DR Congo

Kahuzi Biega National park

Play Video about Gorilla Trekking Vs Gorilla Habituation

Kahuzi Biega National Park lies on the western bank of Lake Kivu, about an hour drive from Bukavu town in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Created by Adrien Deschryver, a Belgian conservationist and photographer during the year 1970, this park gets its name from the two dormant volcanoes within the park. The two volcanoes are Mount Kahuzi, which stands at 3,308 meters high, and Mount Biega, which stands at 2,790 meters high. This national park is one of the biggest in Congo, with a surface area of 6,000 square kilometers.

Due to the unique biodiversity of the rain forest habitat and its home to lowland gorillas – known as Gorilla beringei graueri and considered highly endangered – Kahuzi Biega National Park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. Approximately one-third of the park is mountainous, while the other third is lowland.

Kahuzi Beiga National park

Known as one of the most ecologically diverse areas in Africa and the world at large, Kahuzi-Biega National Park is one of the most important sites in the Albertine Rift Valley. The transition from low-land to high-land vegetation zones is clearly visible in this area. There are six distinct types of primary vegetation in this area, including swamp and peat bogs, swamp forests, high-altitude rainforests, mountain rainforests, bamboo forests, subalpine heather, and Senecio kahuzicus, which grows on the summits of Mount Kahuzi and Biega at 2,600 meters.

The Parks Mountains, forest floors, marshlands, and vast swamps are home to 137 mammal and 350 bird species. It is the Eastern lowland gorilla that is most sought after in the park. There are two sectors of Kahuzi Biega National Park where lowland gorillas live: the highlands and the lowlands. There have been about 170 recorded individuals in the highlands. Because rebels/militias still roam the lowland areas of the park, it has been difficult to estimate the number of individuals gorillas in this specific area.

There are also Angolan Black Monkeys, blue monkeys, Bosman’s Potto, chimpanzees, Dent’s Mona, red-tailed monkeys, and owl-faced monkeys in the park. In addition to bongos, forest hogs, bush buffalo, bush elephants, eastern needle-clawed galagos, hylocheres, and Maclaud’s horseshoe bats, the park has several species of antelope. Among the mammals endemic to the area are Alexander’s bush squirrels, Aquatic civets, eastern needle-clawed galagos, giant gennets, Maclaud’s horseshoe bats, Ruwenzori least otter shrews, Thomas’ tree squirrels, and the mount kahuzi climbing mice. There are several endemic bird species to be found here, including Grauer’s broadbill, Grauer’s warbler, Rockefeller’s sunbird, and Shelley’s crimsonwing.

History of Kahuzi Biega National Park

Kahuzi Beiga National park

In the 1970s, a chief from the Bakanga clan of Batwa who lived in forests near Mount Kahuzi helped establish a boundary with surveyor’s chains. As he agreed, he did not know he was being forced to participate in the process of sealing his own fate with his own participation. Upon realizing what was happening, some time had passed by by the time he understood what was going on: His community. He had been excluded from the forest they had lived in and protected for thousands of years.

It was believed that people and nature were incompatible, so the last century of conservation was devoted to preventing local communities from accessing their lands. This paradigm has been referred to as ‘fortress conservation’, ‘coercive conservation’, ‘militarized conservation’ or ‘colonial conservation’ today. Despite an admirable commitment to protecting nature and biodiversity, this mindset often led to the establishment and management of protected areas being imposed by outsiders at gunpoint.

Activities to do in Kahuzi Biega National Park

Eastern Lowland gorilla trekking

Eastern lowland gorilla trekking is famous in Kahuzi Biega national park in Congo. The Eastern lowland gorilla is distinguished from all other gorilla types by their thick bodies, large hands and short muzzles. It mainly feeds on fruits and other herbaceous materials. In Kahuzi Biega national park, two eastern lowland gorilla families have been habituated for gorilla trekking tourism. Other gorilla families are wild and can harm humans since they are not used to human presence at all; therefore, you will not be tracking these. 

Gorilla trekking in Congo‘s Kahuzi Biega National Park involves following different trails depending on where they slept the night before. Gorilla trekking lasts about 30 minutes to 5 hours, and once the gorillas have been located, you will be able to spend an hour with them.

Lowland Gorilla Trekking in Kahuzi Biega National Park
Kahuzi Beiga National park

Mount Kahuzi & Biega Hiking

In addition to trekking with the eastern lowland gorillas, you can also take in the Park’s breathtaking views from the peaks of Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega. These peaks are located in the heart of the Park. With Mount Kahuzi standing at an elevation of 3308 meters above sea level and Mount Biega at 2790m, these mountains offer magnificent views of the Park’s wildlife, neighbouring communities and neighbouring countries, not forgetting the bamboo and subalpine vegetation that harbour a variety of animals, making it possible to see owl faced monkeys and birds.

Bird watching in Kahuzi Biega

There are 349 bird species in Kahuzi Biega National Park, making it a great place for bird watching. Birdwatchers will find high chances of spotting birds living in forests, open grasslands, woodlands, highlands and open water, as well as swamps and wetlands. Some of the bird species are endemic to the rift valley region, making it a great place to spot unique bird species. Here you will see Congo peafowl, Yellow crested helmet-shrike, Rockefellers, Ruwenzori Turacos, sunbirds, and trogons.

Kahuzi Beiga National park

Visiting the Lwiro Conservation Centre

Located near Kahuzi-Biega National Park (KBNP), the world’s third most significant site for conserving the Eastern Chimpanzee, Lwiro is an ideal site for chimpanzee rehabilitation, conservation education, and outreach. There are 13 species of monkeys and chimpanzees at Lwiro, along with parrots, turtles, and a porcupine. They’re all victims of poaching and the pet trade.

What to pack for your tour to Kahuzi Biega

  • A couple of long-sleeved shirts
  • A few short-sleeved t-shirts
  • Lightweight trousers/slacks (if trekking) that dry quickly
  • Shorts
  • Sweatshirt or sweater
  • Jacket that is waterproof and windproof
  • For gorilla trekking, gloves should be gardening gloves or similar.
  • It is recommended to tuck pants into socks and boots while trekking. Sports shoes can also be appropriate.
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Insect repellent
  • Small day pack
  • Flashlight
  • Binoculars
  • Extra batteries
  • Camera and extra lenses to shoot fast moving gorillas and wildlife
  • Personal toiletries
  • Medicines
  • First aid kit
Gorilla Trekking Altitude Acclimatization and Elevation

Best time to Visit Kahuzi Biega National Park

Kahuzi Biega is best visited during the dry season, between May and September. July and June are the driest months. It is also during these months that the temperature drops slightly. January and February have shorter dry periods. You don’t need to worry about avoiding ‘peak tourist season’ in DRC; the crowds have not yet arrived.

Lowland Gorilla Trekking in Kahuzi Biega National Park

Interesting Facts about Kahuzi Biega National Park

  1. Lowland gorillas can be found in only two parks in the world, including Kahuzi Biega.
  2. Adrien Deschryver, a Belgian photographer and conservationist who established this park in 1970, also habituated the gorillas during his stay here.
  3. The park got its name from the two dormant Mount kahuzi (3,308m) and Mount Biega (2,790 m)
  4. In 1980, Kahuzi Biega was listed as a World Heritage Site because it is home to about 2000 of the world’s remaining lowland gorillas.
  5. The park is not only home to lowland gorillas, but also forest elephants and a variety of birds.
trek avec les gorilles en Ouganda

How to get to Kahuzi Biega National Park

Kahuzi Biega National Park head office is about 230 kilometers away by road; 5 hours drive for travelers arriving from Rwanda side of Rusizi boarder. One can also charter a light aircraft from Kavuma airfield or from Entebbe Uganda using bar aviation.

Gorilla families in Kahuzi Biega National Park

Mpungwe gorilla family

Is the largest gorilla family among the habituated families in the Park. The lowland gorilla family is the most popular among trekkers who love to view them in large groups. There are 21 members of the Mpungwe gorilla family.

Chimanuka gorilla family

According to trekkers, trekking this gorilla family is an interesting experience thanks to its charming members. The Chimanuka gorilla family consists of 19 members and is led by a dominant silverback, hence the name of the family.

Nganwa gorilla family

This family is undergoing the habituation process and it is not yet open for gorilla trekking. The family is made up of 10 family members.

Bonnani gorilla family

Bonnanis are the smallest lowland gorilla family in Congo. There are 5 gorillas in the Bonnani gorilla family, one of the newly habituated gorilla families.

Threats Facing Kahuzi Biega National Park

As a result of armed militias present in the lowland parts of the park, and the related threats of bushmeat hunting, illegal mining, and clearing forests for agriculture inside the park, Kahuzi Biega National Park and its natural values have been significantly threatened. As a result, emblematic mammal species are at risk, park management is ineffective, and conservation staff’s safety is compromised. In 2023, ICCN and the Congolese army (FARDC) improved security by removing armed rebel groups from around two-thirds of the park and increasing anti-poaching efforts.

A surveillance patrol is dismantling active mines to combat illegal mining. In order to ensure that mining does not continue in the future, strong law enforcement efforts will need to continue into the future. This is due to the lack of surveillance of the entire property and the potential for continued insecurity. By evacuating 90% of farmers from the ecological corridor between the high-altitude and low-altitude sectors, the encroachment of illegal farming communities is being addressed. However, it remains necessary to assess the impacts of this threat and to rehabilitate the region.

Eastern Lowland Gorilla

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