Why Visit Kahuzi Biega National Park
Kahuzi-Biega National Park is found on the eastern side of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), close to Bukavu town, on the western bank of the Lake Kivu and Rwanda border. The park was established by Adrien Deschryver – a Belgian conservationist and photographer in 1970 and inherits its name from the two dormant volcanoes; Mount Kahuzi standing at 3,308M and Mount Biega standing at 2,790M covering an area of 6,000 square kilometers which makes it one of the largest national parks in Congo with both the lowland and mountainous terrain.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park was inscribed in 1980 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its unique biodiversity of the rain forest habitat and being home to the lowland Gorillas – known as Gorilla beringei graueri and considered to be highly endangered. The smaller portion of the park is mountainous whereas the bigger part is the lowland.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park is one of the most important sites in the Albertine Rift Valley and one of the most ecologically rich areas in Africa and the world at large with exceptional diversity in its plant and wildlife (flora & fauna). It is one of the rare areas in Sub-Saharan Africa where the transition in vegetation zones from the lowland to Highland is clearly observable with six distinguishable primary vegetation types that are; swamp and peat bog, swamp forest, high-altitude rainforest, the mountain rainforest, bamboo forest, and subalpine heather as well as the endemic plant Senecio kahuzicus found on the summits of Mount Kahuzi and Biega at altitudes above 2,600 meters.
Eastern Lowland Gorilla Tracking
Most tourists who go to Kahuzi-Biega National Park do so to spot Grauer’s gorillas. Eastern lowland gorillas are larger than mountain gorillas. The species is making one of its last stands here and faces the possibility of extinction. The census of 2013 discovered 145 individuals in the highland sector of the park, a great decline from the 600 first counted in 1990.
Grauer’s gorillas face threats from poaching (young gorillas for trade), illegal cutting down of trees, encroachment on land for farming, and mining coltan. Three Grauer’s lowland gorilla groups are fully habituated and open to tourists in the highlands. Gorilla Trekking in Congo involves hiking through the dense tropical rain forests, swamps, and even highlands depending on the last location of the gorilla group.
While tracking the gorillas, it is important to listen to the instructions of the rangers at all times. Tracking can take anywhere between thirty minutes to 6 hours. You are only allowed one hour with the gorillas. Use this time to observe the family keenly. You should be able to spot juveniles playing, females nursing the young ones, and the dominant silverback looking out for any danger to the family.
You should also be able to identify the different individuals, personalities, and group dynamics. By the end of the activity, you will realize just how similar human beings are with gorillas and the more reason why we should protect them at all costs. Permits for gorilla tracking cost $400.
OTHER ACTIVITIES DONE IN KAHUZI BEIGA NP
The Park now has well-established trails that take you to see the primates and birds. These are the same trails used for tracking the gorillas and border patrols by the park rangers. In the company of experienced park guides, you can use the Marais Musisi Trail or use the Tshibati Waterfalls Attractions in Kahuzi-Biega National ParkTrail that go through swamps, bamboo forests, and 3 beautiful waterfalls. Watch out for primates like chimpanzees and small monkeys.
Hiking up to the summit of Mount Kahuzi offers breathtaking views of the town of Bukavu and Lake Kivu. Reaching the summit (3,308 meters) takes about four hours while climbing down takes three hours. Why climbing and descending, you will bypass sub-alpine vegetation and bamboo forests filled with birds and other creatures. Mount Biega is 2790 meters high and it takes about six hours to climb up and down the mountain. The vegetation spotted while climbing up mount Biega is quite different from that found in Mount Kahuzi. Another mountain suitable for hiking is Mount Bugulumiza. At 2400 m high it offers great views of the surrounding landscape including the mountains Biega and Kahuzi as well as the vast tropical rain forests of the park. Climbing up and down mount Bugulumiza takes 3 hours.
There are morning and evening birding schedules to spot species like the African green broadbill, Congo peafowl, and yellow-crested helmet-shrike among others. Bird-watching can be done during the forest and nature walks.
Visiting the Lwiro Primate Rehabilitation Centre
This center is close to the park headquarters. The Centre takes care of chimpanzees and other small primates that have lost their parents mainly due to poaching. This center offers opportunities to volunteer and learn about primates and their conservation.
Before traveling to Kahuzi Biega National Park, one needs to acquire a Congo Visa. Apart from Identification documents, Visa, and park entrance fees, one will also need an invitation from the park to be allowed inside. This is a different procedure from that followed by parks outside DR Congo. The volatile situation in the Eastern part of the country has led to stringent security measures to protect the park, its officials, and tourists. Crossing to Congo is also strictly supervised compared to Uganda, Rwanda, or Kenya. The best way to cross the border is to arrange your tour with a tour company. If you are alone you need to move with an individual known to the Congolese border officials.
There are two options to get to Kahuzi-Biega National Park but either way, you need to get to Goma or pass through Cyangungu from Rwanda;
Get to Goma and take a fast ferry from Goma to Bukavu, covering a distance of 100 kilometers in 2 hours and 45 minutes and that is the quickest option available. The ferry operates twice daily (7:30 am and 2 Pm).
The other option is traveling by road; the distance by road between Goma and Bukavu is 209 kilometers and will take you 3 hours and 30 minutes with some difficult stretches of the road between Kalehe and Kabibwi.
Once in Bukavu, you will most probably need a place to stay for the night and there are various reasonable places to stay. The next morning, you take a speed boat from Bukavu to Kahuzi-Biega National Park where you will be collected by the park staff and proceed for your day’s planned activity. The same boat returns in the afternoon to Bukavu.
L’orchids Safari Club
Coco Lodge Bukavu
Hotel Begonias Bukavu
Lake Side Hotel Bukavu
In conclusion, the 4×4 Safari jeep will ensure you get to the destination on time to enjoy the gorilla trekking in Kahuzi Biega National Park.