Wildlife Group Tour

DRC Group Tour - Gorillas, Lakes and Volcanoes

10 days

from £6,595pp
  • Trek in search of the largest gorilla subspecies, Grauer's gorilla, in Kahuzi-Biega National Park
  • Visit the forgotten island of Idjwi, hidden at the centre of Lake Kivu
  • Explore Virunga National Park, trekking for endangered mountain gorillas
  • Climb Mount Nyiragongo, which is topped by a lava lake, and camp on its crater rim

Discover DRC's wild Kivu Region, home to lava-lake-topped volcanoes, dramatic landscapes and two subspecies of gorilla. Explore in the company of conservationist Stuart Nixon, an expert in primates.

Lake Kivu and Kahuzi-Biega National Park

Begin at Cormoran Lodge, in Rwanda, which is the perfect place to acclimatise and relax before you enter the DRC. Set on the shores of Lake Kivu, it looks out over the lake, towards the DRC.

The following day, cross the border and enter the lakeside town of Bukavu. Here, the focus is the nearby Kahuzi-Biega National Park, which is one of the only places to encounter Grauer's gorillas. This critically endangered lowland subspecies of gorilla is only found in a handful areas across DRC, with the only habituated families located within this remote park. Stuart Nixon is an expert in Grauer's gorillas and, having worked in the park in the past, is the perfect person to accompany you on the gorilla trek.

Afterwards, travel by boat up Lake Kivu, heading north. But instead of continuing to Goma, as almost all visitors do, stop halfway at Idjwi Island, a beautiful and remote island that sits in the centre of the lake. This forgotten island is home to a large community, most of whom live a subsistence living, disconnected from both Rwanda and the rest of the DRC. Spend a night on the island, visiting the local hospital that is funded by Amani, a remarkable charity that is dedicated to improving lives on Idjwi.

Virunga National Park

From Idjwi, continue north up Lake Kivu, disembarking at Goma, before heading into Virunga National Park. Made famous by the 2014 documentary of the same name, this vast park is fascinating for the animals that survive here, the incredible challenges it faces and beautiful landscapes that lie within it.

From the tented Bukima Camp that sits within the park, trek in search of another subspecies of gorilla, mountain gorillas. Again accompanied by Stuart Nixon, climb the forested slopes of the Virunga Massif, before spending an hour in the company of these critically endangered primates as they feed, play and groom.

After a night at the comfortable lava-stone-built Mikeno Lodge, begin the ascent of Mount Nyiragongo. This conical volcano rises dramatically out of Virunga's forests and a dramatic lava lake sits within its crater. The climb up is tough, but the views from the top are like nothing else on earth. Within the crater, molten rock spits and smokes, and looking out, it is possible to see Goma, Lake Kivu and even Rwanda. Spend the night beside the crater rim, camping in huts that cling to the slope. (For those who feel the climb is too challenging, we can arrange an additional night at Mikeno Lodge instead).

After descending the volcano, finish with some time at Tchegera Island. This sunken caldera lies just off Goma, with tents spreading along its emerald horseshoe ridge that emerges from the waters. Beautifully peaceful, it is the perfect place to relax after the excitement of Nyiragongo.

Why We Like It

In eastern DRC, it is Virunga National Park that attracts most attention, largely thanks to the documentary that brought it international fame. However, the region offers far more than just Virunga. This trip is unique in also including Kahuzi-Biega National Park - the only place where you can encounter Grauer's gorillas - as well as Idjwi Island, which is peaceful but completely unvisited by outsiders.



Departing on:
  • 20th January 2019

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

STARTFINISHPrice Excluding Flights £Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour LecturerStatus 
20th Jan 2019 29th Jan 2019 £ 6,595 £ 550 £ 750 Stuart Nixon Available
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • Accompanied by a local English-speaking guide throughout
  • Full board accommodation throughout
  • Hosted by Stuart Nixon
  • Small donation to Amani
  • Transportation throughout
  • Two gorilla permits and a volcano climb permit

what is excluded

  • Gratuities
  • International flights
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas (two for Rwanda and one for DRC)

TO ALLOW FLEXIBILITY, OUR GROUP TOURS DO NOT INCLUDE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS AS STANDARD. WE CAN ARRANGE INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS ON YOUR BEHALF AND THE ABOVE IS AN INDICATION OF COST, BASED ON RETURN FLIGHTS DEPARTING FROM LONDON. ALL INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS FROM THE UK ARE ATOL PROTECTED.

Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Suggested Group Flights
The suggested group flight for this tour is:

RwandAir WB701, scheduled to depart London Gatwick at 06:50 on 19th January, arriving into Kigali Airport at 06:50 on the following day.

For those making their own way to Kigali and not taking the suggested group flight, please try to book a flight that arrives early in the morning on 19th January. If this is an issue, please talk to one of the team about arranging an additional night in Kigali beforehand.

Kigali offers a charm offensive, the people here being some of the warmest and most welcoming you could hope to meet. Aside from the laid back but surprisingly organised feel, it is a forward-thinking city - banning plastic bags, public transport that runs on bio-fuel and holds a national day of cleaning once a month. The Rwandese people rightly take pride in their capital.

Drive from Kigali to Cormoran Lodge


Meet the group, as well as Stuart Nixon and your local guide, at the airport. Depart together, heading west, towards Lake Kivu. Pass through the green hills that Rwanda is renowned for, as you wind your way through fertile farmland. The route is a scenic one, with the road asphalted the entire way. The drive will last around three hours.


Have the afternoon to relax and take advantage of the activities on offer at the lodge.


You will be staying at Cormoran Lodge, full board

Day 2

Drive from Cormoran Lodge to Bukavu


Follow the shore of Lake Kivu southwest, travelling through a remote and beautiful part of Rwanda. After around three hours of driving, arrive the DRC border at Cyangugu. Here, go through visa formalities, which can take some time, before crossing into the town of Bukavu and on to your lodge.


Bukavu could well lay claim to being the most scenic town in the whole of the DRC. Built over a number of hills jutting out into Lake Kivu, the town features lakeshores dotted with faded colonial mansions, whose colourful gardens spill over into the lake itself.

Small pirogues glide across the lake, with fishermen casting their nets in the setting sun, as children play alongside mothers washing clothes in the shallows. The town itself is set back from the shores of the lake. Winding dirt roads - and occasional tarmac - are crowded with market stalls and dusty shops, with spectacular views of the lake from the hill above town.


Have the afternoon free to relax.


In the evening, listen to a presentation on Kahuzi-Biega National Park from Stuart Nixon.


You will be staying at The Orchids Safari Club, full board

Day 3

Drive from Bukavu to Kahuzi Biega National Park


This morning is an early start as you leave Bukavu and make your way to Kahuzi-Biega National Park, a drive of around one hour, working your way around the shores of Lake Kivu, past traditional pirogues setting off for a day's fishing, before driving up into the forest and on to the park headquarters.


Founded in 1939 and later a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, Kahuzi-Biega National Park remains the last stronghold of the eastern lowland gorillas, numbering around 250 individuals with three habituated families. Dominated by two huge extinct volcanoes (Kahuzi and Beiga) this vast area of primary tropical forest is a sprawling park of lush, rolling hills and thick jungle.

The forest trails are sometimes frequented by the elusive forest elephant and is also home to a surprisingly high number of other primates, including Bosman's potto, red tailed monkey and Angolan Black Monkeys all found here. The birding here is also excellent and surprisingly easy to spot some of the 200 resident birds, including the famous Congo peacock. For those who still have the energy, then there is also the chance to go on a shorter hike to Mt Bulugumisa, which takes you past the pretty Tshibati waterfalls before enjoying the magnificent views from the summit.


Kahuzi Biega Trek
After a welcome introduction and short briefing by the rangers, head into Kahuzi Biega Park to begin your search for the eastern lowland gorillas. Taking its name from two spectacular, but extinct volcanoes that dominate the horizon, Kahuzi Biega is a UNESCO site, containing an exceptional diversity of flora and fauna and is regarded as one of the most important sites in the Rift Albertine Valley. Around 250 gorillas are known to inhabit the park, but also keep a keen eye out for Angolan black monkeys and Bosman's potto and if lucky, the incredibly rare Congo peacock.

During the one hour with the gorillas, the park rangers will be on hand to explain the family dynamics, before you retrace your steps back to the park headquarters. Here there is a short debrief and the chance to chat more with the rangers about the work they do before returning to the lodge, with afternoon activities being kept flexible, depending on the length of the trek.

Drive from Kahuzi-Biega to Bukavu


Leave Kahuzi-Biega National Park and drive back to Bukavu, which is around one hour away.


You will be staying at The Orchids Safari Club, full board

Day 4

Travel by Boat to Idjwi Island


Board a local boat at the jetty in Bukavu and travel across Lake Kivu to Idjwi Island. This is a journey of around two and a half hours.


Positioned in the middle of Lake Kivu, Idjwi Island is a forgotten part of DRC, separated from the rest of the country due to its water isolation. This is despite its remarkable size - it is 70 kilometres long and home to more than 250,000 people.

Thanks to this isolation, Idjwi has long been peaceful, even as conflict has flared nearby. But this peace has come at a cost, with the beautiful island home to some of the poorest people in the region. It also remains deeply traditional, with subsistence agriculture widespread and village chiefs still hugely influential.


A Day on Idjwi Island
After checking in at the hotel, take a quick tour of Bugarula Port for an insight into daily life on Idjwi. After lunch, visit the local hospital, which is funded by Amani, and see the work taking place there. Amani is US-based charity that is dedicated to improving the lives of people on Idjwi, by tackling family planning, tropical diseases, nutrition and many other health issues. A donation to Amani is included in the cost of this trip.


You will be staying at Hotel Hopeland, full board

Day 5

Travel by Boat from Idjwi Island to Goma


Board a local boat at the jetty on Idjwi and head up Lake Kivu to its northern shore. Disembark at Goma, which is around two hours away.

Drive from Goma to Virunga National Park


The one hour drive from Goma to Virunga National Park takes you through some of the most fertile landscapes in the region. Colourful traditional villages are surrounded by patchwork fields of sorghum, wheat and maize that cling to hillsides overlooking rainforest valleys with volcanoes smoking in the distance.


Virunga National Park is Africa's oldest national park and one of the most exciting. The park's 7800 square kilometres (3000 square miles) includes forests, savannahs, lava plains, swamps, erosion valleys, active volcanoes and the glacial peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains. It is also the only park in the world to have populations of three great ape species - the chimpanzee, the lowland gorilla and the mountain gorilla, but wandering through the shadowy forests can be found the Okapi, both forest and savannah elephants, large colonies of hippo's, numerous rare birds and even lion. Added to this, half of all the biodiversity in sub-Saharan Africa can be found in Virunga. It is perhaps no wonder that this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most exciting places to explore in the Democratic Republic of Congo, perhaps in all of Africa.


Afternoon or evening presentation on mountain gorillas from Stuart Nixon.


You will be staying at Bukima Camp, full board

Day 6

Virunga Gorilla Trek
Today you trek gorillas in Virunga National Park, the oldest and most spectacular park in Africa. The park offices are only a minutes' walk from Bukima, so after breakfast and a short briefing, you meet your porters and head out. A spectacular 20 minute walk in the shadow of Mt Mikeno brings you to the entrance of the park, where you step into the dark forest to begin your adventure. Walking through thick vegetation on overgrown paths can be slow going, the route you take depending on which of the four habituated mountain gorilla families you are looking for. Humba (eight individuals), Rugendo (eight individuals), Mapua (21 individuals) and Nyakamwe (nine individuals) all offer their own challenges, but with regular stops along the way, the chances of sightings are good and given the excellent work by the ranges, increasing all the time. Once the gorillas have been found, you spend one hour in their company, with your guides on hand to answer any questions and ensure you keep a safe distance. Once the hour is up, you then retrace your steps back to the offices for a short debrief before returning back to camp for a well-deserved shower. Afternoons are kept flexible depending on the length of the trek.


You will be accompanied by Stuart Nixon on the gorilla trek.

Drive from Bukima Camp to Mikeno Lodge


The drive from Bukima camp to Mikeno Lodge, takes you back through stunning, rural communities with the rolling hills of Rwanda in the background. Continuing through a number of small settlements and towns, you then enter the main Virunga Park headquarters enclosure behind which sits Mikeno Lodge. The journey takes around one hour.


You will be staying at Mikeno Lodge, full board

Day 7

Drive from Mikeno Lodge to Nyiragongo Headquarters


Today you drive from Mikeno to the Nyiragongo Park Headquarters passing a number of roadside markets dotting the edge of the forest, before arriving at the park offices, with Nyiragongo rising up in the background. The drive takes around 40 minutes.


Climb Nyirangongo
Set off to climb Nyiragongo, an almost perfectly conical active volcano that rises to 3,470 metres and named after a local woman whose spirit is said to haunt the region. After a briefing from the head ranger, you start the ascent midway through the morning, at around 2,000 metres slowly climbing towards the rim, where the summit camp is positioned. The trek should not be undertaken lightly, with climbing time heavily dependent on fitness, but it typically takes between four and six hours, including plenty of stops.

The first part of the climb passes through the volcano's forested lower slopes, which are home to a variety of animals, including chimpanzees and numerous birds - all of which are slowly returning after previous eruptions. Then continue up to the higher reaches, devoid of vegetation, which offer a stark, beautiful landscape, before finally, ascend to the rim itself, to peer down into the world's largest lava lake. On a clear day, the views from the summit are spectacular, with the verdant plains below extending into the distance. A night spent at the top allows for views of a very different kind. From the crater rim, look down into the heart of the volcano; watch as the fiery lava glows and boils in the darkness, a full moon adding drama to the vast plains below, reflected in Lake Kivu. This is not for the faint hearted, but the spectacular night-time show and stunning summit views justifies every step of the climb.


You will be staying at Nyiragongo Summit Shelter, full board

Day 8

Nyiragongo Descent
In the morning, after a surprisingly hearty breakfast of omelettes, sausages and bread washed down with tea and coffee, you pack up and make your way carefully back down, leaving the lava lake behind, with the sun rising over the vast expanse of rainforest below.

Drive and boat transfer from Nyiragongo Headquarters to Tchegera Island


Time at Tchegera Island
After the rigours of trekking, Tchegera Island is the perfect place to rest tired legs. Swimming in the lake is safe and offers a refreshing start to the day. There is also a short walk, which takes you along the ridge of the island, offering wonderful views of both the island as a whole but also the volcanoes and Goma in the distance. The walk takes you past colourful gardens and plants, where sunbirds and butterflies flash against the greenery, as kingfishers and comorants dart in and out of the lake. Fish eagles can also be seen. For the active, there are also kayaks which can be taken out at leisure to explore the shores, but most people simply relax in the mess tent or on the shore itself with a good book.


You will be staying at Tchegera Island Lodge, full board

Day 9

Transfer from Tchegera Island back to Kigali


After an early start, you catch the boat back to Goma, where you are met and driven to the border for Rwanda, a journey of around 30-40 minutes. Whilst time at the border can vary, once through, you continue back to Kigali, stopping off for lunch en route. Then you continue your drive of around threee hours to Kigali.


Have a final dinner with Stuart Nixon and the group at the hotel.


You will be staying at Hotel des Mille Collines, full board

Day 10

Suggested Group Flights
The suggested group flight for this tour is:

RwandAir WB700, scheduled to depart Kigali Airport at 08:00 on 29th January, arriving into London Gatwick at 17:50 the same day.

A departure transfer will be provided to connect with this flight. For those not taking the suggested group flight, please speak to one of our team should you need help organising a departure transfer.

Accommodation

Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

Hotel des Mille Collines

Hotel des Mille Collines

Famous in the past as the star of the Oscar nominated film, Hotel Rwanda, this modern and lively hotel is a fun place to relax in Kigali....

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Bukima Camp

Bukima Camp

Bukima means the place where there are monkeys and whilst it was originally built as a base for researchers, it is now used as the starting point for Virunga mountain gorilla treks....

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Tchegera Island Lodge

Tchegera Island Lodge

Definitely one of a kind, this excellent tented camp sits on the exposed ridge of a collapsed volcanic caldera in the middle of Lake Kivu....

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Mikeno Lodge

Mikeno Lodge

This is a great little lodge and the only small, boutique style property in the area....

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Nyiragongo Summit Shelter

Nyiragongo Summit Shelter

They are very much a shelter and not much else! Very Spartan, squat, 5ft high, rigid A-frame structures, with a tiled roof and wooden slats inside, on which rests a small foam mattress....

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For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Tour Lecturer

Stuart Nixon

Stuart Nixon
Stuart Nixon is a conservation biologist and renowned authority on the eastern gorilla (gorilla beringei). Passionate about nature from a young age, Stuart has dedicated much of his adult life to studying, conserving and advocating for the protection of one of the world’s 25 most endangered primates, Grauer’s gorilla. Over the past 15 years, Stuart has conducted extensive ecological and behavioural research on Grauer’s gorilla and led numerous expeditions into eastern DRC’s most remote, inaccessible and little known forests documenting gorilla and other wildlife populations and threats to their survival.

Between 2012 and 2015, working with Fauna & Flora International, Stuart led and coordinated the most comprehensive status assessment of this species ever made. Stuart’s studies have made significant contributions to a greater global understanding of the dangers faced by Grauer’s gorillas in the wild and resulted in range-wide efforts to help save them from extinction.

Stuart has also worked in several other African countries, carrying out applied research on a wide range of species including western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, okapi, African golden cat, leopard, giraffe, pangolin and the Congo peafowl. Today Stuart is responsible for the development of the African field conservation programme for Chester Zoo, one of Europe’s leading zoological institutions and advises the IUCN as an expert member of the Great Ape and Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Advisory groups.

Enquire about this Wildlife tour:

Group Size:

Min 5 / Max 7

Tour Expert:

Stuart Nixon

Departure Date (S):

  • 20th January 2019

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