The last mountain gorillas A journey into the wilderness of the DRC

Only around 600 of them are alive worldwide - mountain gorillas. On a altitude level between 2000 - 2500 meters the gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo are living hidden in the forest of the high mountains. To get there from Goma takes at least a two hour drive with a 4x4 car.

Unpaved roads in the backlands

Getting there ...

We started on Day 3 at 6 am in the morning at the hotel. First Chide and I drove to the ranger station in Goma to wait for other guests. The entire procedure took around 1 hour including wait time. Accompanied with a armed escort service (two motor cycles and each driver had a Kalaschnikow machine gun) we drove in the northern part of the province.

The "road" conditions were just bad. Right after Goma there are only unpaved roads are existing. The only way to drive under these conditions is to have a 4x4 car. We passed several villages on the way to the northern part of the Virunga national park entrance. Surprisingly we passed a lot of farmland. From my unprofessional view it look well organized. Most of the products are corn and potatoes.

At the ranger station in Goma (DRC)

At the Virunga national park

When we arrived at the ranger station we were split into different groups. One group per Gorilla family and a maximum of 6 people per family was allowed. The ranger differentiated the groups in to far distance walkers and near distance walkers. Guess what I did ... I attended the far distance group. It took us more then 2 hours to get even close to the gorillas. On our way we passed a lot farmland again and a few houses.

Farmer close to the park entrance
Farmer in the northern part of Goma

In the beginning I believed that these people must be relatively rich - at least in terms of food. But I started to realize that this is not the truth. We passed a lot of extremely poor family and the children where living under very bad conditions ...

Kids are playing

Still, as soon as we reached a village all the children from the neighborhood came and were interested in us. Usually they enjoyed it to get on a picture and afterwards they wanted to see it always. My guess is that most of them have rarely the chance to see themselves in a mirror therefore this seems to be the only possible way.

Jungle hike

After 1.5 hours we approached dense forest. Our guide and guard paved the way for us across the jungle. The trail itself was mostly easy to walk. Nevertheless we walked up at least 300 - 400 meters of altitude change on that day.

And then ... after some searching in the bushes we discovered the Gorilla family. For myself it was a very emotional event by being so close to our most relatives in nature. From now on we had exactly 1 hour time to spent together with the Gorillas. And believe me, time is flying.

Little baby Gorilla
Female Gorilla

In the jungle the Gorillas are constantly moving. This resulted in a lot of walking and hiking.

Safety first

In the jungle we had wear masks to protect the gorillas from bacterias and viruses. For all visitors it was mandatory to stay at least 7-8 meters away from the animals.

Falk wearing a mask
Deep jungle
"The more you learn about the dignity of the gorilla, the more you want to avoid people. Read more at" (Dian Fossey)
Silverback gorialla

On the way back to the park entrance we took a different route. The entire trip took us around 5-6 hours. And be careful: you should wear long socks because Gorillas are usually living close to ants. Therefore you need to pull over the socks over your pants.

Finally we arrived on Day 3 at 5.30pm in Goma. By the same time I decided together with Chide to stay one night longer in DRC. So we extended the hotel accommodation and Chide invited me on the following day to church and to his family house.

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