Kahuzi Biega National Park
Kahuzi Biega National Park is situated in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Bukavu town. The park was gazetted to a zoological and forest reserve in 1937 and later upgraded and merged with Kahuzi to turn into the now known Kahuzi Biega National Park to conserve the eastern lowland gorillas and to promote tourism in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 due to its ecological importance in regulating climate conditions. The park is one of the biggest national parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo and also stands tall among the large single wildlife protected areas on the African continent. Just like Virunga National Park, Kahuzi Biega National Park is managed by ICCN (Institute Congolese pour la Conservation de la nature), Wildlife Conservation Society.
Kahuzi Biega National Park lies west of the Bukavu town in the South Kivu province that is bordered with Rwanda. A small part of the park is in the Mitumba mountain range of the Albertine rift and the large part is in lowland terrain which joins the mountainous and lowland terrain. It covers an area of 6000 square kilometers and protects a mountain forest in the eastern DRC which is a densely populated region of the country. Kahuzi Biega National Park was named after the two extinct volcanoes which dominate the park and they are mount Kahuzi which is 3308m above the sea level and the highest of the volcanic mountains and mount Biega which is 2790 m above the sea level.
Kahuzi Biega National Park is known for its beautiful biodiversity composed of vegetation types including tropical rainforest, woodlands, grasslands, dry savannah, swamps, bogs, marshlands, open woodland, wetland generating into bamboo and subalpine vegetation on the summit of the mountain. The park receives 1800mm rainfall and 15 °C temperature on average which favors vegetation and wildlife in the park. Kahuzi Biega National Park is a habitat of 1178 plant species, 350 bird species, 136 mammals with unique animals including eastern lowland gorillas, eastern chimpanzees, eastern needle, clawed galago, Alexander’s bush squirrel, bongo antelopes, Mclaud’s horseshoe bat, mount Kahuzi climbing mouse, bush elephants and buffaloes among others which attract visitors to go on a safari in the park any time of the year.
Getting to Kahuzi Biega National Park
Kahuzi Biega National Park is located 30km from Bukavu town in DRC and takes 1 hour and 30 minutes to enter into the national park. It can be accessed by both road and air transport means, by air. Visitors are advised to first fly to Rwanda, Kigali international airport and then cross the border through Ruzizi which is the closest border to the park headquarters. The park head offices are 230km away by road which takes around two to three hours.
Peace and Security in Kahuzi Biega
Despite the past civil wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Visitors traveling to Kahuzi Biega national park should be at ease because the country has stabilized and peace has been restored hence tourism is done peacefully at Kahuzi Biega national park and Virunga national park. There is assured safety of the visitors and their property. The country also introduced tourism security to patrol all the national parks to detect any insecurities in the area and therefore visitors should not be worried about anything although they are encouraged to follow the instructions of the park ranges or guides especially when they are trekking in the forest by not leaving the group and not walking within the forest alone for their own safety.
Activities in Kahuzi Biega National Park
- Gorilla trekking: Kahuzi Biega national park is the habitat of eastern lowland gorillas which is the largest of the gorilla families. Eastern lowland gorillas are related to mountain gorillas but with small differences in that, the eastern lowland gorillas are larger in size, bigger and have a longer face compared to the mountain gorillas. Kahuzi Biega National Park is a habitat of over 125 gorillas that live in 9 gorilla families of which two eastern lowland gorillas have been habituated which makes it easy for tracking. The two habituated eastern lowland gorilla families include Mugaruka and Chimanuka with the largest gorilla individuals of about 36 members and also famous for having four sets of twins which makes it a unique gorilla family. Eastern lowland gorilla trekking in Kahuzi Biega is the top tourist activity that starts early in the morning where visitors arrive at the park offices for the briefing about the expectations when trekking in the jungle, provided with masks to avoid the spread of human diseases like flu, cold and keep 7m distance from gorillas among others. After the briefing, visitors are grouped into a maximum of 8 people per group and are allocated guides that will help them while trekking in the tropical rainforest following the trails locating where the gorillas slept the previous night and when found visitors are given 1 hour in the presence of the Eastern lowland gorillas in their natural habitats. Thye are allowed to take photos, learn they behaviors, lifestyles like how they feed, breastfeed, juveniles playing and entertaining the family, how females nurse their young ones just like human beings, silverbacks as the leaders or head of the families among others. This Gorilla trekking experience takes about 1-6 hours and visitors are supposed to wear light clothes, carry packed lunch and enough drinking water when going for gorilla trekking and this activity gives a thrilling and unforgettable lifetime experience. The Eastern lowland gorilla trekking permit costs $400 which is cheaper than the Ugandan gorilla permit that costs $600 and the Rwandan gorilla permit at $1500.
- Bird watching, Kahuzi Biega national park is a home of 350 bird species 42 endemic to the Albertine rift, Kahuzi Biega national park is referred to as a birders paradise due to different and rare bird species. Birding is carried out in the open grasslands, woodlands, highland, open water, swamps, wetland forest where you will view bird species like Congo peas fowl, trogons, African broadbill sunbird, grey crowned cranes, Ruwenzori turaco, Rockefeller’s sunbird, grauer’s broadbill, grauer’s warbler, Shelley’s crimson wing, yellow-crested helmet shrike among others which offers a fascinating experience to the visitors in Kahuzi Biega national park.
- Hiking, Kahuzi Biega national park offers an opportunity to visitors who want to hike the two inactive beautiful volcanic mountains within the park which are Mount Kahuzi the highest mountain that is 3308meters above the sea level and Mount Biega that is 2790meters above the sea level. Summits of the two volcanic mountains provide great scenic views of the national park, the communities surrounding the park, vegetation types including bamboo, subalpine, wildlife including monkeys, chimpanzees, bush elephants, antelopes, golden monkeys, baboons, birds among others. The adventurous volcanic mountains give visitors memorable experiences, beautiful landscapes, photos on top of the volcanoes among others,
- Nature walks, this is a breathtaking activity in Kahuzi Biega national park that offers visitors an opportunity to move within the park on foot and enjoy the natural environment, biodiversity, wildlife among others. Visitors follow trails in the tropical rainforest that lead to different sites in the park-like Tshibiti waterfall that runs close to the two rivers of the waterfall, lush grasslands among others and you will see shelters of wildlife species, bird species, animals, different vegetation types in the park, breath fresh air, hear sweet bird sounds in the trees and offers an environment for relaxation and refreshing of minds on the safari.
- Lwiro sanctuary, the sanctuary is located near the park headquarters 50km in Bukavu south of Lake Kivu, 10km from Kahuzi Biega. The primate rehabilitation center was established in 2002 to provide care and rehabilitation for the isolated and orphaned primates including the chimpanzees and monkeys. It is located on the grounds of the Congolese Government Scientific Research Center and is situated in an old Belgian colonial building and works with the ICCN. The sanctuary offers educational programs for the people in the community, tourists and children, organizes exhibitions among others and is a home of about 49 chimpanzees and over 60 monkeys. The sanctuary entrance fee is $25 for foreigners and this money is used for running and managing of the sanctuary
Kahuzi Biega National Park offers other activities like cultural encounters, camping safaris, Tshibiti waterfall tours, Idjwi island tour, Bukavu city tour among others which provide great scenic views and memorable experiences to visitors on a safari. Kahuzi Biega offers a number of luxury, midrange, and moderate accommodations to make the safaris complete and they include Mount Kahuzi Hotel, Lakeside Hotel Bukavu, Exodus Bukavu, Hotel Begonias Bukavu, Lodge Coco, Orchids Safari Cub which provide quality services including food, drinks, swimming services, sleeping services good for relaxation, better views of the wildlife, lake Kivu among others after gorilla tracking, hiking on the volcanic mountains.
Kahuzi Biega national park can be visited anytime throughout the year with the best time being from June to September to February due to reduced rain. The park will offer you a lifetime opportunity to explore the natural biodiversity like the dormant volcanic mountains, wildlife species like the major eastern lowland gorillas, birds which make your safari awesome and give you a memorable experience in the Democratic Republic of Congo.