Trips Tips: Seeing mountain gorillas up close in eastern Congo

Jul 04 2014, 10:19 IST
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SummaryVirunga National Park, a World Heritage site in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), just might be the world's most spectacular, under-visited park.

murmuring of our guide.

I was reminded of Fossey's description of her first encounter with the gorillas of Virunga.

"Peeking through the vegetation, we could distinguish an equally curious phalanx of black, leather-countenanced, furry-headed primates peering back at us," Fossey wrote. "Immediately I was struck by the physical magnificence of the huge jet-black bodies blended against the green palette wash of the thick forest foliage."

Tourism here has been on the upswing since de Merode took over as park director in 2008.

Some 550 visitors came to the park in 2009, swelling to 3,300 by 2011, he told me. In 2012, the park was on track to see 6,000 visitors, but then the war broke out in April. This year, de Merode said he expected about 1,000 tourists.

But he said this period of relative peace cannot be taken for granted and he has championed several economic development projects.

"We've just come through one of those terrible periods of horrific violence and we have to act very quickly," he said.

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