This program brings you deep into the jungles of the Congo to track gorillas and forest elephants, meet with local groups and park rangers who are in charge of protecting the National Parks, and learn about the environment, lives of local people, and the threats to both.
Imagine the feeling when a gorilla looks right into your eyes— when you see their hands, and can only think about how similar they look to your own hands. The wonder of our natural planet sends a jolt right into your soul.
Deep in the heart of central Africa lies spectacular verdant rainforests, home to the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas. This program brings you to the Congo to understand not just the world of the gorillas, but also everything surrounding them as well. You meet with Congolese national park rangers and discuss the threats to their habitat, engage with communities that surround the national parks, listen to their concerns and hopes, and trek through the jungle with experts to better understand the ecology as well as the politics of this region.
MEET THE TEAM
GAËL ABONGI BOKONGO (aka GABBOK)
I've traveled to more 110 countries and lived in 6. Born on African soil, raised European, and graduated from America, I have been working in commodity trading for 10 years. I'm a travelpreneur, Believer, father and polyglot. I feel like a true citizen of the world. I love sharing my ideas on various topics of my life including travel experiences, geo-politics, business and parenting. I’m inviting you to see the world through my eyes; I love to innovate and stimulate minds. Join me on this crazy adventure to the land of my birth— Congo.
I’m a producer, entrepreneur, and photographer from Vancouver, Canada and a co-founding member of Inertia Network. I’ve worked on projects from the high Arctic in Greenland and the jungles of Indonesia to the waters of French Polynesia, documenting people and wildlife. I’m an experienced expedition leader and location manager and have visited over 100 countries to date. I speak English, Chinese, Spanish and French, and am so excited to bring you to the jungles of the Congo to document and coordinate this experience with all of you.
Goma, Congo (DRC)
$3200 for the Virunga Program,
$4200 for Virunga Program + Gorilla Habitualization
April 5-10, 2020 for the Virunga Program
April 5-13, 2020 for the Virunga Program + Gorilla Habitualization
Explore the fabled Virunga National Park in eastern Congo to track mountain gorillas, meet with local stakeholders, learn about the geopolitics and evnironment of the region, and climb a volcano in the process.
This add-on allows you to work with gorillas in a much more intimate setting. You meet park rangers and scientists, then trek into the jungle to spend hours with a lowland gorilla family not accustomed to human contact. This is an extremely rare experience.
2020 PROGRAM SCHEDULE
DAY 1. SUNDAY, APRIL 5, 2020. ARRIVE IN GOMA, DR CONGO
Pick up from Goma Airport or the Grande Barrier Border Crossing.
Welcome dinner and program briefing in the evening.
DAY 2. MONDAY, APRIL 6, 2020. GOMA / KIBUMBA
Walk around Goma, introduction to Congolese politics and history.
Visit the Goma market.
Meeting and discussion with United Nations peacekeepers in the Congo.
Afternoon drive to Virunga National Park (Kibumba)
DAY 3. TUESDAY, APRIL 7, 2020. VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK
Mountain Gorilla introduction and tracking (hike).
Gorilla rehabilitation visit.
Meeting and Q&A with IRCC Congolese National Park Rangers
DAY 4. WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8, 2020. KIBUMBA / NYIRAGONGO
Drive to Kibati Post.
Volcano briefing from the park rangers.
Climb to the top of Mount Nyiragongo Volcano.
Camping at the summit of Nyiragongo above the active lava pool.
DAY 5. THURSDAY, APRIL 9, 2020. NYIRAGONGO / GOMA
Hike down the volcano back to Kibati Post.
Return to Goma.
Visit and meet with internally displaced people at the Mugunga IDP/refugee camp.
Meeting with local NGO.
DAY 6. FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 2020. GOMA / BUKAVU (or departure from Goma for those participating only in the core program)
Departure from Goma for those only participating in the core program.
For those continuing on for the gorilla habitualization program, we will continue from here.
Slow ferry across Lake Kivu to Bukavu.
DAY 7. SATURDAY, APRIL 11, 2020. KAHUZI BIEGA NATIONAL PARK
Drive to Kahuzi Biega National Park.
Introduction and discussion with the park rangers.
Gorilla habitualization program (6-8 hours in the jungle).
Camping at Kahuzi Biega National Park with the rangers in the jungle.
DAY 8. SUNDAY, APRIL 12, 2020. BUKAVU / GOMA
Drive back to Bukavu town.
Take the speed ferry to Goma.
Concluding dinner in Goma.
DAY 9. MONDAY, APRIL 13, 2020. DEPART FROM GOMA
Departures from Goma throughout the day (transportation to the airport or Rwandan border is arranged).
Is travelling to the Congo dangerous?
The Congo is not an easy place to travel for a number of reasons. Firstly, the infrastructure is poor and overland travel throughout much of the country is extremely difficult. Secondly, political problems continue to plague to Congo, and armed rebel groups do exist. Thirdly, pandemics have also been known to hit the country and disease is spread through human-to-human contact, mosquitos, and consuming unsanitary food and water.
We get it, this sounds pretty rough, and we are not trying to hide anything about the country and what it’s like to travel there. This being said, with an experienced team on the ground and careful management the DR Congo is an incredible place to visit. This program is extremely well planned and is coordinated in direct partnership with the ICCN (Congolese Institute for Nature) who manages eastern Congo’s national parks.
We have personally travelled this route before and have an extensive network on the ground both in Congo, as well as in neighbouring Rwanda. Independent travel is still somewhat risky in the DRC, so during this program we stay together in secure locations. On occasion armed rangers will accompany our group for our safety.
What is included in the program fee?
The program fee includes just about everything from the moment you arrive in Goma. This means all accommodation, food, water, permits and national park fees (which are very pricy), your DRC visa, rangers and guides are included.
Airfare, insurance, vaccinations, and personal spending are not included in the program fee.
Are gorillas dangerous animals?
It’s important to remember that the gorillas we encounter are wild animals, and while they are extremely sentient and one of our closest relatives, they are considerably stronger than humans. Spending time with gorillas is a safe activity, and many of the gorilla families are used to seeing humans in small groups. Their behaviour is predictable and they know the ICCN rangers.
It’s vital to listen to the Congolese ICCN rangers at all times and never attempt to touch a gorilla. While they may come just inches from your face, it’s important to not initiate contact and if a male becomes territorial, we follow a standard procedure to lower our heads and slowly back away (allow them to be the dominant animal). In case of an emergency, we always stay behind the Congolese rangers, who carry rifles in case of any incident.
Do I need to get any vaccinations before participating in the program?
Yes, there are several required and recommended vaccinations for this program. In addition to being up to date with your normal vaccines, it is mandatory to be vaccinated for Yellow Fever and carry proof of your vaccination in the form of an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (yellow card).
In addition to Yellow Fever, we highly recommend you get vaccinated for Malaria, Hepatitis A and Typhoid.
Where do we sleep?
Throughout the program we sleep in a variety of accommodations. In Goma and Bukavu, we will stay in a local hotel near Lake Kivu, in Virunga we will stay at a luxury tented camp organzied by the national park, and in Nyiragongo and Kahuzi Biega we will camp in rustic shelters and tents. All camping gear will be provided for you for the trip (sleeping pad, sleeping bag, tents) for the two nights we will be camping.
What do I need to bring with me?
Prior to the trip, our team will send you a complete packing list for the program. Basic things to plan for include several warm layers and fleeces, rain protection, waterproof hiking boots, t-shirts, long pants, long socks, a headlamp, protein/snack bars, OTC medications, and a water bottle.
How experienced so I have to be before joining?
You do not need to be too experienced a hiker or traveller in order to join this trip; however, keep in mind this program requires quite a bit of hiking through very dense jungle carrying your own pack. You should be in good physical condition in order to participate, as well as extremely open minded and willing to embrace the experience in its entirety. This may include bug bites, rough night’s sleep in the jungle, damp weather (it’s in a rainforest after all), and some stranger foods that you may not be used to (we can accommodate vegetarians!).