This DRC Virunga Trekking Expedition will be an adventure of epic proportions where smoking volcanoes meet endangered mountain gorillas.
Apply to join a expedition group to climb volcanic Mount Nyiragongo; to camp inside its crater above the world’s largest lava lake; and to trek in the DRC’s Rwenzori mountains for a view of Mount Stanley.
On this remarkable Virunga trekking expedition you’ll find endangered mountain gorillas, smoking volcanoes, and quickly learn that survival is a daily battle for all of the inhabitants.
This is a 14 day journey into the heart of DRC’s Virunga National park. The New York Times listed this area as a Top Places to go and many intrepid travellers have their interest peaked.
The aim of this expedition is to climb volcanic Mount Nyiragongo; to camp inside its crater above the world’s largest lava lake; and to trek in the DRC’s Rwenzori mountains for a view of Mount Stanley.
Following the Rwenzori trekking phase of the expedition cross the border into Uganda for an afternoon safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Here you’ll have the chance to see big game such as buffalo, hippos, elephants, leopards, crocodiles, chimpanzees and Uganda’s famous tree-climbing, black-maned lions
A chain of eight volcanoes straddle the borders between Rwanda, Uganda, and DRC. They follow the Albertine Rift which is a branch of one of Earths largest geological features: the East African Rift. At 4000 km long, the tectonic movements in the area have created a unique topography throughout the park. You’ll find that the fertile volcanic soils have given rise to spectacular jungle habits and diverse wildlife populations.
This adventure is extremely challenging and has been given a rating of moderate to high level of difficulty by your guides. If you’re active and lead a healthy lifestyle, with a great sense of teamwork, then this is the perfect expedition for you.
There will be tough ascents over several continuous days and team members will need to walk up to 25km per day, carry up to 15kg’s, and be comfortable crossing narrow rocky paths, exposed ascents and descents, and in potentially poor visibility. While out on the trail you’ll stay at permanent and temporary camps in tents or hammocks.
Why We Love This Adventure
- Climb Nyiragongo volcano, overnighting inside its crater
- Enjoy a gorilla trek in Virunga National Park
- Explore the Rwenzoris (DRC side): the Mountains of the Moon
- See the world’s largest active lava lake
- Safari in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park
- Discover the ecological diversity of Africa’s oldest national park
Navigating the dense jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, home to the critically endangered mountain gorillas, is hailed king of many a bucket list around the world. Join the expedition to explore Virunga National Park – you’ll hike to the smoking lava pools of Mount Nyiragongo and sleep on its crater rim before exploring the gorillas’ natural habitat.
Then to the soaring peaks of the Rwenzori mountains with their glaciated summits, dubbed the Mountains of the Moon, for a full scale confrontation with the extent of Central Africa’s dramatic scenery.
Rather than guided tours with set daily plan this expedition is run with a framework itinerary. The following is the outline plan for this DRC Virunga Trekking Expedition – the ‘substance’ rather than the specifics. A fuller itinerary is provided in the DRC Expedition Handbook which is available when you make an enquiry.
The expedition starts at 1800 on 7 July 2018 at the team hotel in Kigali, Rwanda. Many incoming flights land in the early hours to allow sightseeing beforehand. The hotel offers free airport transfers, this element will be confirmed by the organiser once team members submit their flight details. After a welcome dinner and expedition briefing from the expedition leader at 1800, the group will have an early night before the drive to the DRC border at Goma. Crossing the border is an exercise in patience (and paperwork) before the group officially enters the DRC and heads out to buy supplies for the next few days exploring Virunga National Park from their safari-tent style camp.
From camp, the team will meet rangers from Virunga National Park before heading onto forest trails in search of endangered mountain gorillas. Depending on the location of the family this can take up to four hours and serves as an acclimatisation trek ahead of the following day’s ascent to Nyiragongo volcano to sleep overlooking the lava lake. This is the world’s largest and indeed one of the world’s only active lakes. Returning to Goma, the team will make preparations for the Rwenzoris phase of the trek before chartering a flight to a small airstrip at the foot of the Mountains of the Moon. From here you’ll meet more National Park rangers and local porters for the trek into the mountains which will reach altitudes of up to 4462m.
After the challenging trek to gaze on some of the world’s last, equatorial glaciers, you’ll descend to the ranger station for an evening of celebration. The following day involves driving across the border to Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park for an afternoon safari on the Kazinga Channel. Driving back to Kigali, the expedition returns to the team hotel for a final celebration meal. You’re free to depart any time on 21 July 2018 (including in the early hours of the morning though the expedition officially ends after breakfast) with airport transfers arranged by the hotel.
- Professional expedition leader with full communications and medical kits.
- In-country local guides and drivers.
- All meals.
- All transport as outlined in the itinerary.
- All specialist and safety equipment.
- All accommodation including tents.
- All local permits.
- DRC visa (through the National Park. This will be arranged this for you but ultimately the final decision on whether a visa is issued or not rests with the DRC government). Visa advice will be given to booked teammates in a timely manner.
What's Not included
- International flights.
- Travel insurance (obligatory).
- Local airport taxes.
- Visas for Rwanda and Uganda.
- Tips to local guides (discretionary but always appreciated).
- Beverages and any costs of a personal nature.
- Personal equipment (your Handbook will contain a kit list).
- Any accommodation or transport outside of the itinerary.
Trip Duration15 days
Start LocationKigali, Rwanda
End LocationKigali, Rwanda
Average Group Size12
Please enquire for full details
Please enquire for full details
Please enquire for full details
This Trip is Suitable For
This expedition is achievable by anyone with a healthy lifestyle and a good level of general fitness.
The most challenging element of this expedition to the DRC is likely to be the rough and exploratory trekking and scrambling.
Applicants will receive a DRC Expedition Handbook with further expedition information and Expedition Training Advice when they enquire. Feel free to get in touch with any fitness, health, training or kit questions that remain.
Teammates who arrive without meeting the agreed minimum fitness requirements can jeopardise themselves and the expedition’s goal so do take training seriously, prepare as appropriate and arrive fit and ready to go! Teammates must be comfortable with the following.
Minimum fitness requirements
- Trek: up to 25km a day with small scrambling elements.
- Daily activity: between approx. six and 10 hours per day.
- Carry: up to 20kg in a rucksack.
- Terrain: challenging at up to 4,600m. Includes narrow, uneven paths; rocky, mountainous and occasionally exposed ascents; descents potentially in poor visibility; and a variety of volcanic terrain. There will be some scrambling.
- Climate: temperatures ranging +10C to 30C with cooler evenings at altitude and high humidity.
- Swim: there will be some river crossings.
- Age: 21+
Virunga National Park
Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park – and a New York Times’ Top Place to go. It contains a huge diversity of flora and fauna and has been affected by poaching, militants and civil war.
For details on the region and the complex issues facing the park, visit their website or watch the educative film Virunga (trailer below and available on NetFlix). The park extends northwards to include the DRC side of the Rwenzori mountains, a little-visited region of giant plants, glaciers and mountain lakes.
Nearly half of the world’s 700-some remaining mountain gorillas live in Virunga. A highlight of this expedition is a day trek to visit mountain gorilla families living on the lush volcanic slopes surrounding Goma.
Following the Rwenzori trekking phase, your team will cross the border into Uganda for an afternoon safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Set against the backdrop of the Rwenzoris, this famously ecologically diverse park is known for its big game such as buffalo, hippos, elephants, leopards, crocodiles, chimpanzees and Uganda’s famous tree-climbing black-maned lions.
The Virunga volcanoes are a chain of eight which straddle the DRC, Rwandan and Ugandan borders. Within the Virunga national park alone there are two of Africa’s most active volcanoes, including Nyiragongo which contains the world’s largest lava lake. The region’s tectonic movements have created enormously varied topography with fertile volcanic soils which promote the growth of diverse jungle habitats.
Although this expedition takes place during the dry period, teammates should still expect deep mud in the jungle and slow progress at times. The jungle vegetation at lower levels gives way to African alpine vegetation and rocky lava flows at higher altitudes.
This expedition will involve challenging scrambling in addition to trail blazing through the jungle.
Frequently Asked QuestionsWill we definitely see gorillas?
We definitely hope so! One of the highlights of the expedition is joining the national park rangers to spend an hour with one of the gorilla families, whilst the organiser can’t guarantee that your trip will be successful it is very rare for a group to miss out on this amazing experience. As with viewing wildlife anywhere, the organiser cannot guarantee gorilla sightings.Can I charge all my electricals?
There will be charging facilities at the hotels in Kigali and Goma (as long as there’s no power cuts!) but none during the trekking section of the expedition – you will need to be prepared with extra batteries or solar panels.What if the volcano erupts?
The organisers have robust contingency plans and alternative routes for each aspect of the expedition and the volcanoes are constantly monitored by experienced park officials.I’m a vegetarian. Can I join?
Teammates with dietary requirements are welcome to apply for this expedition and should state their specific requirements when making an enquiry – the organiser may request further information before approving your application.Can I arrive a day late?
As The Plan outlines, there is a chain of transport to get teammates into DRC so late arrivals cannot be catered for. If you wish to arrive in Rwanda in advance of the trip or extend your stay at the end, you are welcome to do so but please make sure your visa covers your entire stay.How can I find out more?
Enquire about this expedition team using the button on this page to receive your Expedition Handbook with fuller details.
Dates & Availability
- 06 Jul 2019 – 20 Jul 2019
When it comes to getting off the beaten track these guys can’t be beaten. They lead pioneering expeditions to some of the most remote regions on earth. The organisers are dedicated to creating imaginative experiences for adventurers around the world and their team of expert military guides are some of the most experienced in the industry. Nowhere is off limits and no idea is too crazy. They have achieved ground breaking world firsts such as mountain biking in Afghanistan and mountaineering in Iraq and their first ever expeditions to walk across Madagascar and pioneer white water rafting in South Sudan both made the headlines…. and a bit of history.
Being wild and wacky is one thing but with their background as commanders in the British Army and experienced team of specialists in every kind of terrain and environment means that all of their adventures are thoroughly planned and the safety and security of teams is always their highest priority. Expeditions can be inherently risky, but they do everything possible to minimise potential hazards and for that, and the utterly extraordinary trips they put on, we salute them.
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