Kahuzi Biega National Park was established in 1970 by a Belgian photographer Adrien Deschryver, the park derives its name from the two dormant volcanoes of Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega which are situated within the park. Kahuzi Biega national park covers an area of 6000 kilometers squared and was designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1980 as a habitat of eastern low land gorillas and forest habitats. The park is home to 136 species of mammals, 349 species of birds and 1,178 plant species, 44 species of Amphibians and 69 species of reptiles.
The park is home to a rare species of eastern low land gorillas that’s on the IUCN red list for the endangered category; the park is characterized by tropical forests, mountains, low land terrain, savannah grasslands, and swamps, western mountains of Great Rift Valley, Luka and Lungulu rivers and valleys.
During the 1990s conflict period, the lowland gorillas at Kahuzi Biega national park numbered 600 but according to a report in 2008 there were only 125 lowland gorillas left in the wild but by 2011 at least the number increased to 181.
Lowland Gorilla Trekking in Kahuzi Biega
Kahuzi Beiga national park gives tourists a great opportunity of spotting a rare species of gorillas known as eastern low land gorillas; you can compare them with mountain gorillas and tell the difference with their short muzzle, large hands and stocky bodies. This species of gorillas can only be found in Congo.
There are two habituated gorilla families in Kahuzi Beiga national park from the ten gorilla families and that is; Mugaruka gorilla family and Chimanuka gorilla family that can be seen below.
Chimanuka gorilla family
Chimanuka is the largest gorilla family with 36 individuals some of which the dominant silverback Chimanuka grabbed from Mugaruka gorilla family. The family has 18 infants, 17 females and Chimanuka the silverback himself. The family also boasts with 4 sets of twins.
Mpungwe gorilla family
This newly habituated gorilla family has got 17 members; the Family is named after the river near where they were first sighted. The dominating silverback is called Mpungwe is known to always charge at people most times though it doesn’t end in attacks.
Mugaruka the solitary male
Mugaruka was a son of a late silverback Mushamuka. When Mushamuka died Mugaruka took over the leadership of the group but he got challenges from Chimanuka silverback that later on confiscated all the family members living Mugaruka a lone silverback. One of the reasons Mugaraku could probably not protect his family from is because he lost his right hand on a snare by poachers in 1997.
Wildlife Viewing & Birding
There are various wildlife species of animals you can spot from the 136 species of mammals such as; forest elephants, giant forest genet, bongo, civets, leopards, Hylocereus, bush buffalos, aquatic genet, bushbucks, eastern needle-clawed galago, Alexander’s bush squirrel, dwarf galago, Mackclaud’s horseshoe bat other primate species include; L’ Hoest monkeys, chimpanzees, red colobus, Angolan black and white colobus and many others.
Kahuzi Biega national park is home to 349 species of birds recorded according to 2003 list, some of the examples of birds in the park include; Ruwenzori turaco, Rockefeller’s Sunbird, Shelley’s crimson wing, Grauer’s broadbill, Grauer’s warbler.
Lwiro sanctuary is located just near the park’s headquarters. It was established in 2002 in order to protect orphaned chimpanzees and monkeys the sanctuary provides education to tourists, locals about conservation of wildlife more so primates. They work together with ICCN to ensure the orphaned primates are protected. Entrance is only $25 for foreigners.
The Idjwi Island located in Lake Kivu is the second largest island in Africa covering 370 kilometers squared and the 70 kilometers long. There are a number of activities you can engage in while on the island like boat rides, fishing, swimming, visit the pineapple plantations and learn how it’s grown, you can also visit the locals and learn about their ways of lives. For bird enthusiasts, you will able to spot some birds as well as a different species of monkeys.
Kauzi Biega national park doesn’t offer accommodation options except camping, tourists can sleep in the nearest town of Bukavu such as; L’Orchids safari club, Coco lodge, Hotel Begonias Bukavu, Lakeside hotel and Exodus hotel among the rest.
When visiting Kauzi Biega national park especially for a gorilla trekking experience, you should pack warm clothing, raincoats, energy snacks, drinking water, insect repellents, hiking boots, sunscreen and so much more. Potters are also available to help carry backpackers at the park’s headquarters.
Kahuzi beiga national park can be reached within 1 and half hours from Bukavu which is the nearest town, 5 to 6 hours from Goma near Virunga national park. The easiest way to get to the park is from Kigali international airport is a 6-7 hours drive to the Congo border and 1 hours drive to the park. The best time to visit Kauzi beiga national park is in the dry season from June to September and December to February.