Our new series, Reasons to Travel Now, highlights the news, events, and openings that have us scoping out plane tickets each day. Today, we explore how gorilla trekking is taking off in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
UPDATE: As of June 5, 2018, Virunga National Park has been closed to visitors for the remainder of the year due to extreme circumstances in the region.
Rwanda is one of the most exciting ecotourism destinations in all of Africa, attracting travelers with its families of mountain gorillas and beautiful Volcanoes National Park. But with Rwandan permits now pricier than ever — just an hour with gorillas will run you $1,500 — outfitters are doubling down on their offerings in the more affordable Democratic Republic of Congo.
The population of mountain gorillas in the DRC's Virunga National Park has quadrupled in recent decades, the result of increased security and environmental measures. Tour operator Deeper Africa adds the Call of the Congo: Saving Virunga's Gorillas itinerary (eight days from $7,499) to the park beginning in July, with stays on an island in Lake Kivu and visits with a canine anti-poaching unit.
Or book a custom itinerary with Journeys by Design (prices on request) that includes excursions to the Nyiragongo Volcano’s lava lake and the Senkwekwe Center gorilla orphanage. The 3,000-square-mile park is the continent’s most biodiverse protected area, with ecosystems that range from savannas to active volcanoes, so between gorilla treks you can spot chimpanzees, okapi, and some of the 700-odd bird species that make the park their home.