive at the park headquarters earlier (07:00am) for briefings before going in for the trekking activity and in order to be given your exact gorilla family to trek.
-All the trails are spear-headed by expert local park rangers.
-A maximum of eight individuals per group are allowed to go in the jungles of Virunga to trek the endangered mountain gorillas.
-You should owe a Democratic Republic of Congo gorilla permit to go for the trekking and it will be presented at the Park headquarters, of which it also includes the park entrance fees, therefore you won’t be asked for extra charges regarding to Park entrance.
-Trekkers will only be allowed to spend with the mountain gorillas for only one hour after meeting them however the experience achieved from that one hour is of a lifetime.
-While taking the gorilla photos, trekkers are advised not to use the flashlight cameras as the lights may scare the gorillas and run away during the process.
-You are emphasized to keep at least a minimum distance of 7 meters away from the gorillas while viewing them, and this is so simply because these gorillas share almost the same DNA with humans and can therefore catch some of our diseases.
-Do not mimic the gorillas because you may not know what you are meaning to them.
-Do not smoke from the Park.
-Do not litter the Park.
-Ensure your physical measures before going in for the activity as it (gorilla trekking) is somehow challenging; in other-words, ill and sick individuals will not be allowed to go for the trekking of mountain gorillas.