Kahuzi Biega National Park
Kahuzi Biega national park is located near Bukavu town in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Kahuzi Biega national park is situated near the western bank of Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border. The park was put up for conservation in 1970 by the Belgian photographer and conservationist Adrien Deschryver. The park is named after two dormant volcanoes; Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega, which are within the park boundary.
Kahuzi Biega national park is one of the biggest national parks in the country; it covers an area of 6000 square kilometres. The parks topography ranges in both mountainous and lowland terrain. It is home to endangered species of eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri). The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed in 1980 for its unique biodiversity of rainforest habitat and its eastern lowland gorillas.
The has a rich diversity of flora and fauna, it is home to 136 mammal species, 349 bird species and 1178 plant species.
Of the 136 species of mammals living in the park, the eastern lowland gorilla is the most prominent. According to a 2008 status report of the DR of Congo, the park had 125 lowland gorillas, a marked reduction from the figure of 600 gorillas of the pre-1990’s conflict period, and consequently the species has been listed in the endangered list.] According to the census survey of eastern lowland gorillas reported by the Wildlife Conservation Society in April 2011, at least 181 gorillas were recorded in the park.
Other primates living in the park include the eastern chimpanzee, and several Cercopithecinae, Colobinae and owl-faced monkey. Some of the mammals include; the 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 among many more.
The park’s swamps, bogs, marshland and riparian forests on hydromorphic ground at all altitudes are rare worldwide. The western lowland sector of the park is dominated by dense Guinea-Congolian wet equatorial rainforest, with an area of transition forest between 1,200 metres and 1,500 metres.
The eastern mountainous sector includes continuous forest vegetation from 600 metres to over 2,600 metres, and is one of the rare sites in Sub-Saharan Africa which demonstrates all stages of the low to highland transition, including six distinguishable primary vegetation types: swamp and peat bog, swamp forest, high-altitude rainforest, mountain rainforest, bamboo forest and subalpine heather.
Mountain and swamp forest grow between 2,000 metres and 2,400 metres, the bamboo forest grows between 2,350 metres and 2,600 metres, and the summits of Mounts Kahuzi and Biéga above 2,600 metres have subalpine heather, dry savannah, and grasslands, as well as the endemic plant Senecio kahuzicus.
THINGS TO DO
Eastern lowland Gorilla trekking
Kahuzi biega national park is the only place in the world where eastern lowland gorillas live. The national park has become a top attraction for lowland gorilla tours in Africa. There are 2 habituated gorilla families in the park and are open for trekking by tourists.
Gorilla trekking is the major activity done around the park and starts at 8 am. Trekkers are expected to be at the park headquarters at 7 am where they are briefed by the park ranger guide about the activity and dos and don’ts whilst trekking.
The activity involves hiking in the tropical rainforest following different trails depending on where the family slept last night. Hiking time can range from 30 minutes to 6 hours in the jungle but an hour strictly is spent interacting with the gorilla after reaching them. You will be allowed to take photos and videos of the gorillas as you watch them go by their daily activities.
From the trekking experience, you will learn about how gorillas play different roles in their respective families, silverback as fathers defending and planning for the entire family, adult females nursing the babies whereas the juveniles playing and entertaining the whole family. As you trek the gorillas you will also expect to spot some other primates that live in the park-like monkeys as well as different bird species. Some spots in the park offer beautiful views of the park’s landscape that is nice to look at. An hour with the gorillas is a memory you will live with for your entire life.
The park is home to 2 inactive volcanic mountains; mount Kahuzi and mount Biega from which the park derives its name. Tourism in Kahuzi biega national park does not only entail it does not stop at gorillas but also hiking the volcanoes.
Mount Kahuzi is the highest standing at a height of 3,308meters above sea level and Mount Biega at 2790 meters. The hike to any of these volcanoes is a daily activity which takes around 5-7 hours depending on the speed and fitness level of the hiker. The top of the mountain meets you with beautiful views of the park’s relief, the highlands and valleys that are covered with green vegetation, the neighbouring communities and water bodies.
As you trek to the top, you will pass through the different vegetation on the mountain: tropical forests, bamboo and subalpine vegetation. These cover these volcanoes, harbour a variety of animals such as owl-faced monkeys and a variety of birds and trekkers will expect to spot some of them.
Kahuzi biega national park is a habitat to about 342 species of birds of which 42 species are endemic to the park. With this great number, the park is a great paradise for birders. The national park is one of the threatened sites put under the protection of the international union conservation area (IUCN).
Some of the bird species that live in the park include African green broadbill, yellow-crested helmet-shrike, Congo peafowl and Rockefeller’s and many others.
There are various trails in the tropical forest that tourists follow as they learn about the park that leads to different tourist attractions. These trails lead to different sites such as the Tshibati waterfalls trails to three waterfalls in the national park.
Tourists are always in the company of a ranger guide, who leads the way and helps in spotting different vegetation and wildlife in the park. You will hear sweet sounds of birds singing in trees and fresh air. By the time you leave the forest, you will have clear minds and more knowledge about wildlife in the national park and an unforgettable experience.