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When they touted Iraqi Kurdistan I took notice and duly went. The New York Times 52 Places to Go slips in an extreme destination each year that reader will gasp and shake their head. This year it is Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo. Yes, DR Congo.
Watch the Netflix documentary Vuringa before you judge.
You have three options to see the mountain gorillas:
- Rwanda: pay a lot, need to book way in advance in a complicated process, though have the easiest logistics access;
- Uganda: also pay a lot, also a complicated process, plus much longer land trip and more difficult trek conditions;
- DR Congo: still pay a lot, book online with Virunga, they email a visa on arrival confirmation, and show up at the border with Rwanda.
I visited in December 2014. The trip was a last-minute circuit of Uganda, Burundi, DR Congo, Rwanda and Zanzibar. Only Virunga was feasible to see the gorillas and entering DR Congo heightened the excitement.
I have not yet provided a blog post in my backlog. I was, though, both my greatest animal encounter and camping overnight on Nyiragongo Volcano overlooking the roiling, largest lava lake in the world was exhilarating. Rwanda and Uganda can’t offer the volcano, nor the uplifting experiences of a community battling ferocious obstacles to rise up. I met the first female park rangers, newly graduated.
The accommodations are luxurious by any measure. If you want to reduce costs or time in DR Congo, there are also hotels in Goma city and you can almost see the gorillas as short as a day trip from Rwanda.
I will write more. For now, starting dreaming, and maybe a few of you, planning.