Maiko National Park is one of the ecologically richest habitats in Africa located in the most remote forests of the democratic republic of Congo in the eastern region. the park covering the area of 10,885 square kilometers stretching in states of Nord kivu, Maniema and oriental. Congo is Known mostly for Mount Nyiragongo and Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park and Kahuzi biega national Park though Maiko National Park is yet another wildlife beauty in the democratic Republic of Congo. Maiko national park lies in the great western south of Lake Kivu adjacent to Rwandan-Kisangani border just 320 kilometers to the North West another great western ward bend of River Congo, the park is 10,400 square kilometers halfway between Bukavu at Rwandan border and Kisangani.
Maiko national park governed and managed by Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature is a significant conservation area divided into three sectors that is Nord Kivu, province Orientale and Maniema, these provinces harbor endemic animal species such as eastern lowland gorillas, okapi and the Congo peafowl. Maiko national park is the second park in the republic of Congo harboring the endemic eastern lowland gorillas, the park is heavily characterized by dense equatorial forests which are crossed two rivers that is river Oso and river Lindi. River Oso spans in the area of 4180 square kilometers extending northwards where it meets Lindi River.
Maiko national park is a fascinating tourist destination and an important conservation site sheltering a wide range of beautiful unique animals, for example, forest elephants, leopards, and eastern chimpanzees. Among the animals, there are also Congo endemic animals which are only found in Congo such as okapis, Congo peacock, eastern lowland mountain gorillas and the endemic aquatic genet which are very interesting to watch while on a safari. The park also shelters bird species such as broadbills, pitas, sparrows, cormorants, turacos, egrets, herons, kingfishers and many more
Maiko national park declared a national park in 1970 was first gazetted as the Bakumu hunting reserve by the Belgian colonial administration, the name Bakumu was taken from THE KUMUS a native tribe found in this region. Primarily this area was declared a protected area with intentions of safeguard minerals in this area from exploitation rather than protecting nature and wildlife which lived in this area like a home, on November 20th, 1970 the then-president Joseph Désiré Mobutu signed a presidential decree no. 70-312 which bond to the law that had created the ICCN in 1969. The decree asserted the hunting reserve as a full-fledged nature protection area.
Maiko national park is a re-known richest ecological habitant in Africa though the park’s tourism is not yet developed and this is attributed to the inaccessibility and remoteness of the national park. In the area where the park is located, there are no well-developed roads, bridges to cross the rivers, no airstrips, no lodges and no amenities which makes a safari to this park slightly impossible. If you decide to navigate this park in the wilderness it is very adventurous as you discovered the undiscovered, as a tourist you will stay in the local community rated houses or tents and eat local foods.
Maiko national park is lawfully managed and operated by the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) but due to lack of rangers and institutions/ facilities to handle park entry permits, the park’s control has been taken over by rebels and natives living in communities on the outskirts of the park. Rebels have been a real threat to the development of Maiko as a national park, the roadless and inaccessible nature surrounding Maiko national park and the region at large has made Simba rebels and their control of the area to flourish. Since their defeat in 1964, they have used this region as their protective spot, throughout their stay in this region they have constantly carried out poaching of animals and illegal mining activities. The presence of these merciless rebels has been a constant threat to security making it difficult to be in the park and patrol it, it also has made the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) to carry out its operation and have control over the park. Conservation of this area has been greatly tampered by these rebels, according to several surveys carried out between 2003- 2005, 3 more active rebel groups have been identified in this area including the Rwandan Interahamwe in the east.
With all the present uncertainties, conservation of this park is greatly attributed to the Fossey fund. The first exploration of Maiko national park was done in 1989 by the wildlife conservation society which was backed by ICCN and supported the World Bank. The European Community and the WWF moved into this region and surveyed approximately 950 kilometers of the transect, the wildlife conservation society further surveyed the north sector in 2005. The first survey in the southern sector of the park was conducted in 2005 by Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, on this survey they discovered and documented the eastern lowland gorillas. The last survey was carried out in 2010 and focused more on the forests in the west and south region of Maiko national park and on this survey, it was revealed that threats towards the endangered eastern lowland gorillas and the okapis have intensified in the park.
Activities in Maiko National Park
There is numerous safari activities that are offered in Maiko national park which include.
Wildlife viewing: Maiko national park has untampered with vegetation cover which harbors a variety of animals such as forest elephants, okapis, Congo peacock, leopards, aquatic genet, eastern chimpanzee and many which are not discovered. The variety of animals in this park make wildlife viewing safari amazing and unforgettable.
Bird watching: Maiko national park is largely covered by tropical rain forest and crossed baby river Oslo and river Lindi which are form to both water and forest bird species such as broadbills, pitas, sparrows, cormorants, turacos, egrets, herons, kingfishers which are seen while on nature walks and wildlife viewing safaris in the park.
Nature walks: Nature walks in Maiko national park are very fascinating as they take you through the thickly forested wilderness of the park and on the river banks of river Oslo and river Lindi.
Sights and sounds: Maiko national park is gifted with spectacular views of both the equatorial forests and the river, on sights and sound activity you get to enjoy the unique intoxicating sounds of birds singing different sweet melodies and sounds of river waters flowing.
Despite the fact that the park shelters over 800 eastern lowland gorilla individuals, gorilla trekking is not carried in this park. It used to take place but after a gorilla attacking a tourist the activity was banned, the incident is great attributed to the fact these gorillas are not fully habituated they are still wild.
To get Maiko national park is the hardest task but there are some routes that can be used, you can use routes from Goma, Benin or Butembo or you can use a 515 kilometers route from Kisangani town which leads to a small village within the park from Bafwasende.