Kahuzi-Biega national park is one of the DR Congo’s remaining highland and lowland tropical forests inhabited by the grauer’s gorillas popularly known as eastern lowland gorillas. The park is located in eastern DRC near the town of Bukavu. With an area of 6000 sq km derives its name from two volcanic mountains of Mt. Kahuzi and Mt. Biega which mark its borders. Although much of the park’s area is low-lying, there are also diverse habitats ranging from wetlands, volcanoes to riparian forests.
The park became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1980 mainly to protect the critically endangered grauer’s gorillas/eastern lowland gorillas which are only found in DR Congo. There is other important wildlife the park protects. These are 136 species of mammals including chimpanzees and 349 species of birds.
Democratic Republic of Congo’s abating civil wars greatly affected the wildlife of Kahuzi-Biega National park especially the eastern lowland gorillas. It’s estimated that only 250 eastern lowland gorillas live in the park, a reason for tight security and monitoring of gorillas by the Congolese wildlife authority with its partner organizations like WWF and local communities. Therefore the park is safe for tourists to visit; patrol posts have been re-established as well as anti poaching and law enforcement against poachers and encroachers.
The main tourist attractions in the park are the eastern lowland gorillas / grauer’s gorillas; this presents a rare opportunity to get close to these rare apes. Grauer’s gorillas are the largest of the four subspecies of gorillas distinguished from other gorillas by its large stocky body and hands.
Gorilla tracking in Kahuzi –Biega national park starts at the Tshivanga the main tourist center in the park. Tourists trek to see two habituated eastern lowland gorilla families which contain full grown silverbacks, females and baby gorillas. Congolese guides and armed rangers will first brief tourists about the strict rules and regulations of tracking gorillas which are meant for conservation purposes, give tourists a quality experience and also protect gorillas from human disturbance. Tourists spend one fascinating hour with eastern lowland gorillas after they have been found by the guides.
The experience is very exciting, before you get to the gorillas, you will first trek for 1-2 hours through the dense forests teeming with birds and other mammals such as forest elephants, owl-faced monkey, aquatic civet, Alexander’s bush squirrel and many more.
Planning to visit Kahuzi-Biega national park for gorilla tracking, you need a gorilla permit. a permit costs $400 per person and can be obtained at Tshivanga visitor centre or the at the Congolese wildlife centre in Bakuvu town on arrival. You can also book one via their reservations email at email@example.com or you can contact a local tour operator who will also help you to book for accommodations near and within the park. Your tour operator will also inform you about optional activities to do such as hiking, nature walks, Idjwi Island and Lwiro sanctuary visit.
You can access the park by both air and road transportation. By air one can fly from the neighbor kigali air port in Rwanda to Kavumu airport and them drive shortly to the Tshivanga tourist center. By road you will drive for 1 hour and 30 minutes from Bakuvu town of eastern DRC to the park. Alternatively one can reach the park by via Rwanda.