How to Get to Virunga National Park for Gorilla Trekking .
There are several ways of getting to the parc de national virunga, each of which has a different cost implication with the normal options being Air, road and water transport. Virunga national park is easily combined with a gorilla trip to or from Goma or Bukavu or Kigali for Rwanda gorilla trekking . Every Saturday there are direct flights from Ethiopia to Goma and its once every week.
A good place to start your safari holiday is the goma international airport or the Kigali Rwanda . Flights have become much more accessible (and cheaper) in recent years and your best option is to fly to Goma with Ethiopian Airlines. For a gorilla safari in Congo, you’ll hop in a car and transfer for 5-6 hours to get to Goma , the base for all gorilla treks in Virunga National Park.
By Air / Flying
Visitors to Virunga National Park who travel by air can land at the Goma International Airports. Goma has acted as the main airport although it was affected by the nyiragongo eruption of 2002 and it was re developed to give tourism a big boost in the eastern democratic republic of congo with the most international airline flying there once ever week being Ethiopian. Travelers that are planning a visit to Congo’s virunga should be take a note that return flights have to be got from Rwanda unless your stay is for 7 days congo safari by combining mountain gorillas with other things to do in other top destinations in Congo .
Ethiopian Airlines, this is the most reliable airline that runs weekly flights to Goma and it arrives at 2: 30 pm.
Please Note: Value Added tax, goma international airport charges $$$ 50 for all travelers flying out from Goma .
By Road Means
Travelers going to democratic republic of congo usually fly into Kigali international airport and take the 5 hour drive to the border crossing at Goma/gisenyi . International flights often arrive in the late afternoon or evening. For such arrivals, we recommend spending the night in Kigali as the border doesn’t work 24/7 and leaving for Goma the following morning.
parc de Virunga is located 32 km west of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. Transport from Goma to the park can easily be arranged with Safari operators or local car rental companies like Car rental Congo.
The best travel companies will also help you in the process of tourists visas to enable you cross the border to the great Goma town and travelers using road transport have the various routes to enable you access parc de virunga.
- Crossing from Rwanda Kigali: Starting from Rwanda Side on Road it take 4 hours driving from Kigali town to the city of Gisenyi. It’s the nearest town to Goma, after crossing the border, it takes an hour and half driving to reach the Park Headquarters ( Bukima Sector).
- Crossing from Kisoro Uganda : Starting from Uganda connecting to Virunga national Park is quite tiresome as the visitor may seek overnight stay in Kisoro and in the morning hours you can cross to Democratic republic of congo via Bunagana border and take 30 minutes drive to Bukima where Gorilla Trekking is done for all gorilla families.
- Driving from Bukavu Town: Starting from Bukavu in Congo near Virunga National Park: there is a road connecting the two kivu town, it take 5 to 6 hours driving but its not safe and un recommended. The astonishing landscape and the company of the lac will give spectacular view.
Road Trips to Congo
You’ll need an international driving permit and insurance to drive. Car hire is possible in Goma although self-drive options are not around . Most car hire companies will only rent a car with a driver.
Driving conditions and standards are well below those in the UK and other European countries, and traffic accidents are common. Roads in Goma town are well maintained. Outside Goma and other main cities, most roads are barely drivable even with a 4×4, especially during the rainy season (September to May). Consider the technical capability of your vehicle and be confident in your ability to safely operate it.
Travelers taking holidays to eastern congo visit mainly two destination ( kahuzi Biega & Virunga) and all these places are connected by a large water body called lake Kivu, so travelers wishing to connect from Bukavu to goma will have to take water ( Speed boat or Slow Boat) to connect the space between wilderness.
Visitors that have been in Bukavu for a gorilla trekking safari and if that making an extension on the congo safari to cover parc de virunga, there are options from two companies operating private ferries to connect you from bukavu to goma at a simple fee of $$50 per person per way but these are slow boats that take a round 4-5 hours drive on the waters of lake kivu.
Optionally : The Speed boat takes about 2- 3 Hours depending on the waves that are on the lake that particular day and the recommended docking places are lac Kivu Lodge in Goma and orchids safari lodge for the Bukavu section or Ihusi port/ panorama hotel. The Speed boat charges around 500$$$$ for the entire group on boat with the maximum number being 5 paxs excluding the captain.
For Public boat, you will need to book the ferry ticket in advance to avoid being disappointed, and always keep time as the ferry is always timed.
The catch is that if you apply for a tourist visa overseas, they require more documentation regarding your stay – including a confirmed hotel reservation, confirmed round-trip tickets, references from your home country and possibly even a bank statement. Charges for the DR Congo visa can be high, but on the other hand, arriving at a border crossing in the DR Congo with a visa already in hand can save you a large amount of trouble and for that reason , you will find congo tourists visa is the best option to be obtained by travelers going for gorilla trekking experiences. In my experience none of the documentation required for obtaining a visa in your home country is checked upon arrival in the DR Congo.
The border crossing is un problematic and from there it’s a short walk just 10 minutes to Goma . You can also get to Goma and but we encourage travelers/visitors to take note of the following.
- Ensure that all your paper work is completed in order to satisfy the custom and immigration staff. Note, especially at quiet borders, that there may be a considerable wait.
- Valid Yellow Fever vaccinations and Confirmed.
- Always check National travel advice and practical travel information before embarking on a journey to Congo with Visa being applied in advance .
- Traveling overland on these routes can be rough and a 4×4 vehicle is recommended. It is inadvisable to attempt these routes at night.