The frequently asked question in travel today is “when is the best time to visit Virunga National Park for gorilla trekking/Mount Nyiragongo hiking experiences?” It is one of unavoidable questions but it is better to note that we all have our preferred time or seasons to travel to a given destination. That said, what might be the perfect or ideal time to you, may not be the best time for other people!
Visiting DRC for gorilla trekking and hiking adventures is equally the most thrilling experience that comes once in a life time. The Gorilla trekking in Congo is done in any of the 8 habituated gorilla groups in Virunga National Park, Eastern part of the country. The permits cost $400 per traveler. For hiking experiences in Mount Nyiragongo, visitors pay $300 per visitor. Globally, there are less than 880 mountain gorillas and out of this, 200 of them are protected in the dense jungles of DRC. Gorilla trekking in this country may not be as popular as the rest of the countries like Rwanda and Uganda due to civil war effects which the country is just recovering from.
Whereas catching a glimpse with these tremendous creatures is every ones dream today, it is important for interested travelers to first understand when to travel and enjoy spectacular experiences in DRC wilderness. Although a trip to Virunga National Park for gorilla trekking and Mount Nyiragongo hiking is an all year round experience, travelers should take note of difference between the dry season and wet season if they are to get the most fantastic experiences in life.
There is no exact time or season to visit DRC due to variations in seasons. Around equatorial North side of the Equator, the dry season starts in the months of December up to February. While in the Southern side, the dry season is experienced from June to August and as you get farther to the south still, the area receives some rain showers with warm temperatures especially in the months of May, September and October. For travelers who you get into Equatorial area should note that this region mostly receives rainfall for nearly the entire year and they reduce from January to February and June to July.
Best time to visit?
Understanding the variation in seasons is very important for travelers who wish to travel to Virunga National Park for either gorilla trekking or hiking experiences. Virunga National Park has 2 rainy seasons. The short wet season starts from October to November while the longest wet season commences from March to May. The wet season comes with low season for gorilla trekking or hiking experiences and this translates to low numbers of visitors. When it comes to a low season, it shouldn’t be taken that gorilla trekking or hiking experiences in Virunga National Park is absolutely not there; trekkers and hikers still travel during this season. For gorilla trekking, visitors who come during the low season get chance to benefit from discounted gorilla permits that are sold at $350. The only challenge with this season is that, the gorilla habitat can be wet and muddy making hiking on steep slopes a bit difficult. For mountain gorillas, this is a season when there is much food and forage for them and they can easily be tracked around the bamboo forest of Virunga National Park. Similarly, wet season should not be associated to completely no sun heat. Well, rains are experienced and shortly, the sun can come out in the course of the day and trekkers can still go for gorilla trekking.
However, the largest number of travelers has been sighted traveling to the park from June to September to February. During this season, gorilla habitat receives least amount of rainfall and the steep slopes can be dry for gorilla trekking. In December for instance, Virunga National Park experiences its highest season and it is characterized as the busiest month of the year. At the end of day, we get to know that Virunga National Park, DRC also has 2 dry seasons that are all vital for hikers and trekkers. These two seasons are experienced between January and February, June to September. It is during these months Virunga National Park remains clear and tourists have higher chances of clear views and opportunity to take wonderful photos of mountain gorillas.
It is from this note that tourists are required to carry items best suited for trekking and hiking experiences. Some of the vital items to carry for those who will get into Equatorial regions include, light clothes that match with the environment, sweaters, long sleeved shirts or T-shirts, rain jackets, hiking shoes, walking stick, hat, gardening gloves and others.
In conclusion, there is no exact or best time for Congo gorillas safaris or hiking adventures in Virunga National Park. However, this country can be visited at any time of year but most importantly, the dry season is preferably the best time for you to come and track mountain gorillas or hike through Mount Nyiragongo. This means that you can visit the park from June to September to February. Enjoy your adventure safaris in DRC!