Undoubtedly, just like all other African countries, Democratic Republic of the Congo is gifted with varsity wildlife, indigenous cultures and geological phenomena that can seldom be found else where in Africa and world over.
Safaris in Congo take tourists to encounter both the eastern lowland and mountain gorillas in their natural homes, including a cultural tour to mix and mingle with the pre-historic forest pygmies, known to have lived in East and central jungles for over 5000 years and are still practicing their traditional lifestyle. Meet the other 2 rare species of primates – bonobos and okapi, which are found nowhere else on earth as well as summiting various volcanoes in this region.
More often though, most Congo safaris head to the eastern – North Kivu region, a province which is highly blessed with both eastern and mountain gorilla species, which inhabit the jungle forests on either sides of River Congo. In-spite of frequent civil conflicts in the Eastern region of D.R. Congo, the country and specifically this region offers more than the mountain gorillas. Having visited Virunga national park, Nyiragongo Mountain and maybe Idjwi Island, it is time you included Kahuzi Biega national park on your travel bucket list.
Kahuzi Biega National park is Africa’s hidden gem that has not been fully explored yet it offers unusual adventures all in peaceful environment. The park which was gazetted in 1970, and later listed as a UNESCO world heritage site covers a total area of 6000 Sq.Km all encompassed by expansive wetlands, marsh, and tropical rain forests which visitors can fully enjoy during their tour within this adorable gem.
Kahuzi Biega national park offers a unique and wide range of activities and experiences to all lucky travelers who find their way there;
Lowland gorilla trekking
Not just your usual mountain gorillas, this park presents a principal chance to track the eastern lowland gorillas known to be the largest group of the sub-species of gorillas. Just like the mountain gorillas, lowland gorillas feature a jet black coat that turns into silver after maturity but differentiated by their huge hands, large and shorter bodies, short muzzle and shorter hair on their head.
Kahuzi Biega national park is the only destination with the biggest number of eastern lowland gorillas amounting to over 400 species divided in 9 families, all habituated though only one group is currently open for trekking. Trekking the lowland gorillas is an experience like no other, walking through the tropical forests covered with muddy grounds in search of the forest giants, having to pave your way out and avoid the thorny plants can never fail to thrill any trekker.
And finally when the gorilla family is spotted, it becomes a magical moment. It’s simply the greatest reward of all the hustles and bustles encountered in search of the forest giants. The one hour spent with them makes every step made in the trek worth it.
A gorilla permit in Kahuzi Biega national park costs 400 US dollars per person, a price so much cheaper compared to Uganda’s 600 USD gorilla permit and 1500 USD gorilla permit for Rwanda. Trekking starts in the morning with a pre-trek briefing at the park headquarters. The entire trekking experience may take between 1 and 8 hours depending on the luck, speed and the location of a particular gorilla family.
All in all, the time taken to trek lowland gorillas is highly unpredictable. All you need to carry after getting the gorilla permit is a smile, expectations, rain jacket, drinking water, camera, snacks, long trousers and hiking shoes and you are good to go.
Travelers in Kahuzi Biega national park have endless chances of spotting unique bird species. Some 347 bird species call this park home. These include, among others those on the IUCN Red list such as the Yellow-crested Helmet-Shrike, Congo Peafowl, African Green Broadbill and the Rockefeller’s Sunbird.
Hiking Mount Kahuzi
Visitors can hike up to the top of Mountain Kahuzi, located on the eastern fringes of the park, where it derives its name. At the height of 3,317m above sea level Kahuzi stands as the highest mountain in the Mitumba ranges which stretch along the shores of Lake Kivu and Albertine rift in D.R. Congo.
Hiking Mount Kahuzi exposes visitors to a profusion of unique faunal species and rare vegetation types, including wet lowland rainforest, transitional rainforest and Afromontane vegetation.
The neighborhood of Kahuzi-Biega national park contains numerous local communities that are all worth visiting, and also a town city in Bukavu exposes one to the more peaceful part of D.R. Congo. Or take a tour (weather dependent) to the remote waterfalls located outside the park.
The nearby town of Bukavu presents an array of opulent accommodation facilities ranging from shoestring budget to 5 star hotels all waiting to offer you safe and comfy stays ahead of your lowland gorilla trek in Kahuzi Biega national park.
Kahuzi Biega national park is located 20 km west of Bukavu town – the border town near Rwanda – Congo Boundary. The park can easily be accessed through Kigali airport in Rwanda and it is approximately a 6-7 hours’ drive to reach Bukavu town on a well tarmacked road, crossing via Cyangugu boarder.
Kahuzi-Biega national park can never fail any traveler at any time of the year, just book your trip to Congo’s Kahuzi Biega national park for lifelong memories.