Kahuzi Biega National Park is one of the spectacular national parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This park was gazetted in 1970 and it spans to over 600 square kilometers. Situated in South Kivu province to the west of Albertine Rift, Kahuzi Biega National Park stands between altitude 700 and 3300 metres and offers refuge to mainly to offer refuge to the Eastern Lowland gorillas (Gorilla Beringei Grauer),which make up the biggest population DR Congo. It also features as the only site where the lowland gorillas can be tracked in DRC. These spectacular species thrive between 2100 and 2400 meters above sea level featuring the dense lowland rainforest and afro montane forests as well as sub alpine prairies and heather. The park also offers a home to flora and fauna of extra-ordinary diversity making it one of the most useful spots in the Albertine Rift Valley. It is exceptionally one of the ecologically endowed areas of Africa and world at large including the lowland gorillas that are listed as endangered by IUCN. It is also the second spot where you can sight both endemic species and specific diversity. Kahuzi Biega National Park is a home to over 136 mammal species as well as 13 additional primates without excluding eastern chimpanzees, eastern needle clawed Galago, mount Kahuzi African climbing mouse, forest hog, hippos, leopards, owl faced monkey, colobus bai and cercopiuthic of Hoests and Hamlyn. There are other extremely unique species of the eastern forests of the DRC especially the giant forest genet which is scientifically known as genetta victoriae and the aquatic genet scientifically known as genetta piscivora. There are also elephants, bush buffaloes, hylochere and bongo. It is also an exceptional Endemic Bird Area with over 349 bird species including 42 endemics. Some of the bird species to sight while on safari include the 4 which are listed on the IUCN Red list-the Yellow crested helmet shrike, African green broadbill, Rockefeller’s sunbird and Congo peafowl. The Kahuzi Biega National Park was designated as a centre of diversity for plants by IUCN and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 1994 with about 1178 inventoried species in the highland zone but the lowland yet remains to be recorded.
Kahuzi Biega National Park derived its name from two distinct volcano mountains that dominate 10% of its high altitude sector-Mount Kahuzi which stands at 3308 meters and Mount Biega at 2790 meters. This park is undoubtedly a safe destination which is managed by Wildlife Conservation Society. Before this protected area extended up to 750 kilometers but it was later reduced to 600kilometers in 1970 and hence the Kahuzi Biega National Park which offers refuge to over 300 Eastern Lowland gorillas. Later on, the park was increased to 6000 kilometers in 1975 and was declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. Kahuzi Biega National Park has two wet seasons every year and an annual rainfall of about 1200-1800mm. This begins from April to May and from October to January while its temperatures range between 19 and 21 Degrees Celsius.
Safety in the park
Visitor safety in the destination is undoubtedly the most crucial factor in travel and despite the political mysteries in the Democratic Republic of Congo; safety is everyone’s concern for the visitors. That said, anyone who is planning his or her next safari to Kahuzi Biega National Park, you are encouraged to always check for the security alerts pertaining the internal issues that might jeopardize your safaris in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Also, you also advised to select a tour operator who is knowledgeable on the local conditions of the destination especially on the tourist activities in Kahuzi Biega National Park. For hikers and trekkers who wish to par take self drives, you are reminded that self drive tours are not ideal for DR Congo.
Eastern Lowland gorilla trekking in Kahuzi Biega National Park
Kahuzi Biega National Park is credited for lowland gorilla trekking in DR Congo. The Lowland gorillas can be differentiated using their stocky bodies, large hands and short muzzle. Besides their size, the Eastern Lowland gorillas subsist mainly on fruit and other herbaceous materials. For lifetime experiences in this park, there are two habituated gorilla families for you to track which include the Chimanuka which is composed of 37 individuals, 19 baby gorillas and 17 females with 1 silverback and the second one is Mugaruka which is the only member. There are also two more groups that are still undergoing habituation process and they include Mankoto and Mpungwe group. The lowland gorillas are peaceful and social featuring about 5 to 30 individuals with an alpha or silverback male being the dominant in the family who is responsible in protecting and establishing home for the rest of the members in the family. The gestation period of a female lowland gorilla is about 8 and half months and does the breastfeeding for 12 months. The baby gorilla crawls after about 9 weeks and will be able to walk after 35 weeks. The young gorillas spend three to four years with their mothers after and then become independent and mating takes place at 11 or 12 years. The silverback gorillas can enter into severe fight when another family meet and after injure one another. This is sighted by hooting rising on their legs, slapping and tearing vegetation, beating their chest with cupped hands, thumping the ground with their palms and kicking with one leg. Gorilla trekking permits for lowland gorillas in DRC cost $400 per person.
Hiking to the top of Mount Kahuzi and Biega
Besides the lowland gorillas trekking, you can also engage in hiking adventures at Mount Kahuzi and Biega which feature among distinct volcanoes in the park. Mount Kahuzi rises up to 3308 meters while Mount Biega stands at 2790 meters. They feature distinct vegetation cover that is determined by their altitude which is mainly the wet lowland rain forest at 1200 and 1500 meters, traditional rainforest and montane forest.
Visit the Lwiro sanctuary
This sanctuary is a rehabilitation centre that offers care for the orphaned primates like the chimpanzees and monkey species. It was founded in 2002 and is found around Tschivanga visitor center in an old Belgian research center. It comprises of 55 chimpanzees and more than 60 species of monkey. Visiting this site costs $25.
How to access Kahuzi Biega National Park
Kahuzi Biega National Park is situated 30 kilometers from Bukavu town and it is about 1 and half hour drive and mainly accessible by road and also air. Note that from Kavumu airport and at Miti, you can follow your left hand and keep on going straight till you arrive at the visitor centre.
Packing list for Lowland gorilla trekking
In order for you have the most exciting gorilla trekking adventure, you need to pack appropriately starting with hiking boots, insect repellents, long sleeved shirts/T-shirts, gardening gloves, sun screen, cameras, backpack, rain jacket, sweaters, toiletries and many more.
Lodges in Kahuzi Biega National Park
Gorilla trekking is facilitated by availability of lodges in the protected area. For Kahuzi Biega National Park, there are no lodges inside the park but there are some accommodation facilities around Bukavu town but for budget travelers, camping at the park headquarters in Lwiro can be ideal for you. Among notable lodges around Kahuzi Biega National Park for you to spend a night over include Orchids safari club, Coco Lodge, Exodus Hotel, Horizon Hotel, Hotel Begonias and Ruby Guest House.
In conclusion, Kahuzi Biega National Park is one of a must to visit park while you are on a safari in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are several incredible tourist attractions for you to enjoy in the park and most importantly, you can combine Kahuzi Biega National Park safaris with Virunga National Park.