KAHUZI-BIEGA NATIONAL PARK
Kahuzi-Biega National Park, also known as Parc National Du Kahuzi-Biega, in French, is a unique tourism destination located in Bukavu Town, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The national park is a protected area, which was first established in 1970, by a Belgian photographer and conservationist named Adrien Deschryver.
The national park is named after two dormant volcanic mountains Kahuzi and Biega. Mount Kahuzi which stands at 3,308 meters and Mount Biega, which stands at 2,790 meters; both make up Kahuzi-Biega national park.
Kahuzi-Biega national park spreads from the Congo River basin near Itebero-Utu to the northwestern part of Bukavu, and it also neighbors Rwanda and Burundi. The national park currently covers a total surface area of 6,000km², thus making it one of the biggest national parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A Brief History of Kahuzi-Biega National Park in Congo.
Previously, Kahuzi-Biega national park only covered the areas encompassing Mount Kahuzi until later in 1975, the national park was expanded to cover Mount Biega and areas adjacent to it. Kahuzi-Biega National Park is one of the only habitats of the only surviving eastern lowland gorillas in the world; others being found in West African countries like; Gabon, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Cameroon, Angola and Equatorial Guinea.
In 1937, the Zoological Reserve of Mount Kahuzi was created in order to protect the eastern lowland gorillas, which are also known as ‘Gorilla Beringei Graueri.’ This reserve only covered an area of 750km².
Later in 1970, the reserve was reduced to 600 square kilometers, and renamed as Kahuzi-Biega National Park. The national park was later expanded in 1975 to cover 6,000km².
However, in 1980, Kahuzi-Biega was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The national park is comprised of a large rainforest and a wide bio-diversity base comprising both flora and fauna species, as well as unique mammal species such as the east lowland gorillas.
In 1997, the national park was put on the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger, following the overwhelming threats and dangers caused by political instability in the area, poaching activities, land encroachers and illegal timber cutting and burning activities, as well as illegal mining activities in Kahuzi-Biega.
Kahuzi-Biega is home to at least 136 mammal species, 349 species of birds, 1,178 plant species and approximately 250 eastern lowland gorillas.
Attractions in Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
Eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla Beringei Graueri)
Tourists visiting Kahuzi-Biega National Park in DRC have a rare opportunity to track both mountain (western) gorillas and the east lowland gorillas as well. Although tourists can get to trek mountain gorillas in the national park, the eastern lowland gorillas remain the main tourist attraction in Kahuzi-Biega.
These gorilla subspecies are the largest of all gorilla species and one can easily differentiate them from the mountain gorillas, simply because eastern lowland gorillas are relatively large as compared to mountain gorillas.
Aside from the eastern lowland gorillas, there are other attractions that tourist can sight while visiting Kahuzi-Biega. These include; the eastern chimpanzee, African forest elephant, Albertine owlet, Mount Kahuzi climbing mouse and Maclaud’s horseshoe bat; all of which are listed under the IUCN Red List as endangered species.
Other wildlife species of less threatening concern include; the owl-faced monkey, bush buffalo, bongo, aquatic civet, bush elephant, African forest buffalo, hippopotamus, olive baboon and so many more. There is no telling just how much adventurous Kahuzi-Biega is, until you visit the national park yourself.
The Lwiro Sanctuary is a great place to be at for tourists who wish to see chimpanzees while on a visit to Kahuzi-Biega Park. This sanctuary is a rehabilitation center for orphaned primates especially chimpanzees. The Lwiro sanctuary was established in 2002 and looks after about 55 chimpanzees and approximately 60 monkeys.
Tourists visiting Kahuzi-Biega park in Congo have an opportunity to explore the beautiful and dazzling Lake Kivu, along with its surrounding islands, marine and bird life. Lake Kivu is situated within the Albertine Rift and it lies between the borders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This lake is among the great lakes of Africa.
Flora and Fauna of Kahuzi-Biega National Park:
Given that the national park is part of the Congo Basin Forest, it has a rich bio-diversity of both flora like; swamp forest, peat bog, bamboo and marshland to mention but a few; and fauna species such as; eastern lowland Grauer’s Gorillas, bush hogs, genet, forest elephants and antelope among others. Kahuzi-Biega national park has at least 1,178 unique plant species.
Birds Species in Kahuzi-Biega:
There are estimated to be 349 species of birds in Kahuzi-Biega, with four bird species listed under the IUCN Red List of endangered species namely; Yellow-crested Helmet Shrike, African Green Broadbill, Rockefeller’s Sunbird and the Congo Peafowl.
As mentioned earlier, Kahuzi-Biega park is established on two dormant volcanic mountains; and one of them is Kahuzi Mountain. The mountain is an extinct volcano, standing at a height of 3,317 meters above sea level. Visitors can engage in hiking activities on the mountain.
In 1975, Kahuzi forest reserve was extended to cover the areas of Mount Biega and its surroundings. The Biega Mountain is also an extinct volcano elevated at a height of 2,790 meters above sea level and lies within the Mitumba Mountain ranges.
Activities in Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
Tourists visiting Kahuzi-Biega can engage in quite a number of activities from trekking both mountain and eastern lowland gorillas, to birding, hiking trips and boat cruise among others.
Gorilla Trekking in Kahuzi-Biega:
Tourists interested in gorilla trekking adventure safaris in Congo have the opportunity to track both mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega park. There are two habituated groups of eastern lowland gorillas in the national park, and these include the Chimanuka and Mpungwe gorilla groups. A gorilla trekking permit in Kahuzi-Biega costs USD 400 dollars per person.
Gorilla trekking activities in Kahuzi-Biega started as early as the 1970s, with the eastern lowland gorillas as the first sub-species of gorillas to be tracked by tourists who visited the national park.
Chimpanzee Habituation at Lwiro Sanctuary:
For just US$ 40 dollars per person, tourists in Kahuzi-Biega can get to see habituated Chimpanzees at the Lwiro Sanctuary. Tourists who visit the primate rehabilitation center are taken through its history and conservation works at the center.
Camping Safaris in Kahuzi-Biega National Park:
The national park also offers tourists camping. Tourists who love to be amidst nature and wish to explore the wilderness in Kahuzi-Biega can pay for camping activities. Camping in Kahuzi-Biega costs USD 50 dollars per person per day and is inclusive of food and a park guide. However, tourists who wish to camp in the park must bring along their own tent and sleeping bag, or hire them from the park at a cost of USD 5 dollars per person per night, for each.
Tourists visiting Kahuzi-Biega National Park can embark on a cultural tour to the surrounding indigenous communities within and outside the national park. Visitors can take a brief tour of the community, interact with the local people, get to learn about their daily lifestyles and watch interesting performances like; dances, storytelling, singing traditional songs and playing traditional games; all by the local dance groups.
Visitors who love watching birds will find Kahuzi-Biega national park, an ideal spot to partake in birding activities since the park is home to over 349 species of birds. Tourists on a bird watching safari in the national park, have high chances of spotting bird species like; the Congo pea fowl, Ruwenzori Turaco and the trogons among others.
Hiking Mountains Kahuzi and Biega:
The Mitumba Mountain ranges provide the iconic spot for hiking adventure safaris for any tourist visiting Kahuzi-Biega National Park. Visitors can hike through the forest vegetation and explore the beautiful scenery and wildlife of the park. Tourists on holiday in Kahuzi Biega national park can also hike to the Kibatu waterfalls at a price of USD 25 dollars per person, while hiking the mountain ascents of Kahuzi or Biega will cost US$ 100 dollars per person.
Boat cruise on Lake Kivu:
Tourists visiting Kahuzi-Biega national park can opt to go on a launch cruise to cross Lake Kivu. This activity costs US$ 50 dollars per person and is best done after trekking gorillas in the national park.
Where to stay when visiting Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
Tourists visiting Kahuzi-Biega national park can find accommodation in the following lodging establishments; Mount Kahuzi Hotel, Hotel Begonias, Lodge Coco, Orchids Safari Club, Lakeside Hotel Bukavu and Hotel Exodus Bukavu among others.
How to get to Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
Kahuzi-Biega national park can be accessed from Rwanda and Uganda by air, road and water. Travelers will have to travel 40km west of Bukavu town, which will take about 1½ hours to get to the national park. Travelers can opt to board a bus/ taxi or hire a car and drive about 230 kilometers from Goma to the park’s headquarters, which takes rough 5-6 hours of driving.
Visitors travelling from Rwanda by road will have to drive for about 6-7 hours from Kigali City to Kamembe in Cyangugu town via the Rusizi I road. After crossing the borders at Goma and Bukavu, travelers will have to drive for about 1½ hours to get to Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
When travelling to Kahuzi-Biega from Uganda, visitors may have to spend an overnight in Kisoro town and then cross the border at Cyanika into Congo. This route might prove to be long and quite tedious for most travelers and therefore, would not recommend that a visitor use it; unless one has a lot of time to spare on their travel itinerary.
Travelling to Kahuzi-Biega by Air.
Most safaris to Kahuzi-Biega National Park in Congo usually start in Kigali, Rwanda. Travelers are advised to book flights to Kigali International Airport and then drive to Kahuzi-Biega. Alternatively, visitors can choose to board a flight from Kigali Airport and land in Goma Airport, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is a very convenient mode of transport to the DRC. Once in Goma, travelers can drive 230km to Kahuzi-Biega national Park.
Travelling by water to Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
Travelling by water to Kahuzi-Biega can be a wonderful and exciting trip, especially for visitors who want to extend their trip after visiting Virunga National Park. Visitors can board ferries that cross from Goma to Bukavu; and offers travelers spectacular views of the Idjwi Island on Lake Kivu. There are also speed boats which visitors can opt to use and these take about 3 hours to reach a Bukavu, while using an ordinary boat will take travelers about 4-5 hours. Upon your arrival in Bukavu, visitors can then drive to 40km to Kahuzi-Biega park headquarters.
In conclusion, tourists planning to travel to Congo on a safari should not exclude Kahuzi-Biega out of their tour itinerary. Get your trusted tour operator to plan for you an exciting gorilla trekking of hiking safari to this national park, and get to enjoy all the best that Kahuzi-Biega has to offer.