Kahuzi - Biega National Park was upgraded to national park status in 1970 to safeguard endangered wildlife species and especially the eastern lowland gorillas, Africa's top safari attraction. It is a pristine, wonderful vacation destination, located in the eastern region of Democratic Republic of Congo, in the central region of Africa, near Bukavu city on the southern shores of Lake Kivu, bordering Rwanda. Mount. Kahuzi and Biega, two dormant volcanic mountains in the area were combined to cointhis park’shistoric name. It covers about 6,000 square kilometers, making it one of the country's largest national park.
Its unique biodiversity was identified in 1980, when it was included to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In 1997, the area was added to the World Heritage sites in risk due to rapid wildlife exploitation and extinction, refugee influx and conflicts in the region, but it has since regained its animal population. It is one of the most popular safari destinations. Congo and East Africa, with a big population of eastern lowland gorillas, over 140 animal species and a diverse bird population.
The Congolese government, in collaboration with the Congolese Institute of Conservation of Nature manage the park. The park is less busy, but it is lush and diverse in its vegetation. It is well-protected, with pleasant weather all year and mountain backdrops.
One of the park's principal activities is tracking the eastern lowland gorillas. These apes are a popular safari attraction since they are a unique species seen only in a few other places worldwide. The eastern lowland gorillas differ from the rest of mountain gorillas in that they are smaller and have a shorter range. They spend majority of their time on the ground, however they roam around and build nests during the night.
After a briefing session by the ranger guides, who explain the trekking dos and don'ts and assign members to various gorilla families, the tracking exercise takes place in the morning hours. The time it takes to find these species varies depending on how far they've gone and your tracking speed, but it is anticipated to take between 2 and 6 hours, plus an hour for photos.
What to keep in mind is; the briefing session is compulsory where different rules and guidelines are outlined;these include no littering in the park, keeping distance from apes, no making noise, proper waste disposal, using flash-less cameras for photos and staying calm regardless of how frightening the silverbacks can be sometimes.
To track these lowland eastern gorillas, one must possess a valid gorilla trekking permit, obtained from responsible conservation authorities. This document costs only $400 for foreign non-resident, aged 15 years and above. The money is used to fund various conservation efforts, park entrance, facilitation for the ranger guides and contribution to local communities staying around the park. Permits are for one-time use, non-refundable and only valid for one person per day. You can book a permit either through a trusted tour operator or from the park headquarters. Permits must be booked for at least three months in advancebecause of the high demand.
Need to stretch your legs and draw closer to Mother Nature? walking through the designated routes is the way to go. Visitors explore the trails, watching the plants, animals, and the magnificent Tshibati waterfalls. On a lucky day, this activity gives a chance of encountering primates such as the baboons and chimpanzees, monkeys and the bamboo flora.
This is where orphaned and vulnerable chimpanzees are rehabilitated and given a home. Primate experts nurture them in a cage, so they can be healthy and grow happily. Visitors to the place engage in activities like chimpanzee feeding and training, to ensure they are all safe.
With about 450 bird species, andapproximately 24 of theseunique to the Albertine region, a birding experience at Kahuzi-Biega national park is worthwhile. This experience ispreferably done in the morning and evening when manybirds can be seen easily, either within the thick wetland or any other water shoreline. Notable species include; the African broadbill, Shelley's crimson wing, Congo peafowl, Rockefellers and yellow-crested helmet shrike, Grauer's warbler and many more.
This can be done at Lake Kivu, right next to the park. Lake Kivu is the largest lake in Rwanda and is marked by sweeping flora, lush vegetation and cool lake breeze. The boat trips here are enjoyable and safe and charge about $50 per person.
The park is open all year round and the activities are offered on all days of the week. June to September and December to February mark the dry months and are the best for gorilla trekking, hiking, nature walks and cultural tours. March to May and November are relatively wet, but the best seasons for birdwatching, becausemigratory birds are so common during these months.
Heading for gorilla trekking or any other activity in Kahuzi-Biega National Park?Here is a quick guide to know some items of great importance needed on thistrip;-
A waterproof hiking boot, Binoculars to watch distant animals, a camera for photography, insect repellents for the mosquitoes, a waterproof jacket, hat, long-sleeved shirts, trousers and hand gloves to protect your hands against scratches and thorny shrubs. Yellow fever certificate, Covid 19 negative PCR test, long stockings, and so many others; include some of the required documents in addition to gorilla trekking permit, Visa and passport for identification.
As you visit the park, it is advisable to spend a night in one of the accommodation facilities in Bukavu city. These range from Budget, midrange to luxury, designed to suit every traveler's interests and lifestyle. Majority of lodging facilities are eco-friendly, with quality beddings, amenities and services. Surrounding the park are also some basic lodging facilities from which a day and night can be spent uninterrupted. Some notable facilities include the coco lodge Bukavu, Exodus Bukavu, Lakeside hotel Bukavu, Horizon Hotel and the Orchids safari club.
Therefore, a visit to Kahuzi - Biega national park offers a whole world of wonder and special diversity. It is the only place to meet endangered Eastern lowland Gorillas, the relatives ofendangered mountain gorillas. Book your visit, and get to encounter these magical gorillas, in addition to birds and other attractions in and around the park.