Highlights of drc wildlife safaris

Considered one of the world’s seventeen “megadiverse” nations, the Democratic Republic of Congo is home to a cast of characters suitable for any traditional African safari. The continent’s “big five” – elephants, leopards, lions, rhinos and buffalo – can all be found here, as well as the world’s only wild population of bonobos. Years of war and civil unrest have had a huge impact on the country’s wildlife, but there are still places where one can visit to experience a truly wild taste of Africa.

The star of the show is Virunga National Park, a haven of biodiversity which contains more bird, mammal and reptile species than any other protected area in Africa. 

Virunga is able to lay claim to such a wide variety of animals thanks to its equally wide variety of landscapes and ecosystems, with everything from glaciers and lava flows to forest and savannah found within the park’s borders. It is perhaps best known as being one of the last places to see mountain gorillas in the wild. The habituation of a handful of gorilla family groups living in Virunga allows travellers to spend time in close proximity with these great apes, making the DRC a top destination for wildlife-lovers.

the greatest of the great apes

Weighing upwards of 200kg, the imposing eastern gorilla is the largest of all primates, and is split into two subspecies: the mountain gorilla and the eastern lowland gorilla, both of which are listed by the IUCN as critically endangered. Despite their size, strength and ferocious-looking fangs, gorillas subsist almost entirely on fruit and vegetation. They are also inherently wary of humans, even to the point of shyness. However, Virunga National Park and the surrounding areas offer opportunities for tracking down and spotting both species of gorilla, with a number of groups having grown accustomed to our presence through years of habituation activity.

Mountain gorillas, as their name suggests, inhabit Virunga’s forested volcanic mountains, which run along the DRC’s borders with Uganda and Rwanda. The roving groups of between five and 30 individuals can be found at high altitudes, ranging from 7,000 to 14,000 ft. Eastern lowland gorillas, the larger of the two subspecies, are found within Kahuzi-Biéga National Park on the western side of Lake Kivu, a large body of water which abuts onto the southern edge of Virunga. As of 2016, the population of the eastern lowland gorilla was estimated at fewer than 3,800, while the number of mountain gorillas was thought to stand at just 880. Their low population and restricted range ensure that sightings are something to truly cherish.

Standing in dense forest mere metres apart from these charismatic animals, with whom we share over 95% of our DNA, is an experience unrivalled by any other safari.

virunga's other highlights

Gorillas are far from the only wildlife experience one can enjoy on a trip to the DRC. A huge variety of birdlife can be seen filling the skies above Virunga, including pelicans and flamingos that hunt for fish in Lake Edward. The Ishasha River, which drains into the lake, attracts a variety of large land mammals. This makes it a great spot for sightings of tree-climbing lions, wallowing hippos, and herds of elephant and buffalo.

Chimpanzees are currently being habituated close to Virunga’s park headquarters, while the endangered okapi, a cousin of the giraffe, inhabits the valley below the Rwenzori Mountains to the north. All told, there are over 2,000 plant species, 706 bird species, 218 mammal species, 109 reptile species, 78 amphibian species and 22 primate species living within Virunga. 

The biodiversity and beauty of this area make it one of the natural world’s most vital destinations.

Book your DRC Safari

Contact our destination specialist to start planning your journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Contact Us