Kahuzi-Biega national park is among the top destinations visited in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Africa at large. It is known for harboring the eastern lowland gorillas, world’s largest gorilla species that are slightly different from mountain gorillas. This protected area is located near Bukavu town in the eastern part of the country, located near the southern banks of Lake Kivu shared with Rwanda. The park was gazetted in 1970 by Adrien Deschryver who was a conservationist and photographer.
The park gets its name from the two mountains - Kahuzi and Biega where it occupies and these are dormant volcanic mountains. The park, therefore, spans over an area of 6,000 square kilometers and this makes Kahuzi-Biega one of the biggest national parks in D.R. Congo. The unique attraction here are the Eastern low land gorillas (gorilla berengei graueri) which are endangered and listed in the IUCN red list. It has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1970.
The park has suffered from a dark history of political wars that affected the region and this increased wildlife exploitation due to massive poaching for meat, bomb attacks, land mines and general insecurity in the whole conservation area. The park has nevertheless grown into a diverse biodiversity destination filled with unique flora and fauna and there are over 350 bird species, 136 mammal species and different plant species.
Animals that can be spotted or that live here include bush buffalos, bush elephants, galagos, eastern chimpanzees and many others. In terms of flora, the park has swampy vegetation, bamboo forest and equatorial forest.
The park is under the management of Institut Congolais pour la conservation de la nature in conjunction with the government of D.R. Congo. The two organs provide funds, security by the army and game rangers and also with the help of neighboring countries like Uganda. The park is now attracting different tourists from all over the world to come and visit the world’s largest species of gorillas.
This is the main activity that takes place in this park and carried out every morning with the help of park ranger guide well-armed. Lowland gorilla trekking takes about 3 to 4 hours while in the forest but visitors are always granted an hour in the presence of these magical eastern gorillas and then the experience will end at the park offices where it started from. This experience will help you to know and explore the world’s largest type of gorillas that are found in this park.
Chimp trekking not so famous experience, is quire refreshing and there is no reason not to book it on your next safari to Kahuzi-Biega national park. The experience takes place in the low land areas and the chimpanzees trekked here are mainly eastern chimpanzees. Trekking these chimpanzees is very difficult since the chimpanzees are shy and they tend to hide out in the deep forest.
The rehabilitation centre was established to protect mainly the orphaned chimpanzees and other small primates that would have lost their mother in times of poaching and it’s located near Kahuzi-Biega national park. This experience involves feeding these primates and you will get to learn about these vulnerable primates.
Taking this great day adventure that can last for 3 hours is really rewarding since the trails used are the same as those used for trekking the gorillas and also used by park rangers as they do park patrolling. The trail takes visitors to Tshibati waterfalls and they will also be able to meet different wildlife such as colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, red-tailed monkeys and different birds like yellow-crested helmet-shrike, African hobby, and African green broadbill among others.
Since the park hosts over 340 bird species, it is therefore possible to take part in birding experience and this can be done in different places like in the swamp, forest, mountains among others. birding is normally done early in the morning and late evening when the birds are so active. The different birds that can be spotted include Congo peafowl, African green broadbill, black cuckoo, red-eyed dove, yellow-billed barbet, African hobby, white-headed wood-hoopoe.
Time taken for birding cannot be estimated since it depends on the presence of birds in the field. This means that the more birds the more time spend and the less the birds, the little time spent in the field.
Hikes normally take place along mount. Kahuzi and Biega. The summit of mount Kahuzi offers the best view of Lake Kivu and overall adventure can take about 7 hours. The beautiful and eye-catching moment such as the one in the alpine and mountain vegetation as you take the trail. For the case of mount Biega, the overall experience can take about 6 hours and another hike happens on Mount. Bugulumiza which avails the scenic views of the two mountains (Kahuzi and Biega) and surrounding communities.
Most safaris to Kahuzi-Biega national park start from Kigali, Rwanda and on reaching the Bukavu town in DR Congo, it is just a 30km drive to the park gate which can take about 30 to 40 minutes' drive.
Tourists travelling to DR Congo’s Kahuzi-Biega national park are advised to use tour guides and book through professional tour operators for smooth safaris.
Visiting this park can be done all year but the best time to visit remains during the dry season, just like most parks in Africa. The park is dominated by montane forest which means that most of the time it rains hence making it hard to predict the dry season.
There are two seasons - January to February and June to September, these are mainly dry seasons whereas March to May and October to November are wet seasons of the year. It is difficult to take activities in the wet seasons since the trails are muddy hence difficult to maneuver and the dry season is vice-versa.