Kahuzi Biega National Park is located in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and is only home to the eastern lowland gorillas. The park has a land area of 6,000 square kilometers that includes two dormant volcanic mountains, Mount Kahuzi, and Mount Biega. It is among the wildlife World Heritage Sites and was given that status because of the unique and diverse wildlife species it has.
Unfortunately Democratic Republic of Congo has over the years had serious insecurity issues and many people especially poachers take advantage of these. With the chaos, there is encroachment on the park and a lot of wildlife exploitation that hinders any conservation progress. There is however some hope that things will settle down with time and that the home for eastern lowland gorillas will be preserved.
Wildlife in Kahuzi Biega National Park
Kahuzi Biega National Park lies in the Congo Basin and the Albertine Rift Valley area and has various ecosystems. These range from the lowland rainforests, afro-montane forests, and bamboo that slowly transcends into other vegetation types on the different layers of mountain slopes. It has some Rivers including River Luka and River Lugulu.
There are over 13 primates species in Kahuzi Biega National Park with Eastern lowland gorillas the most outstanding ones. Eastern lowland gorillas are primates that live in families headed by a dominant male called silverback. They are the largest of all the gorilla subspecies and endemic to the forested mountains of Kahuzi and Biega. Just like other gorillas, Eastern lowland gorillas are vegetarian and mainly depend on plant vegetation plus fruits and other edible leaves.
Gorillas are among man’s closest relatives with over 95% DNA similar to humans. This makes them among the most sought-after wildlife species and nature lovers love to meet their wild relatives. The total population of Eastern lowland gorillas has unfortunately declined over the years as many are poached. Female gorillas have a gestation period of about 9 months just like humans but only give birth after 4 years and with their limited numbers, it is not easy for them to quickly multiply.
Other Wildlife Species
Other primates in Kahuzi Biega National Park include chimpanzees, L’hoest monkeys, colobus monkeys, and Hamlyn among others. Some of these can be spotted while on the lowland gorilla trek or on a guided nature walk in the jungles of the park. This makes the park among the leading primate trekking safari destinations in East and Central Africa.
There are 136 mammals in Kahuzi Biega National Park including those endemic to the Congo forests and the Albertine Rift Valley region like the giant forest genet. Some other big mammal species apart from the eastern lowland gorillas include forest elephants, forest buffaloes, and the hylochere. All these are supported and thrive on the different ecosystems in the park.
Kahuzi Biega National Park has 349 bird species, 49 of which are endemic to the region. Some of the notable birds here include the Rwenzori Turaco, black-winged kite, Black-headed Heron, crowned eagles, and Hadada Ibis, among others. Most of the park is still unexplored because of the security concerns of the area but there is still a lot to see.
Kahuzi Biega National Park Activities
Lowland gorilla trekking is the main activity in the park. Eastern lowland gorillas being endemic to the park and to the Congo forests, it is very adventurous seeing them in the wild. Just like the mountain gorilla trekking experience, lowland gorilla trekking starts with a briefing at the park headquarters. From here you are guided to the forest by rangers amidst sightings of the major wildlife species, especially birds.
The hike to the eastern lowland gorillas takes 2 to 4 hours depending on their movement. Once you get to them, you are required to keep at least 7 meters away from them. This is to avoid any sort of confrontation as silverbacks especially are very protective of their families. These can easily charge when they feel threatened.
Birding safaris are also done in the park as bird lovers seek to explore and uncover more of the bird species the park has. On top of the variety the park already has, migratory birds are also seen especially towards the end of the year. Birding safaris in Kahuzi Biega are therefore very rewarding and a must-do while in the area.
Nature and primate photography safaris are also done in the park. The Kahuzi Biega ecosystem is one of the less traveled paths and offers authentic experiences ideal for wildlife photography. With the many wildlife species in the park, you can surely get to capture moments of species here especially the eastern lowland gorillas.
Near Kahuzi Biega National Park is the Lwiro Sanctuary which is home to various wildlife species. It was initially set up as a home for orphaned chimpanzees but there are many wildlife species that are rescued and taken there. Lwiro is now home to 109 chimpanzees, Olive baboons, Owl-faced monkeys, blue monkeys, Patas monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, and others. Lwiro is just about 4 kilometers from Kahuzi Biega National Park and it is a great place to visit while in the area.
There are a number of Hotels in Bukavu overlooking Lake Kivu. They include Hôtel Panorama, Elizabeth Hotel Bukavu, Orchids’ Safari Club Hotel Restaurant, Hôtel Rivière Ruzizi among others. Bukavu is just about an hour’s drive to the park and therefore the accommodations in Bukavu are great options to base from.
Getting to Kahuzi Biega National Park
Eastern DRC can easily be accessed through Rwanda. You can therefore fly into Rwanda’s Kigali International Airport and then connect to DRC by road. It takes about a 6 to 7-hour drive from Kigali to the Cyangugu border from where you cross over. Bukavu town is the nearby developed area that acts as a base to explore the southern Kivu area in DRC.
You can also fly into Goma in northern Kivu and then connect to the south by ferry.
Best time to Visit
The park can be visited any time of the year but for best experiences and photography chances, visiting in the dry season is ideal. With minimal rainfall disturbances, it is also very easy to navigate through the trails in the park while hiking.
For Visas, you must apply for the visa at least a week in advance or obtain one from the DRC embassy in the country where you are from.