Our most complete Congo (DRC) tour. See some of the world’s rarest sights including the; lowland and mountain Gorillas, Lake Kivu the highest lake in Africa, the active Nyiragongo volcano and its spectacular lava pool, the UNESCO World Heritage Okapi Wildlife Reserve with its rare wildlife, tracking and overnight camp in a Pygmy village, canoe ride down the mighty Congo river with lunch in a cannibal village, and visit to Kinshasa and a nearby Bonobo chimp reserve.
Day by Day
Day 1 Arrival Kigali Rwanda
Kigali is the capital and largest city of Rwanda. It is situated in the centre of the nation, and has been the economic, cultural, and transport hub of Rwanda since it became capital at independence in 1962. Beginning on April 6, 1994, Kigali was the scene of the Rwandan Genocide — the slaughter of approximately one million Tutsi and moderate Hutu by Hutu militias (interahamwe), and some members of the Rwandan army. The genocide memorials are a moving testament to this tragic history.
Airport transfer with private vehicle and guide.
Your guide will take you on a tour of the new and vibrant capital city of Kigali. The new prosperity features a number of thriving markets and features the mountain terrain famous in Rwanda. A sober contrast to its recent history. For survivors and others whose families were murdered in Rwanda´s genocide 1994, the Memorial sites and centres are places of dignified remembrance for loved ones lost. It is also a place of reflection and learning for the wider community, both in Rwanda and internationally. Overnight at Okapi Hotel.
Day 2 Bukavu
Bukavu is a city in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), lying at the extreme south-eastern extent of Lake Kivu, west of Cyangugu in Rwanda, and separated from it by the outlet of the Ruzizi River. It is the capital of the South Kivu province. Kahuzi-Biéga National Park, a World Heritage Site and one of two homes of the Eastern Lowland Gorilla, is close to the city and can be accessed from the road to Kavumu. The park headquarters at Tshivanga is located 31 km from Bukavu.
Private transfer with guide from Kigali to Bukavu, with a stop in Butare before crossing form Rwanda to Democratic Republic of the Congo.
You will be stopping at The National museum of Rwanda, which is the finest ethnographic museum of East-Africa. It reflects well the time spirit at the end of 19th Century when the East-African Kingdoms came in contact with the first Europeans. The rich insights about Rwanda’s traditional life and culture and the subsequent development during history will contribute to a better understanding of African history.
Bukavu is one of the hubs of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), lying at the extreme south-eastern extent of Lake Kivu, the city borders Cyangugu, Rwanda. Originally named Costermansville (or Costermansstad in Dutch) until 1954, it had a prominent European population under colonial rule. Located on a peninsula, the city has grown along Lake Kivu’s shores. Simple buildings rise from the lush vegitation as economic growth intertwine along the hills and shores of Lake Kivu. Spend some time exploring the city with all its sights and sounds, markets and shops. Overnight at Orchids Safari Club Hotel or mont Kahuzi.
Day 3 Low land Gorillas trekking in Kahuzi Biega- Goma
Wake up early, eat breakfast and depart on one hour drive to Kahuzi Biega National Park, and your opportunity to see the Lowland Gorillas. After a briefing by the park ranger, you will set off into the mountainous jungle area of Kahuzi Biega National Park. Trekking for 2 to 3 hours to find the large lowland gorilla family (bring comfortable hiking boots, hat, long sleeve clothes and mosquito repellant). The species here are Eastern Lowland Gorilla, very different from the more famous Mountain Gorillas found in the Virunga National Park. Unlike the chimpanzee-like lowland gorillas found in Gabon and Congo Brazzaville, The Kahuzi Biega gorillas are large, about the size of the mountain gorilla, so you definitely won’t be disappointed. Return in late afternoon to the hotel in Bukavu. Board a motor launch in Bukavu across Lake Kivu to Goma. This two hour cruise will pass by many islands and provide great views of misty rainforest, terraced plantations, and steep cliffs that border Africa’s highest elevation lake. Enjoy time at leisure to explore at your own pace, or relax at your hotel.Overnight at Ihusi or Lava stone hotel
Day 4 Mountain Gorillas Trekking in Virunga National Park
Wake up early, eat breakfast and prepare for this incredible experience. Depart hotel at 6am for the one hour drive to the Virunga National Park headquarters. Covering 7,800 square kilometres (3,000 sq mi) Virunga National Park was established in 1925 as Africa’s first national park. It was classified as a World Heritage Site in 1979. In later years it has become known for its mountain gorillas. It borders Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda. The park guides will brief you and at 8am the group will set off into the forest in search of mountain Gorillas. The time you will take searching these mystical apes is unpredictable but expect between 2-5 hours depending on their movements. Nothing beats the feeling of coming face to face with a gorilla family! Transfer back to Goma.
Day 5 Mount Nyiragongo
Mount Nyiragongo is a stratovolcano in the Virunga Mountains associated with the Great Rift Valley. It is located inside Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, about 20 km north of the town of Goma and Lake Kivu and just west of the border with Rwanda. The main crater is about two km wide and usually contains a lava lake. The crater presently has two distinct cooled lava benches within the crater walls – one at about 3175m (10,400 ft) and a lower one at about 2975 m (9800 ft). Nyiragongo and nearby Nyamuragira are together responsible for 40% of Africa’s historical volcanic eruptions.
The day starts early. Have breakfast and check out prior to 8am. Cross the border into Congo (you should purchase your DRC visa prior to arrival), and drive through Goma town to the super market to purchase food for the climb. Depart 9am for Kibati Village, the gate of the mountain, where the climb starts.
Meet your porters and cook. Climb starts around 10-11am. The climb up to the Nyiragongo summit is strenuous and takes about 4-5 hours in often hot conditions. The lower section is overgrown forest and bushes and a shell and gaiters will keep your clothes from becoming soaked. The middle section up the flank of the mountain is through low growth and is well marked on smooth lava flows. The final ascent is steep but well defined. There is no climbing or slipper scree, but a high degree of fitness is required. Arrive at the top late in the afternoon at around 4-5pm. The views into the lava lake are spectacular, especially in the evening.
Rough camp with tents and sleeping bags in a safe location near the crater rim of Mount Nyiragongo, with spectacular views of the red glowing molten lava pool deep below.Overnight at Crater Rim Camp.
Day 6 Goma
After breakfast at 7am, there is an opportunity for pictures and a further exploration of the crater rim. Return back down the mountain (3-4 hours) to Kibati village.Overnight at Lava stone in Goma
Day 7 and Day 8 Epulu in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve via Butembo and Beni. (or take a flight to kisangani then transfer to Epulu trough Nia Nia road.
The Okapi Wildlife Reserve is a World Heritage Site in the Ituri Forest in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, near the borders with Sudan and Uganda. At approximately 14,000 km², it covers a massive territory. Nomadic Mbuti pygmies and indigenous Bantu farmers live within the reserve. The reserve is home to 4000-6000 okapis, out of a global population of around 10,000–20,000. It is also the location of the Epulu Conservation and Research Center, on the Epulu River. This facility dates back to 1928 when the camp was founded by American anthropologist Patrick Putnam. The Okapi Wildlife Reserve is also home to other interesting or endangered animals, such as the forest elephant, and at least 13 species of anthropoid primates.
Cross the border in Goma and Transfer to Butembo (DRC) with your private vehicle and driver. Night at Butembo Hotel
Next Day 8 0f 7 From Butembo Drive to Epulu Station in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve (~6 hours) on dirt road.
Will pass through Butembo Road with opportunity to buy snacks and do local shopping.
Overnight at the guesthouse of ICCN (Institute Congolese for the Conservation of Nature) located in the town of Epulu. This preserved farmhouse has one room with double beds and three rooms with a single bed all including mosquito netting. The bathroom facilities are Spartan, but soap and towels are provided. There is electricity from a generator which shuts off at 10pm. All rooms have a kerosene lamp. Hearty meals are provided with local ingredients in Congolese style. Excellent views from the balcony of the nearby Epulu River.
Overnight at Epulu ICCN Guesthouse.
Day 9 Okapi Wildlife Reserve and hunting with pygmies
Found only in the Congo, the okapi is a shy and reclusive forest dweller and is the only living relative of the giraffe. Almost impossible to see in the wild, the Epulu Research Programme is a rare opportunity to see okapi up close. Dedicated staff look after a dozen captive okapi. 45 pygmy trackers bring in 35 different types of forest leaves each day, which are combined into 20kg bundles for each animal. The health, feeding and care of each okapi is carefully monitored. This station is the only source of okapi for the world’s zoos. It is a unique view into a program run by incredibly dedicated staff.
The Bambuti pygmies are primarily hunter-gatherers, foraging for food in the forest. They have a vast knowledge of the forest and the foods it yields. The Bambuti use large nets, traps, and bows and arrows to hunt game. Women and children sometimes help out by trying to drive the animals into the nets. Both sexes gather and forage. Each band has its own hunting ground, although boundaries are hard to maintain. We will be permitted to follow such a group into the forest and where, possible, take our tents and overnight in their hunting camp.
Overnight in tents at a pygmy village. The Bambuti pygmies live in villages that are categorized as bands. Each hut houses a family unit. At the start of the dry season, they leave the village to enter the forest and set up a series of camps. This allows the Bambuti to utilize more land area for maximum foraging. These villages are solitary and separated from other groups of people. Their houses are small, circular, and very temporary. The walls of the structures are poles that are placed in the ground. At the top of the poles a vine is woven to keep them together. Large leaves are also used in the construction of the huts.
Overnight at Pygmy Village.
Day 10 Okapi Wildlife Reserve
Set off with your expert guide, park ranger, and porters, to track through the tropical forest. The Okapi Wildlife Reserve is a World Heritage Site, and part of the great Ituri Forest. The reserve takes its name from the Okapi, found only in the Congo. Although the okapi bears striped markings reminiscent of the zebra, it is most closely related to the giraffe. The wildlife reserve is also home to the forest elephant, and at least 13 species of anthropoid primates. Unfortunately, the animals are very skilled at hiding so wild game sightings are rare. However, the vegetation in this primary growth rain forest is amazing. Comfortable hiking boots, long sleeve clothes, hat, and mosquito repellent are all necessities. A day pack is handy for bottled water, snacks, and your camera.
Overnight at the guesthouse of ICCN (Institute Congolese for the Conservation of Nature) located in the town of Epulu. This preserved farmhouse has one room with double beds and three rooms with a single bed all including mosquito netting. The bathroom facilities are Spartan, but soap and towels are provided. There is electricity from a generator which shuts off at 10pm. All rooms have a kerosene lamp. Hearty meals are provided with local ingredients in Congolese style. Excellent views from the balcony of the nearby Epulu River. Overnight at Epulu ICCN Guesthouse.
Day 11 Drive to Kisangani (~7 hours) on dirt road.
Kisangani is a city lying at the central heart of Africa’s great rainforests. It’s the 3rd largest city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the provincial capital of Tshopo. Some 1,300 miles from the mouth of the Congo River, the city of Kisangani is the farthest navigable point upstream. Kisangani is the nation’s major inland port after Kinshasa, an important commercial hub point for river and land transportation and a major marketing and distribution centre for the north-eastern part of the country. It has been the commercial capital of the northern Congo since the late 1800s. Overnight at Palm Beach Hotel or similary
Day 12 Kisangani river – Boat tour on the Congo River
Set off for a cruise down the Congo River in a motorized wooden canoe. This is the traditional form of transport to move people and goods down the length of the Congo River from Kisangani to Kinshasa – 1200 km down river. Wind past pockets of lush green secondary forest, semi-deciduous secondary rainforest, climax forests with Brachystegia laurentii flora and marshland forest, inhabited by colourful birdlife and animals. You’ll also have the chance to explore the “Rive Gauche”, the left bank of the Kisangani river with its crumbling port and railway station.
Kisangani was founded by Sir Henry Morton Stanley in January 1877. Memorable sites include the Tshopo River Falls and the Wagenia Fisheries, set up in the midst of the river rapids. Fishing is carried out by means of a complex structure set among the rocks: lianas attached to cross poles act as stretchers for the nets submerged in the foaming water. The fishermen use pirogues (traditional dugout canoes), twisting between rapids and rocks. Their agility and daredevil attitudes are a constant source of amazement. Overnight at Palm Beach Hotel or Similary.
Day 12 Kinshasa
Kinshasa is the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The city is located on the Congo River. Kinshasa ties with Johannesburg for the status of the second largest city in sub-Saharan Africa and the third largest in the whole continent. It is the second largest francophone city in the world after Paris. The city was founded as a trading post by Henry Morton Stanley in 1881 and named Léopoldville in honor of King Leopold II of Belgium. It is a major cultural and intellectual center for Central Africa, with a flourishing community of musicians and artists. It is also the country’s major industrial center, processing many of the natural products brought from the interior.
Enjoy time at leisure to explore at your own pace, or relax at your hotel.
Airport transfer with private vehicle and driver.
Take your flight from Kisangani to Kinshasa today. The flight duration is approximately 1hour.
Explore the city of Kinshasa with your expert guide and private vehicle. A city with a chequered past and thousands of stories, in a short span of time it has gone from virgin jungle to the capital of the colony of Congo, independence, cold war politics, and two civil wars. Recent political peace has seen new prosperity and economic growth, and you will see new buildings and signs all around the city. You will have an opportunity to shop at a local souvenir market – and practice your bargaining skills. Overnight at Hotel venus.
Day 13 Bonobo chipanzees in Kinshasa
Founded by Claudine Andre in 1994, Lola ya Bonobo is a chimpanzee sanctuary just outside of Kinshasa. Lola ya Bonobo means ‘paradise for bonobos’ in Lingala, the main language of Kinshasa In 2007, Lola ya Bonobo is home to 52 bonobos who live in 30 hectares of primary forest. The Bonobo is endangered and is found in the wild only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Along with the Common Chimpanzee, the Bonobo is the closest extant relative to humans. Since the two species are not proficient swimmers, it is possible that the formation of the Congo River 1.5–2 million years ago led to the speciation of the Bonobo. They live south of the river, and thereby were separated from the ancestors of the Common Chimpanzee, which live north of the river. This 2-3 hour walking tour will allow you to see baby Bonobos under the care of the sanctuary staff, and adult Bonobos in the wild.
Day 14 Airport transfer with private vehicle and driver.
Depart from Kinshasa international airport – end of itinerary.
(Equipment required: Walking boots, day-pack, lightweight clothing for the hike, fleece/pants for evening on the crater rim, hat, sun glasses, bottled water/snacks. Optional; sleeping bag/mat. Included in price; park entrance fees, porters, tent, used sleeping bag, meals and drinks, skilled guide)
You must obtain a DRC visa PRIOR to arrival.
NOTE: Gorilla permit fees are sold on a first come first served basis. Once your permits are booked we require a $500 per permit non refundable deposit. The park authority/management reserves the right to cancel any permit without any refund or further reference.