Situated at the Eastern side of the Democratic Republic of Congo is the remarkable Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site created in 1925 with an aim of conserving the critically endangered mountain gorillas. This Park is part of the enormous Virunga massif shared by Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and Mgahinga National park of Uganda and currently over 200 mountain gorillas (8 habituated gorilla families) call the Jungles of Virunga National Park home. This Park when compared to the other destination where mountain gorillas are found, is relatively unexplored because fewer tourists make their gorilla tracking safaris there, hence tourists who visit this Place enjoy an authentic gorilla trekking experience. Besides Mountain gorilla trekking, the invigorating Mount Nyiragongo climb and bird watching are some of the Prime tourist activities that define the Virunga National park. In order to achieve a memorable safari experience in Virunga national park, tourists have to master the right time for conducting these key activities. However, due to the location of the Park within an area of higher altitude and within a tropical rainforest, it becomes difficult tom predict the weather patterns. A day that starts with hot shinny weather can surprise you when it starts raining abruptly.
The best time for mountain gorilla trekking and the Mount Nyiragongo hike
The Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo experiences two rainy seasons that include the long season from Early March to late May and the shorter season from October to November, and its rains originate from the tropical rainforests. The dry season on the other side is from June to September and December to February. Most tourists prefer tracking the mountain gorillas or participating in the Mount Nyiragongo Hike in the drier seasons because the rains during these months are reduced and it shines in most places in the Park. The forests are also clearer during the dry season hence allowing tourists to enjoy wonderful photography of the spectacular Lava Crater (of Mount Nyiragongo) and the breathtaking views of the landscapes of Virunga national Park and some of the mountains in the Virunga Massif.
The busiest month of the year is always December, and tourists are therefore advised to book for gorilla trekking permits at least 6 months in advance. The rainy season is avoided because the hiking trails tend to be muddy and slippery. That doesn’t mean that the trip will be cancelled because even after rainy, the sun will still appear. However, the merit of mountain gorilla tracking and the Mount Nyiragongo Hike during the rainy season is that, the wet season also the low season where Mountain gorilla permits are usually discounted (from the normal price of $400 per person to $200 per person) and the Safari lodges reduce prices of their rooms in order to draw more guests. Due to the unpredictable weather experienced within the Virunga national Park, it is literally difficult to imagine whether it is a dry or rainy season because the weather and climate keeps changing and hence tourists have to be prepared at all times.
Also, the Democratic Republic of Congo is situated in an area with a high elevation where temperatures are relatively lower, hence tourists planning for gorilla trekking or the Mount Nyiragongo hike/climb have to carry waterproof hiking boots, rain jacket/poncho, sweater, a hat, long trousers and long sleeved shirt.
The best time for bird watching.
The best time for bird watching in Virunga national park is the rainy season (Early March to late may and October to November because this is the peak of the breeding season and also the best time for watching the migratory bird species.
In conclusion, for tourists to enjoy a wonderful experience during mountain gorilla trekking, the Mount Nyiragongo hike and bird watching, these activities have to be engaged in at the right time but most tourists prefer the drier months because the hiking trails tend be less muddy and slippery.