Though less known, Kahuzi-Biega National Park offers its visitors unforgettable gorilla trekking experiences. Also known as Pac National des Kahuzi-Biega, it is situated in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Bukavu region, south of lake Kivu marked with spectacular undisputable experiences found only here. Its terrain is largely lowland that slopes gently towards Lake Kivu, mitumba and volcanic mountain ranges being the main natural standout features.
Kahuzi National Park comprises two main extinct volcanoes namely Mount Biega and Kahuzi, from which its name was coined.
The Mitumba ranges run along the Albertine rift, south of Rwanda, northwards the Rwenzori Mountains west of Uganda. Whereas Mount Kahuzi is the premier of all the volcanic mountains in the Mitumba range, Mt Biega is an extinct volcano in the same Mitumba Mountain ranges. These Mountain ranges lie west of Bukavu town, close to Lake Kivu that forms borderline with Rwanda.
Mountain Biega was gazetted as a forest reserve in 1937 then later transformed and merged with Kahuzi into the current national park status in 1970s. With its 6,000km2 geographic surface area coverage, the park is considered amongst the large single wildlife protected areas on the African continent.
With its rich diversity of unique land features and wildlife, kahuzi Biega national park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in1980 due to both its cultural and historical importance. The park inhabits approximately 1,178 plants, 349 bird species and 139 mammals.
Attractions and activities
Eastern lowland gorillas are a key attraction in Kahuzi Biega national park, these apes are at times called Gorilla beringei graueri, they are the biggest of all gorilla species. Since 1990, the population of eastern lowland gorillas had radically decreased highly due to human activities.
Other than lowland gorillas, Kahuzi-Biega national park has a range of other wild animals dwelling within its vicinity that visitors can spot namely; African Forest Elephants, Baboons, Monkeys, Buffaloes, bush babies, forest hogs, and Antelopes, etc.
Interestingly, African forest elephants are estimated to contribute to a third of total elephant population in the world, but due to the poaching threats for their ivory and bushmeat, the population has reduced, yet no much study has been carried out on because of their habitat being thick and dense forests.
Tourists in Kahuzi-Biega National Park can engage in a wide array of activities including gorilla trekking which gives you a chance to encounter endangered Eastern lowland gorillas, Hiking the Mitumba Mountain ranges and their steep volcanic mountains, Bird watching tours which expose visitors to over 349 bird species such as the Congo peas fowl, crested helmet-shrike and others, Nature walks, camping experiences and community tours to mention but a few.
Accessing Kahuzi-Biega national Park
Whether you come from Rwanda, Uganda or Burundi, accessing Kahuzi-Biega national Park is possible; you can go through Bukavu town, an average of 30km distance from the border post to the park headquarters. The Park is approximately 230 kilometers by road; 4-5 hours’ drive from Kigali airport.
Another option is using a flight; travelers can book chattered flights that will land at Kavuma airstrip in case of limited time or luxurious treat.
When to visit
The park is open to visitors all year round though it has got mainly three seasons; from June to September. During this time, gorillas tend to move long distances in search for what to eat. While April to May, they don’t have to trek distances since they have what to eat nearby and in October to November, their main food is the baboon shoots.
Kahuzi national park ensures Safety and security to all travelers and their properties. Although there are rumors of the past civil wars and insurgencies in the area, this is history now, a lot of efforts have been put to ensure maximum security for all visitors.
There are no lodges inside Kahuzi national park, but rather, one can get a very comfortable lodge that offers quality accommodation facilities in the nearest town of Bukavu, these include luxury, mid-range and budget lodges, campsites, and guest houses. All the accommodation facilities offer first-hand services at very affordable prices.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park will offer you a very lucrative lifetime opportunity to interact with the various flora and fauna species in the park. Don’t miss an encounter with the rare lowland gorillas, unique birds, mountain hiking experience and a variety of most of the African animal species.