Kahuzi Biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Kahuzi Biega National Park, the home to Eastern Low-land Gorillas is located in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo. There is north Kivu where you find region of Walikale, South Kivu where you find Kabare, Kalehe, Shabunda and Walunga, and Maniema where you will find Punia. Kahuzi-Biega national park shelters an area of 6000 km², with an elevation extending from 600 to 3308m. Its title originates from two mountains which make its great elevation: Mount Kahuzi (3308m) and Mount Biega (2790m). The Park symbolizes itself by splendid scenery superiority with fauna and flora plus its closeness to Lake Kivu.
Kahuzi Biega is formerly the only preserved region in the world where it is potential for tourists and scientists to witness, with inevitability and tranquility, Grauer’s Gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri) in their ordinary habitation.
Of the 3 existent sub-species of the Eastern Gorilla, the Grauer’s Gorilla is undoubtedly the most impressive. Trekking lowland gorillas in Congo in this park is one of the most passionate and heartrending eco-touristic adventures one could experience on the African continent.
The park was baptized after two mountains of Mt. Kahuzi (3,308m) and Mt. Biega (2, 790m) situated in the South Kivu Region, eastern chunk of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It ranges from the Congo River basin close to Itebero-Utu to the northwest of Bukavu.
Around 1937, for the fortification of the Eastern Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri), the Belgian colonial administration generated the Zoological Standby of Mt. Kahuzi with a n area of 750 sq. km.
In 1970 it was the land surface of the Park was reduced to 600 sq. km and recognized as Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
In 1975 the surface was stretched to 6,000 sq. km. Since this addition, the park is comprised of two segments which is the high and the low altitude that is connected to the narrow ecological strip.
The Kahuzi-Biega National Park was celebrated as a UNESCO World Heritage in 1980. Though, enormous number of Rwandan refugees came to live in and around the Park due to the internal conflict in Rwanda in 1990-1994. Then there were two major wars in the area; the First Congo War (Nov. 1996 – May 1997) and the Second Congo War (Aug. 1998 – July 2003). Subsequently the park has been put on the tilt of World Heritage in Danger since 1997 due to the overwhelming threats and danger caused by the political instability; influx of refugees, illegal settlers, poaching, removal and burning of timber, presence of militia groups.
Currently the situation has much upgraded and the park authority, the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) is working energetically to observe the gorillas and safeguard the park.
How to get there?
The park is situated 40 km west of Bukavu. It takes roughly 1 to 1½ hours to drive from Bukavu to the entry of the park. Take the road going towards Kavumu Airport and go left at the junction in the town of Miti. Keep moving straight until you arrive at the Tschivanga tourist center. The coolest way to get around is by using speed way safaris which is presently offering low land gorilla safaris in Congo.
Beginning from Rwanda while driving on Road it takes 5 to 6 hours from Kigali town to the city of Cyangugu, also baptized Kamembe (station border of Ruzizi I). It is the nearby town to Bukavu, after crossing the two borders; it consumes one and half hour to reach the Park Headquarters and the closest lodgings in the Park.
Beginning from Goma in Congo near Virunga National Park. There is a road linking the two kivu town, it take 5 to 6 hours driving. The surprising landscape and the company of the lac will reward you with outstanding view.
Beginning from Burundi it consumes roughly 3 hours to reach the park, you will have to cross Rwanda border of Ruwa then Ruzizi 1. It’s the straight way to reach the national Park from Burundi.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park can be retrieved by use of Water transport means and the Boats from several operators between Goma and Bukavu and the fastest boat take about 2 hours’ drive on Speed Boat and for a slow boat it takes around 7-8 hours’ drive . Exceptional hires of boats are available at the lake shores but enjoy the public transport boats for safety reasons.
Air travels are obtainable from Rwanda to Kahuzi Biega National Park and they land in Goma and then hire a boat or car hire to take you to the park head quarter for once a life time experience in Congo with experienced Gorilla Safari Company.
Climate and When to Visit
Rain season is April-May and October-January. The monthly average temperature for a year in Bukavu is between 19C and 21C. The temperature in the park would be a bit cooler than in Bukavu. It can be cool in the evening and you need a sweater or jacket.
Lowland Gorilla Trekking in Kahuzi Biega National Park
The Eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri) were the main apes to be visited by tourists in Democratic republic of Congo early in 1970s. By this time the park had two habituated groups of low land gorillas and the habituation process was mainly by the efforts of some few Congolese staff that had an interesting of preserving them and Adrian Deschryver. Those two groups were named as Mushamuka and Casmir.
In the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, two Gorilla groups had been already habituated to human presence through the efforts of Adrian Deschryver and some dedicated Congolese staff. Those habituated gorillas were Casmir and Mushamuka.
The impression on the gorilla tourism was optimistic for the communities around the park because it was creating a lot of different kind of revenues. Tourists bought locally made reminders, local foods, stayed at hotels, repaired shoes local and many more others. Unluckily, Casimir, one of the first habituated groups, breathe last breath around 1974 however by the 1980’s the Park had four habituated Gorilla groups, namely Mushamuka, Maheshe, Ninja and Mubalala. Tracking gorillas was made more renowned after the film “Gorillas in the Mist” which was out in 1988. Tourists came from all over the world and visited not only the mountain gorillas but also the eastern lowland gorillas.
There was a war break up in Congo around mid 1990s, this created insecurity in the country and the park at large, this war caused the death of the above four habituated gorillas and the remaining survivors are still alive and have formed other more groups. however there has been improvement in security therefore tourists come over and over to track these gorillas. Between 2009 and 2000, the park has been receiving many tourists from different countries coming to see and track these gorillas. Around 2011 Gorilla group named as Cimanuka was habituated with its 37 members and Mugaruka with I gorilla.
Gorilla families in Kahuzi Biega National Park.
Kahuzi Biega National Park is always open for tourism and never experienced the political instability which exaggerated in the North Kivu region of Congo (and particularly Virunga). The park offers among the best experiences of gorilla trekking (the low-land gorillas only) and only the bad image of Congo as a whole subsidized to depress tourism to Kahuzi Biega. Though, we boost tourism in Kahuzi Biega because the park is harmless and will always help the conservation of the low-land gorillas.
Around 2013 there were nine gorilla families in the park, of which two gorillas families are open for tourism, Chimanuka that comprised of 37 members, 19 baby gorillas and 17 females together with 1 silverback and Mugaruka that has one gorilla named as Mugaruka. There are two other families that are under habituation that is to say Mpungwe and Mankoto families.
The total projected number of low land gorillas was 140 members in 20011. In 1992 the park was counting 25 gorilla families and a total of 284 gorillas, but later on the instability of the country at the end of the Ninetieth also affected the park; fortunately, the recent years of instability elsewhere in Congo are not affecting again Kahuzi Biega.
In addition to low land gorilla tracking in the Park, the park also offers a lot of other activities since it is a home to 135 other mammal species which include 12 species of primates (amongst them eastern chimpanzees, red colobus, Blue monkey, Red Tailed monkey, L’Hoest monkey, Owl-faced monkey, Angolan black and white colobus, baboons, grey-cheeked mangabey), forest elephants, leopards, civets, gennets, otters and many antelope and duikers. Thirty of the 336 species birds found in the park are endemic to the Albertine Rift, such as the Rockefeller’s sunbird, Ruwenzori Turaco, Grauer’s broadbill, Grauer’s warbler and Shelley’s crimson wing. There are further 69 species of reptiles and 44 species of amphibians.
Other Park attractions apart from Lowland Gorillas
The Kahuzi-Biega National Park shelters other magnetism alongside the gorillas. Tourist can also visit the Lwiro falls or walk to Mt. Bugulumiza to outlook the attractive scenery around and within the park. Unluckily, the hiking on both mountains, Mt. Kahuzi (3308m) and Mt. Biega (2709m) is not yet allowed by the park authority.