Kahuzi Biega National Park is one of the last refuges of the rare Eastern lowland gorilla. Kahuzi-Beiga National Park is situated in Eastern DRC near Bukavu town, near the Western Bank of Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border, and covers an area of 6000 square kilometers. At least 10% of the park’s landscape is composed of high mountains that feature extinct Volcanoes. Kahuzi-Beiga derives its name from Mount Kahuzi standing at 3308meters/10853 feet above sea level and Mount Biega at 2790meters/9154 feet above sea level that are found in the Southern Kivu Province in the Eastern side of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This Park stretches from the Congo River Basin near Itebero-Utu to the North-west of Bukavu and is so near to the Rwanda and Burundi borders. It was gazzeted in 1970 by the Congolese solely for the conservation of the World’s only surviving largest Gorilla species.
Kahuzi Biega National Park is among the biggest national parks in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is located in the western part of the Rift Albertine region with 6,000 sq km and bears the special status of World Heritage Site. The Park is named after two extinct volcanoes, Mount Kahuzi (3,308 m) and Mount Biéga (2,790 m). Mount Kahuzi is the highest in this part of Kivu. A vast area of primary tropical forest, the park has a diverse and abundant fauna.
The rain forest extends between 600m and 3308m above sea level, with six different primary vegetation types harboring an extremely rich plant biodiversity with many endemic woody plant species. The natural habitats support the survival of the Eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla graueri), a flagship species of the Congo, and an effective target for much of the current conservation investment in the area. They live at between 2,100 and 2,400 m above sea-level and number only 250.
Apart from the Eastern lowland gorilla, there are other mammal species such as forest elephant, chimpanzee, antelope, genet and serval, bush hog and also a variety of birds, reptiles and amphibians.
Due to the need for the Belgium colonial Administration to conserve the Eastern Lowland Gorillas (scientifically referred as Gorilla beringei graueri), they created the Zoological Reserve of Mount Kahuzi in 1937 covering an area of 750 square kilometers. In 1970, its size was reduced to 600 square kilometers and later named the Kahuzi-Beiga National Park. Five (5) years later (1975), its area was increases to 6000 square kilometers. From the time of extension, the Park comprises of two sectors that include the low altitude and the high altitude sectors and are linked to each other by a narrow ecological Corridor.
Five more years later (in 1980), this magnificent Park was given a serious protection by being designated as a UNESCO world Heritage Site. Much as the Park hold one of the World’s most treasured attractions, it continues to face threats resulting from political and military instabilities, overwhelming refugee influx, timber harvesting, poaching, illegal mining activities among others. However it cannot be ignored that the situation is much improved compared to the past (1990s), all thanks to the park Authority and Institut Congolais Pour La Conservation De La Nature (ICCN) that is presently conducting vigorous monitoring of the Gorillas and the Park itself. For the last 5 years, the park has become famous for Congo gorilla tours, a unique experience that you can enjoy during your safari.
What to See and Do in Kahuzi-Beiga National Park
Besides the green luxuriant Congo Basin Forest, this Park is endowed with a rich biological diversity including 136 mammal species. The Eastern Lowland Gorillas (about 250 individuals) are the prime attractions in this Park. Gorilla trekking started in 1970 making this sub-species of gorillas to be the first to be visited among the other 3 sub-species. Three gorilla groups (including mushamuka and Casimir groups among others) have been habituated for gorilla trekking in this Park. Apart from the Eastern Lowland gorillas that the Park is known for, other mammal species include Forest Elephants, Antelopes, Bosman’s Pottos, Genet, leopards, Colobus monkeys, Serval Cats, Angolan Black Monkeys, Chimpanzee, Bonobo, Red-tailed Monkeys, Bush Hogs, 69 reptile species 44 Amphibian species, over 1178 plant species and over 336 bird species including 30 species that are Albertine endemic. Some of the bird species include Rwenzori Turacco, Grauer’s Warblers, Rockefeller’s Sunbird and Grauer’s Broadbill among others. Apart from the wildlife species, the other attractions found in this Park include Mount Bugulumiza where tourists can climb and be rewarded with a beautiful view of the surrounding areas, Lwiro Falls, Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega much as tourists are not permitted to hike them.
The main tourist activities that are conducted in this Park include gorilla trekking, nature walks/hikes, bird watching, scenery viewing among others.
How to Reach Kahuzi-Biega National Park
Kahuzi-Biega is situated about 30 kilometers/one and a half hours drive from Bukavu town. The Park can be accessed by air and road transport where by tourists can land at Kavumu Airport and Miti Airport, and then follow the straight route until you reach the visitor center. Tourists can connect via Rwanda that take 6-7hours from Kigali to Cyangugu.
In conclusion, besides the mountain gorillas, Democratic Republic of Congo is the only home to the Eastern Lowland Gorillas, which can be seen at the Kahuzi Biega National Park. Besides the Eastern Lowland gorillas, other attractions include Forest Elephants, Antelopes, Bosman’s Pottos, Genet, leopards, Colobus monkeys, Serval Cats, Angolan Black Monkeys, Chimpanzee, Bonobo, and Volcanoes including Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega.