Ever thought of trekking the rare eastern lowland gorillas and you are not sure of which destination to visit? Well, Kahuzi Biega National Park is exceptionally one of the best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that you should consider in your bucket list if you are interested in striking your imaginations with the most magnificent Eastern Lowland gorillas. Kahuzi Biega National Park extends up to 6000 square kilometers and this makes it one of the largest conservation areas in DR Congo. It is situated south of Kivu province and to the west of Albertine rift and stands within an altitude of 700 to 3300 meters. Approximately, 10% of its landscape consists of high mountains with extinct volcanoes, Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega from which the park was named after.
Kahuzi Biega National Park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. It is credited for its most remarkable tropical rain forest featuring approximately 1178 plant species. It makes up part of the Congo basin and it consists of marshland and Riverine forest flora, thick wet equatorial rain forest in the west low land area while the eastern mountain area comes with vast forest vegetation ranging from 600 to 2600 meters. Kahuzi Biega National Park also refuges eastern chimpanzees, owl faced monkey, forest elephant, bongo, mount Kahuzi climbing mouse, forest hog, hippos, leopards, Anubis baboon and eastern needle clawed galagoes. There are also over 350 bird species that you can spot while on birding safari in Kahuzi Biega National Park most of which include the yellow crested helmet shrike, Congo peafowl, African green broadbill and Rockefeller’s sunbird and many others.
Kahuzi Biega National Park is also credited for its remarkable Mount Kahuzi which stands at altitude of 3317 meters and features the highest peak at the park and extends up to west of Lake Kivu on the Albertine rift valley. It is believed to have erupted about 12000 year back. This volcano also features distinct vegetation types some of which include the wet lowland, transitional rainforest and montane forest. Between 1200 and 1500 meters, you will find equatorial rainforest and a transitional forest. Transitional forest vegetation stretches approximately 600 to 2600 meters, from 2000 to 2350 meters features the swamp forest that is intercepted with mountain forest, bamboo forest thrives from about 2350 to 2600 meters and then the higher altitude of 2600 to 3330 meters comes with the alpine vegetation type that also comes with the dry savanna grassland and endemic plant species especially the senecio Kahuzicus.
What to do in Kahuzi National Park
- Eastern Lowland gorilla tracking
Besides the rare mountain gorillas, Kahuzi Biega National Park is credited for its amazing Eastern lowland gorilla safaris in Congo. The Eastern Lowland gorillas can be best differentiated from the rest using their stocky bodies, large hands and short muzzle. They also depend much on fruits and other herbaceous materials. Two families have been habituated for tourists to track and they include the Chimanuka comes with 37 individuals, 19 baby gorillas and 17 females with 1 silverback and the second one is Mugaruka which is the only member. The other families that are still undergoing the habituation process include the Mankoto and Mpungwe troop.
These unique primates are peaceful and social thriving in groups of 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 a 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 a severe fight when another family meet and after injuring 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.
- Packing list for Lowland gorilla trekking
You will need a permit for you to track lowland gorillas in DRC and the permits cost $400 per visitor. You will also need hiking boots, insect repellents, long-sleeved shirts/T-shirts, gardening gloves, sunscreen, cameras, backpack, rain jacket, sweaters, toiletries and others.
Besides Kahuzi Biega National Park, you can as well pay a visit to Lwiro sanctuary, a rehabilitation centre which refuges orphaned primates especially chimpanzees and several monkey species. The sanctuary was established in 2002 and it lies at the Tshivanga visitor center just in an ancient Belgian Research centre. It protects 55 chimpanzees and over 60 monkey species.
- Hiking to the top of Mount Kahuzi and Biega
For hikers, you can also embark on hiking adventures to the top of Mount Kahuzi and Biega the distinct volcanoes at the park. Mount Kahuzi stretches up to 3308 meters and Mount Biega 2790 meters. They have rare vegetation cover which is determined by altitudes ranging from the wet lowland rain forest at 1200 and 1500 meters, traditional rainforest and montane forest.
The weather and climate in Kahuzi Biega National Park
Kahuzi Biega Park experiences rainfall amount of 1200 mm to 1800 mm. The longest wet season starts from April to May and from October to January and temperatures range between 19 to 21 degrees Celsius. From June to September and December to February, the park experiences the dry spell.
Getting to Kahuzi Biega National Park
Kahuzi Biega National Park is located 30 kilometres from Bukavu town about 1 and half hour drive and the park is mainly accessible by road and air. From Kavumu airport and at Miti, you can turn on your left and keep straight until you arrive at the visitor centre.
Accommodation in Kahuzi Biega National Park
Kahuzi Biega National Park has no lodges but some of the accommodation facilities are located around Bukavu town and for budget visitors, camping at the park headquarters in Lwiro is ideal while on your safari. The prominent accommodations in Kahuzi Biega National Park include Orchids safari club, Coco Lodge, Exodus Hotel, Horizon Hotel, Hotel Begonias and Ruby Guest House.
In conclusion, Kahuzi Biega National Park features as one the biggest protected areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo and mainly popular for its Eastern Lowland gorillas. For visitors on mountain gorilla adventures to the Democratic Republic of Congo don’t miss to consider this spectacular national park in your travel plan.