Kahuzi Biega National Park, established in 1970 by Belgian photographer Adrien Deschryver, is named after Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega, two dormant volcanoes within the park.
Covering 6,000 square kilometers, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 due to its eastern lowland gorillas and forest habitats. The park boasts 136 mammal species, 349 bird species, 1,178 plant species, 44 amphibian species, and 69 reptile species.
The park is home to a rare species of eastern lowland gorillas that are on the IUCN red list for the endangered category. The park is characterized by tropical forests, mountains, lowland terrain, savannah grasslands, swamps, and the western mountains of the Great Rift Valley, Luka, and Lungulu rivers, and valleys.
During the 1990s conflict period, the lowland gorillas at Kahuzi Biega National Park numbered 600. However, according to a report in 2008, there were only 125 lowland gorillas left in the wild. By 2011, the number had increased to at least 181.
Lowland Gorilla Trekking in Kahuzi Biega
Kahuzi Beiga National Park offers tourists a great opportunity to spot a rare species of gorillas known as eastern lowland 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 out of the ten gorilla families: the Mugaruka gorilla family and the Chimanuka gorilla family.
These are the Congo gorilla trekking families that you will visit here.
- Chimanuka Gorilla Family. Chimanuka is the largest gorilla family with 36 individuals, including the dominant silverback Chimanuka, who grabbed some members from the Mugaruka gorilla family. The family comprises 18 infants, 17 females, and Chimanuka the silverback himself. The family also boasts 4 sets of twins.
- Mpungwe Gorilla Family. This newly habituated gorilla family has 17 members. The family is named after the river near where they were first sighted. The dominating silverback is called Mpungwe, who is known to charge at people, though it doesn’t usually 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. However, he faced challenges from Chimanuka silverback, who later confiscated all the family members, leaving Mugaruka a lone silverback. One of the reasons Mugaraku could probably not protect his family is that he lost his right hand in a snare set by poachers in 1997.
Wildlife Viewing & Birding
There are various wildlife species in the park, including 136 species of mammals such as forest elephants, giant forest genets, bongos, civets, leopards, Hylocereus, bush buffalos, aquatic genets, bushbucks, eastern needle-clawed galagos, Alexander’s bush squirrels, dwarf galagos, and Mackclaud’s horseshoe bats. 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 a 2003 list. Some examples of birds in the park include Ruwenzori turaco, Rockefeller’s Sunbird, Shelley’s crimson wing, Grauer’s broadbill, and Grauer’s warbler.
Lwiro Sanctuary is located near the park’s headquarters. It was established in 2002 to protect orphaned chimpanzees and monkeys. The sanctuary provides education to tourists and locals about the conservation of wildlife, especially primates. They work together with ICCN to ensure the orphaned primates are protected. Entrance is only $25 for foreigners.
Idjwi Island, located in Lake Kivu, is the second-largest island in Africa, covering 370 square kilometers and measuring 70 kilometers in length. There are various activities you can engage in while on the island, such as boat rides, fishing, swimming, visiting pineapple plantations, and learning how pineapples are grown.
You can also visit the locals and learn about their way of life. For bird enthusiasts, you will be able to spot some birds, as well as different species of monkeys.
Kauzi Biega National Park doesn’t offer accommodation options except camping. Tourists can sleep in the nearest town of Bukavu, where options include L’Orchids Safari Club, Coco Lodge, Hotel Begonias Bukavu, Lakeside Hotel, and Exodus Hotel, among others.
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 more. Porters are also available to help carry backpackers at the park’s headquarters.
Kahuzi Beiga National Park can be reached within 1 and a half hours from Bukavu, the nearest town, or 5 to 6 hours from Goma, near Virunga National Park.
The easiest way to get to the park is from Kigali International Airport, which is a 6-7 hour drive to the Congo border and a 1-hour drive to the park.
The best time to visit Kauzi Beiga National Park is during the dry season from June to September and from December to February.
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