Kahuzi Biega National Park is one of the ecologically richest regions in Africa located in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the south Kivu province near Bukavu town. The park lieing at an elevation range of 700 meters – 3300 meters is famous for hosting a large population of eastern lowland gorillas which are endemic only to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kahuzi Biega national park lieing in the western arm of the Albertine rift valley and covers an area of 6000 square kilometers with 10% of the area made up of extinct volcanoes of mount Kahuzi and mount Biega, the park derives its name from these two volcanoes. The ecological system is located 30 kilometers from Bukavu town which is a 1 hour and 30 minutes’ drive.
A small portion of the park is found in Mitumba Mountain range of the Albertine Rift in the Great Rift Valley, there is a corridor of 7.4 kilometers width which joins the eastern mountainous terrain of 600 kilometers to lowland terrain of 5,400 kilometers. The lowland section of the park stretches from Bukavu to Kisangani which is crossed by Luka and Lugulu Rivers which flow into Lualaba River.
Kahuzi Biega National Park is one of the rare sites in sub-Saharan Africa were flora and fauna is observed transiting from low- highlands, the presence of extremely fertile soils on the volcanoes the park supports the existence of various vegetation covers such as rainforests, woodlands, grasslands, dry savannas, swamp and wetland vegetation, open woodland which transform into bamboo and alpine vegetation on the high altitudes of the volcanoes. The vegetation in the park is observed to vary according to the altitude, at 600 meters – 2600 meters the park is covered with dense low and middle altitude rainforest, sub mountainous forests and bamboo forests and extending 2600 meters the slopes of mount Kahuzi and Biega are covered by sup alpines vegetation with a mixture of heather. Kahuzi- Biega national park also consists of riparian forests, swamp and bog, and marshland, the park protects
Kahuzi Biega national park one of the biggest national parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a prominent home to the exceptional rainforest and lowland gorillas harboring over 400 individuals in the afro montane and bamboo forests. Other than the gorillas Kahuzi Biega national park harbors approximately 135 mammal species including 13 species of primates such as eastern chimpanzee, Cercopithecinae, Colobinae, and owl-faced monkey, other mammals include bush elephant, bush buffalo, Hylocereus and bongo, Aquatic civet, eastern needle-clawed galago, Maclaud’s horseshoe bat, Ruwenzori least otter shrew, and Alexander’s bush squirrel. Some of these animals such as African forest elephant, Albertine owlet, eastern chimpanzee, mount Kahuzi climbing mouse, and Maclaud’s horseshoe bat are listed among threatened animals by IUCN Red List.
Kahuzi Biega national park is an important birding site located in the endemism zone hosting approximately 349 bird species with 42 of them endemic only to Kahuzi Biega national park such as the Rockefeller’s sunbird, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, Ruwenzori turaco, and Grauer’s broad bill. Other birds include trogons, shoebills, herons, great white pelican, pink-backed pelican and many more.
Kahuzi Biega national park governed by l’Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) was first established as a zoological and forest reserve of mount Kahuzi in 1937 during the regime of Belgian colonialists by the then governor-general. In 1976 the reserve was extended to cover 6000 square kilometers. Because the ecological diversity includes eastern low land gorillas and unique rain forest protected by the park, the park was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1980.
Attractions in Kahuzi Biega National Park
Major attractions in Kahuzi Biega national park include:
Eastern low land mountain gorillas: Eastern low land mountain gorillas are unique big primates only found in the lowland and Albertine rift montane forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. These gorillas are the largest among gorilla species and differ from other gorillas by their stocky body, large hands, and short muzzle. Kahuzi Biega national park hosts over 400 individuals which offer mountain gorilla trekking safari in this park to the tourists. To participate in gorilla trekking as a tourist you need a gorilla trekking permit which costs USD 400 per permit.
Mount Kahuzi: The magnificent scenic view of Mount Kahuzi in the park is to die for while on a safari in the park, mount Kahuzi is an extinct volcano standing at an altitude of 10,850 feet with Mitumba range as the highest peak at 10,883 ft. mount Kahuzi a great hiking spot as it hosts a variety of beautiful vegetation types on its slopes, as you hike on the slopes of this mount many animals and birds are spotted.
Mount Biega: Mount Biega is found in the south region of kivu province, this magnificent extinct volcano stands at an elevation of 2790 meters above the sea level. The slopes of this volcano are home to unique eastern lowland mountain gorillas, primates and birds in the dense rain forests.
Distinct vegetation: Kahuzi Biega national park is made up of very unique and distinct vegetation cover made up of subalpine heather, grasslands, dry savannah grasslands, marshes, swamps and bogs which are good for nature walks. Thick forests on the slopes of mount Biega and mount Kahuzi are home for eastern lowland gorillas and other primates like chimpanzees, baboons, black and white colobus monkey, blue monkeys and the grey-cheeked mangabey monkey.
Activities done in Kahuzi Biega National Park
Kahuzi Biega national park offers captivating Safari activities which include.
Gorilla trekking: Gorilla trekking in the park takes place on the slopes of mount Kahuzi and mount Biega in the thick forests, eastern low land mountain gorillas in this park live groups of 20 to 30 individuals which are headed by a dominant silverback. Gorilla trekking in Kahuzi Biega national park involves tracking eastern low land mountain gorillas in the forests where they are seen playing on tree branches, building nests and to involve in the trekking to purchase a trekking permit which costs USD 400.
Hiking: Hiking in Kahuzi Biega national is an exciting Congo safari tour activity to engage in which takes place on the slopes of mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega. Hiking in this park guarantees scenic viewing of the mountains as you proceed to the top of the summits of these extinct volcanoes. Hiking involves encountering animals like Mount Kahuzi climbing mouse, the bongo antelope, Eastern chimpanzee, bush elephant, bush buffaloes, and the beautiful vegetation.
Bird watching: Kahuzi Biega national park is home to a variety of birds and a perfect destination for birding, birds in the park are spotted in open grassland, woodland, open water, wetland vegetation .birds such as yellow-crested helmet-shrike, Rockefellers, Ruwenzori Turacos, sunbirds, and trogons are seen in the park.
Nature walks: Nature walks in the park is one of the ways you get to appreciate the beautiful scenic nature of the park, they involve using the foot to navigate through the wilderness of the park. On nature walks you get to spot a verity of wildlife including animals like bongo antelope, eastern chimpanzee, bush elephant, antelopes and birds like Congo peas fowl, yellow-crested helmet- shrike and trogons.
Community tours: Community tours in Kahuzi-Biega national park takes place in the local communities living on the outskirts of the park, on these tours you get to interact with indigenous communities who take you through their ethnic differences, customs, rituals, and way of life. A tourist gets a golden chance of participating in tradition songs dance and storytelling
The Park can be accessed either by road or by air, by road the park is a 3—4 hours’ drive of 230 kilometers from the Rwanda-democratic border. By air, you can choose to use to get a chartered airplane to kavumu airstrips.
While on a safari in Kahuzi Biega national park accommodation can be got from orchid’s safari club hotel restaurant, Aero-hotel/ kavumu, kavumu center, coco lodge and many more.