Congo gorillas and Nyiragongo hike is a tremendous experience that takes you to Congo which is the second largest country in Africa after Algeria and bordered by nine countries namely Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Angola, Zambia and the Republic of Congo. Democratic Republic of Congo is part of the three countries that share the Virunga conservation area which is made up by eight distributed volcanic ranges namely Mount Karisimbi, Mount Mikeno, Mount Muhabura, Mount Bisoke, Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Gahinga, Mount Nyiragongo and Mount Nyamuragira. However out of the eight mountains, only five Virunga mountains are found in Congo namely Mount Karisimbi, Mount Nyiragongo, Mount Nyamuragira, Mount Bisoke standing on Rwanda- Congo border and Mount Sabyinyo that is shared amongst the three countries within the Virunga conservation area.

Gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo are found in the Virunga massif that is made up of the Virunga National Park and the Kahuzi Beiga National Park located in Bukavu in the southern Kivu province, gorilla trekking permit in Congo is the cheapest which is 600USD compared to Uganda which is 800USD and Rwanda’s 1500USD. Virunga National Park harbors mountain gorillas also known as Gorilla beringei beringei that live on the slopes of the Virunga volcanoes while Kahuzi Beiga harbors eastern lowland gorillas scientifically known as Gorilla beringei graueri that live within the woodlands and swamplands close west of the Virunga volcanoes. However, Democratic Republic of Congo also harbors western lowland gorillas found in the country’s extreme west along the Atlantic coast. Virunga National Park is Africa’s oldest National Park and a UNESCO world heritage site internationally recognized for its exceptional wildlife, active chain of volcanoes and rich diversity of habitats that outshine any of Africa’s protected areas. Volcanoes National Park is a home to Mount Nyiragongo which is an active volcano standing at an elevation of 3,470 meters above sea level. On the other hand Kahuzi Beiga National Park is one of the most biodiverse protected areas in Democratic Republic of Congo still harboring the single largest remaining population of critically endangered and endemic lowland gorillas. Eastern lowland gorillas are much larger than the mountain gorillas and can weigh up to 180kgs while mountain gorillas can weigh up to 150kgs. Whereas western lowland gorillas are the smallest but still have an exceptional size.  Democratic Republic of Congo is therefore a habitat of three gorilla species as described below;

Mountain gorillas

Mountain gorillas are the most often monitored gorilla species in Democratic Republic of Congo that live in the Virunga volcanoes’ slopes. These mountain gorillas live in families of about 2 to 50 individuals led by a dominant male silverback that can easily be identified by grey hair on its back. The silverback gorilla can dominate an area of about 16square miles while he leads the entire family in activities such as making nests, searching for food, protect the entire family from enemies, mediate conflicts within the family and breed with the females to pass on his genetics. Grown up silverback gorillas normally leave their families as they wonder around for a while until they create their own families by storming other gorilla families to form their own. Virunga National Park is a home to eight habituated gorilla families that are readily available for trekking and these include;

The kabirizi family; Most of family members to this family were initially members of the Zunguruka troop that was by then led by a silverback known as the Zunguruka silverback. The Zunguruka gorilla group was first habituated in 1994 in Bukima after which the head died due to old age. His son Ndungutse took over before he was killed by poachers in 1997. The group continued with its legacy with Buhanga son of Ndungutse as the family head. Buhanga was later killed in 1998 in a clash with Kabirizi after which the family was led by female Nsekuye who later died on 1st April 2010. Munyaga, a solitary male took over however several clashes eventually led to Munyaga’s females being taken away by Kabirizi. Kabirizi’s family expanded to 36 individuals after which Bageni, Kabirizi’s son challenged his father and took some individuals with him. Kabirizi was left with only 16 members by then after which the family grew again to 25individuals with 6silverbacks by May 2022.

Bageni family; Bageni emigrated with 20 individuals from his father’s troop Kabirizi after confrontations and fights to form his own family in 2013. Bageni kept on acquiring more members from his father’s troop after which he invaded another troop led by Willungunla who had a family of up to 40members. Bageni ended up going with two females with him to increase on the numbers of his family. Between 2013 and 2022, this family had grown to a family of 48 members including 3 silverbacks.

Mapuwa family; The Mapuwa silverback belonged to his father’s family known as Rugendo not until in 1995 when he decided to abandon his father’s family alongside his brother Ruzirabwoba. Mapuwa had to wait for over 3 years to become a dominant silverback not until he obtained two adult females from Lulengo after several raids and clashes. Mapuwa obtained more four individuals from Kwitondo and Rugabo families. The family grew further to 22 members by 2020 due to new births and migrations from other families. In 2017, the aging Mapuwa lost leadership to Mvuyekure silverback which forced Mapuwa into exile after which he returned to the family as a subordinate silverback. Currently the family is made up of 26 individuals including the two silverbacks Mapuwa and the current head Mvuyekure.

Rugendo family; This was among the first gorilla families to be habituated in the Jomba area in 1984. The family initially had 10 members before it later grew to 18 members between 1984 and 1998. It later split into half due to a clash between Rugendo and his son Humba. Later on Rugendo was murdered by a rebel group in 2001 around the Bukima area after which his other son Senkwekwe took over. Senkwekwe and other five gorillas were brutally killed in 2007 leaving behind other five individuals in the family that persevered without a family leader. Bakima a solitary silverback was afterwards spotted leading the group after a long period of time of no gorilla trekking due to conflicts and insecurity in the region.

Lulengo family; Rugabo was the original leader of this family before he was brutally murdered with other two female gorillas during an attack in which Mvuyekure was kidnapped in an attempt to sell him to Uganda by poachers. Lulengo afterwards assumed leadership of the 12 remaining members of the family. Lulengo lost most of his family members to Mapuwa due to multiple clashes, however Lulengo was able to obtain a female known as Bagambe from Rugendo group in 2014. The family grew from 6 members to 14 members between 2010 and January 2023.

Munyaga family; Munyaga was unhabituated before 1998 and therefore not opened to tracking although the family was well known to researchers due to several interactions with the Buhanga family which compelled some of its members to join Munyaga. This gorilla family has been improved due to habituation that has also revealed Kadogo a family member to Munyaga that is so identical due to his bald head that makes him so unique from other gorillas. Munyaga acquired all Buhanga’s family members after he was killed due to a clash between him and Kabirizi. This family’s numbers declined from 12 to 6 due to multiple clashes with other gorilla groups between 1998 and 2002. Munyaga later on disappeared between 2007 and 2008 since his home was occupied by rebels which made it so difficult for the park rangers to monitor this family. Mawazo took over as a family head during this time to date.

Humba family; Humba family was born out of continued confrontations and conflicts between Humba and his father Rugendo in 1998 resulting into the Rugendo group splitting into two equal groups. Humba left with his blackback brother Nyakamwe where Humba eventually developed to a silverback. Humba family increased to 17 members due to new births and emigrations from other groups from 1998 to 2009. This family was later on divided into two due to internal clashes between Humba and Nyakamwe forcing Humba to retain six members while the other nine moved away with Nyakamwe. An adult female Kakule joined Humba family due to a confrontation with Munyaga. This gorilla group has recorded more births than deaths since 2014 though a struggle for control of the 15 members of the troop is currently taking place between Humba and his son Mahundure.

Eastern lowland gorillas

Eastern lowland gorillas are found in Kahuzi Beiga National Park that lies west of Bukavu town in South Kivu province covering an area of 6,000 square kilometers. Kahuzi Beiga National Park is a home to 12 gorilla families out of which only 4 gorilla families are habituated and readily available for trekking whereas one other gorilla family known as Nganwa gorilla group is still undergoing the habituation process. Just like mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park, eastern lowland gorillas live in groups or families each led by a dominant silverback who is in charge of protecting the family from any danger as well as spearheading the family’s activities like tracing for food, making nests and many more. Eastern lowland spend most of their time in trees than their counterparts which makes observing them simpler if they are not too far away from the ground though they occasionally forage high in the tree canopies. The eastern lowland gorilla families that are readily available for trekking include the following;

Mpungwe gorilla family; This is the largest among Kahuzi Beiga’s gorilla groups with 21 members that are so interesting and exciting to encounter. It is therefore the most loved and sought after gorilla group in Kahuzi Beiga National Park by lowland gorilla trekkers.

Chimanuka gorilla family; Chimanuka gorilla family is comprised of 19 individuals making it the second largest habituated gorilla group with in Kahuzi Beiga National Park. This gorilla family is led by a dominant silverback known as Chimanuka from which the family got its name.

Mugahuka gorilla family; This is a one member family with just one silverback Mugahuka who broke off from Chimanuka gorilla family after an intense fight with Chimanuka who won and remained with the other members of the family. Mugahuka left to form his own family though he hasn’t made enough efforts to attract other members. This gorilla family is one of the closest families within the park and highly recommended to those who would prefer a short trek.

Bonnani gorilla family; This is one of the recently added habituated gorilla family that travelers can trek when in Kahuzi Beiga National Park. This is one of the smallest eastern lowland gorilla families comprising of only five individuals.

Nganwe gorilla family; Nganwe gorilla family comprises of 10 members and still under the habituation process. This gorilla family is therefore not yet ready for trekking though it is open to visitors interested in eastern lowland gorilla habituation.


Western lowland gorillas

These are the most abundant of all gorilla species yet they are only found in Democratic Republic of Congo’s extreme west along the Atlantic coast. The western lowland gorillas may as well be found in other countries such as the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Gabon and Republic of Congo. Western lowland gorillas are found in Maiko National Park though gorilla trekking is not carried out in this National Park since these gorillas are still wild and not fully habituated.


Nyiragongo hike

Mountain Nyiragongo is an active volcano located in the eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo overlooking Virunga National Park a haven to the endangered mountain gorillas. Mountain Nyiragongo is one of the eight Virunga volcanoes that make up the Virunga conservation area. The other seven volcanoes include Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga, Mount Bisoke, Mount Karisimbi, Mount Nyamuragira and Mount Mikeno. This active volcano stands at an elevation of 3,470 meters above sea level with a volcanic lava lake at its summit. Mount Nyiragongo offers a medium hike to its summit that lasts for about 5 to 6 hours depending on one’s ability to climb. Virunga National Park authorities opened hikes to this world’s largest active volcano in 2014. Hiking Mount Nyiragongo offers a unique and a once in a life time mountain hiking experience since one can easily see its lava lake up close once at the summit.

For one to hike Mount Nyiragongo, he or she has to be in good shape and ready to deal with the mountain’s rugged terrains and steep slopes. Hiking mount Nyiragongo starts off with a briefing in Kibati where hikers gather with rangers, cooks and porters who are readily available to assist hikers carry their heavy luggage at a cost. Embarking on the mountain hike, expect to encounter five segments where you will hike through areas of low latitude for your first stop where you will proceed as the altitude increases and thus making the hike more challenging. You have to deal with small loose lava rocks in this second segment of your hike. Hikers proceed further to deal with not only challenges of higher altitudes but also small loose and slippery stones during your third segment of the hike. The mountain slopes get steeper with chilly temperatures due to the high altitude as one approaches the fourth segment. The final part of your hike to the fifth segment is the steepest though the shortest among the entire segments. At this point regardless of whether you are tired or not, your climb id motivated by the cabins that can be sighted at the summit. At this segment you are free to complete the rest of your hike at your own comfortable pace. You arrive at the cabins to have dinner and hot coffee or tea to relive you from the cold since the mountain top is always freezing with strong winds at times. Breakfast is served in the early morning after which you marvel at the boiling lava lake and magma before you descend back to your starting point which is abit faster taking you only 3 hours. To the other extent it is not easy like it seems since you have to go through sharp rocks and steep slopes that require one to very keen not to be hurt. Expect to enjoy great views of the Virunga National Park, Lake Kivu and the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda as you descend back to your starting point to proceed to your other destinations.





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