At East African Expeditions, we apparently organize and operate Congo (DRC) safaris to Virunga National Park, Nyiragongo Lava Lake and Kahuzi Biega National park
Both Goma and Bukavu, the provincial capitals of North and South Kivu, respectively, are on the banks of Lake Kivu.
Surrounded by the Virunga Mountains, the area around Goma bears a beautiful resemblance to alpine lakes in Europe. Two national parks are nearby -- the Virunga National Park to the north and the Kahuzi-Biega National Park outside Bukavu.
Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Virunga National Park encompasses numerous habitats, from lowland plains to the Rwenzori Mountains, which reach heights of 5,000 meters (more than 16,000 feet). It is home to the world's largest concentration of hippos and also to the continent's most active volcanoes -- the Nyiragongo and the Nyamulagira.
Chronic instability, poaching and absence of funding have made park management difficult over the last two decades, but a dedicated group of Congolese rangers and tourism enthusiasts in both parks continue to do their best.
Gorilla Safari Adventures: The Democratic Republic of Congo is the only destination in the world where tourists can enjoy both lowland and mountain gorilla trekking experiences. Mountain gorilla safari adventures are done in Virunga National park whereas the lowland gorilla safaris take head to Kahuzi Biega National Park but the experience while on either gorilla adventure in DRC is one of its kind.
Mountain Gorilla Treks in Virunga National park are led by park rangers and usually depart from Bukima patrol post. Treks usually require 1-2 hours of hiking in each direction, depending on where the mountain gorillas spent the previous night and the difficulty of the terrain.
To safeguard the health of Virunga’s gorillas, visitors will be required to wear surgical masks (provided) when in the presence of gorillas. Children must be 15 years of age or older to go on a gorilla trek. Time with the gorillas is strictly limited to one hour. If you don’t feel well at the time of your scheduled trek (i.e. you have a cold, fever, diarrhea, or persistent sore throat) – please cancel. Mountain gorillas are extremely susceptible to human illnesses. Gorillas have died after being exposed to human respiratory viruses and other common ailments.
The lowland gorilla tracking safaris in DRC are organized to Kahuzi Biega National Park. Founded in 1939 and later a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, Kahuzi-Biega National Park remains the last stronghold of the eastern lowland gorillas, numbering around 250 individuals with three habituated families. Dominated by two huge extinct volcanoes (Kahuzi and Beiga) this vast area of primary tropical forest is a sprawling park of lush, rolling hills and thick jungle.
The forest trails are sometimes frequented by the elusive forest elephant and is also home to a surprisingly high number of other primates, including Bosman’s potto, red tailed monkey and Angolan Black Monkeys all found here. The birding here is also excellent and surprisingly easy to spot some of the resident birds, including the famous Congo peacock. For those who still have the energy, then there is also the chance to go on a shorter hike to Mt Bulugumisa, which takes you past the pretty Tshibati waterfalls before enjoying the magnificent views from the summit.
The Kahuzi-Biega National Park is located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is around 50 kilometers west of Bukavu town in the Kivu region, adjacent to the western side of Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border. Bukavu can be accessed by both road or by water on Lake Kivu.
Nyiragongo Lava Lake Hike: Nyiragongo is a beautiful volcano that features the world’s largest lava lake. The volcano’s forested lower slopes are home to a variety of animals, including chimpanzees, monkeys, and bushbuck. Nyiragongo’s summit rim is largely devoid of vegetation and is sometimes dusted with snow. From the rim, visitors can peer down into a churning lava lake and see and hear hot gases exploding up though a mosaic of molten lava. Although predictable and therefore safe for tourists, Nyiragongo is greatly feared during eruptions. Because of the low silica content of its lava, Nyiragongo’s lava flows are extremely fluid. During the 2002 eruption, some of Nyiragongo’s lava flows were clocked at 100 km/hr (62 mph) and reached all the way to Lake Kivu.
Hikes to the summit of Nyiragongo volcano begin at the Kibati patrol post. Park rangers lead all treks and porters (unaffiliated with the park) are available for hire. The time required to reach the summit depends on the average fitness of each group, but typically takes 4 – 6 hours. Altitude sickness can be an issue for some because the climb begins at 1989m (6,525 ft) and ascends to 3470m (11,382ft) in a short time. Proper hydration is the best way to adapt to the change in altitude. People prone to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) should speak to their physicians about taking preventative measures before making the climb. It is possible for fitter people to climb up and descend in one day, but the vast majority choose to overnight in the basic accommodations available at the top (included in the permit fee) because the best time to view the lava lake is at night. We always encourage our clients/tourists to spend a night at the summit to enjoy the views of the glowing lava lake and wake up to another spectacular view of the daybreak.
- All climbs begin promptly at 10:00 am. Late arrivals will not be allowed to climb and permits are non-refundable. For security reasons, there will be no exceptions. The Kibati ranger station, which is the trailhead for Nyiragongo, is approximately 30 minutes from Goma by car. Kibati is approximately 45 minutes from Bukima Tented Camp and Mikeno Lodge by car. All climbers must check in at the Kibati station by no later than 9:15 am on the day of their climb. Climbers typically descend the volcano at between 6:30 – 7:00 am the next morning and arrive back at Kibati station by 11:30 am. If one intends to fly out of Kigali on the same day, please make sure not to schedule your departure flight before 6 pm.
- Trekkers are strongly advised to bring full rain and cold weather gear (moisture-wicking base layer, sweater or fleece, jacket, rain resistant pants, long underwear, warm socks, hat, and a 0°C/32° – rated sleeping bag). Temperatures at the summit are routinely below freezing. Although most people arrive at the summit sweating from the steep climb, this sense of warmth quickly gives way to cold. A complete change of base layers is a must. Failure to bring proper gear will lead to hypothermia. Please do not endanger yourself and others by coming unprepared for these conditions.
- It should be noted that meals and gear should be arranged prior to the hike from Kibati. All guests can arrange packed meal service and gear rental for the trip at an additional charge at checkout. Packed meal service includes snacks, lunch, and dinner on Day 1 and breakfast and snacks on Day 2. Water is also included for both days. The gear package includes a sleeping bag, jacket, fleece top, hat and rain poncho. Porters can be hired at the base of the climb to carry loads for $24 round trip (gratuity not included). The maximum weight that porters are authorized to carry is 15 kg. Porters can be arranged by speaking with a Virunga National Park ranger at the Kibati station.
There other exciting excursions in DRC apart from gorilla tracking and Nyiragongo hike, tourists can enjoy boat cruises on Lake Kivu, Hike to the top of Mount Kahuzi, City tours in Goma & Bukavu, a visit to waterfalls at Chibati near Kahuzi Biega and a visit to the JACK chimpanzee sanctuary amongst others
Most of the tourist destinations in DRC are accessed through the Uganda and Rwanda boarders with Goma the most accessed town in Congo. Visa application is one of the huddles to beat if you are planning a safari to Congo. It is a requirement that before planning Congo tourist visa processing, tourists should at least purchase a product upon which will get a confirmation that will be used and ease the whole process. Or you can pay for both the product and visa fees to a local tour operator who can help in the visa processing.
Due to recurrent instabilities, always find out from your tour operator on the prevailing situation and see the possibility of visiting Congo.