Gorilla safari in the DR Congo
Description of Gorilla safari in the DR Congo
Grab your copy of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and head into the forest-covered mountain slopes of the DR Congo in Central Africa. This once-in-a-lifetime two week tour is as much about the country’s colonial and civil war history as it is about the natural encounters and breathtaking scenery that still echo to the calls of apes and the rhythm of traditional karyenda drums.
Travelling by boat, bus and on two feet, enables an eclectic and unique range of experiences culminating in gorilla tracking in Kahuzi-Biega National Park. Volcanic landscapes also feature prominently with time spent in Rwanda, Burundi and Eastern Congo adding to a safari adventure in the DR Congo. The endangered Eastern Lowland gorillas are some of the largest on earth and coming face to face with these incredible animals is about as exciting an experience as you can ever hope to imagine.
Along the way your group will be guided to the crater’s edge of one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Mt Nyiragongo, as well as embarking on a boat trip on Lake Kivu and spending a night in Virunga National Park. Criss-cross borders, paddle a dugout canoe on Lake Rwihinda and watch the sun come up over bubbling lava; whatever you do, don’t miss out on this incredible safari in the DR Congo.
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PlanetWe are very aware of the economic, ecological and ethical impact tourism can have on ancient cultures and fragile environments. We realise that taking clients through such a region can have a negative impact on the environment if not handled responsibly and as such, on all of our trips we go to great lengths to minimise the negative and accentuate the positive… after all, there are also many good things that the traveller can bring.
We have a strict environmental policy to make sure that the fragile eco-structure of the desert is not damaged or spoilt in any way. Our guides are trained to uphold this policy and all clients are fully briefed on appropriate/responsible behaviour whilst in wilderness areas. Our “Leave No Trace” ethic is applied to all trips in all regions, and as tour operators is something we are careful to promote.
By keeping the group size to a maximum of 12, we can also minimise the human impact on the fragile sites we visit – particularly important as this trip visits some remote sites that aren’t policed by tourist regulators.
PeopleOn this tour we will visit The Pole Pole Foundation a Congolese-led community conservation organisation based in Bukavu in the east of DR Congo. PPF are working to protect the critically endangered Grauer’s Gorillas and their habitat in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park. The foundation was setup by esteemed philanthropist John Kahekwa 25 years ago to work with communities to protect gorillas. Since then it has continued to function in spite of the wars that have ravaged the country, including what was termed ‘Africa’s World War’. Now, as a relative state of peace returns, the foundation is expanding its work, running three schools, a wide range of livelihood programmes, a tree-planting scheme that has grown and planted over 4 million trees to protect and restore the forest the gorillas live in, and an innovative Spirulina growing programme to prevent child malnutrition.
The foundation’s eco-tourism work includes providing funds for members of the local community to visit the gorillas, giving local people a stake in conservation and inspiring a new generation of conservationists to protect the gorillas.
In Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda we use local ground handlers who in turn book locally run hotels, providing employment for a number of members of staff and support families. The ground handlers also use local drivers and guides at the sites, meaning that all the operational costs go directly into the local economy. For example: In Kibuye we have the opportunity to visit a working coffee plantation and learn about the coffee producing process, and in Kanembwe and in Gishora we will experience a drumming performance by the famous Karyenda drummers who are considered an integral of many of the countries more important ceremonies.
This trip really gets beneath the surface of the landscape, meeting some of the less fortunate people of these troubled countries. Such visits not only help the communities financially but also break down boundaries over decades of misunderstanding. It will enable close interaction with clients and local people offering the chance to see how people live and learn about their livelihoods and culture through first-hand experience. Secondly and probably most importantly, you will be contributing directly communities and homes some of those most in need.
In order to facilitate an enduring support structure for the communities we visit, and to show a commitment to these values, in January 2009 we set up a charitable foundation through which we can directly channel funds to both existing NGOs and our own development projects. In addition to organising ethically sensitive tours, having our own charitable foundation allows us to raise money – through the cost of our tours, charity trips and fund raising events – which can then be used to fund various projects in education, sanitation, reforestations and a number of other important issues facing developing communities.
In each area we employ and develop close relationships with drivers and guides. We feel the interaction between our friends and our clients offers both parties a valuable understanding between cultures.
We also support several NGOs around the world such as the Hope Foundation, A-Cet and Adopt-A-Minefield, which are all carefully selected to improve the standard of living for the communities we visit.