Two lofty dormant volcanoes, Kahuzi and Biega, stand proudly over the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the eastern sector of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The 6,000-square-kilometre national park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 because it houses the greatest number of wildlife species in the Albertine Rift Valley.
The landscape is chiefly Afro-montane forest and wet equatorial rainforest, punctuated by areas of flat prairies and heather-covered terrain. It’s one of the few areas where there’s a distinctly visible transition in ecological zones.
Because of the vast expanse of steep forested slopes, there are huge concentrations of eastern lowland gorillas. Kahuzi-Biega National Park’s major drawcard is that it is a desirable destination for gorilla trekking.
The park is located close to the Rwandan border, which means there are a few ways of getting to Kahuzi-Biega. The easiest and most popular way is to fly into the Kigali International Airport in Rwanda and catch a connecting flight to Bukavu, an hour away from the park’s entrance.
The only thing in nature that is certain, is that nothing is certain. However, with expert-guided treks that can last up to three hours, there is more than just a good chance to marvel at the endangered eastern lowland gorilla.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park is home to more than 10 other primate species. These include the red face chimpanzee, owl-faced monkey and various types of colobus monkey.
Kahuzi-Biega holds universal appeal because of its sheer diversity of wildlife. Not only does the region house high numbers of the emblematic eastern lowland gorilla, but it’s also an important endemism zone for birds. In total, there are 42 endemic birds and 349 species of bird. Species include the Rwenzori turaco, Grauer’s warbler, Congo peafowl and the Rockefeller’s sunbird.
The main species of primate is the unique eastern lowland gorilla, but there are 14 other species of primate. These include the red face chimpanzee, owl-faced monkey and various types of colobus monkey. Other wildlife in the park includes—but is not limited to—forest buffalo, forest elephant, otter shrew, bush squirrel, hippo, giant forest hogs, aquatic and giant genets.
There are varying climatic conditions within the park, because of the low lying areas and high reaches of the rainforest. Because of the rainforest territory, the area is generally quite wet year-round. However, the dry season does appear to be in January and February, while May to October experiences more rain. Gorilla trekking is best done during the dry season when the forest floor is less slippery and muddy.
The star attraction of Kahuzi-Biega is the endangered eastern lowland gorilla. Most visitors descend upon the park to trek with these larger-than-life gorillas, which are bigger than the more commonly spotted mountain gorillas.
Guided treks follow gorilla families into the high reaches of the park, and take anything from 30 minutes to three hours to find the gorillas. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The national park has a lattice of well-maintained trails ideal for nature walks. Some of these paths are the same ones used for the more strenuous gorilla trekking excursions. Nature walks are designed to showcase the birdlife of the national park and discover the smaller creatures of the jungle floor.
For avid hikers, a hike up to the summit of the dormant volcanoes won't disappoint. Visitors will traipse past bamboo forests, sub-alpine turf and rainforest—the best way to get to know the entire landscape of Kahuzi-Biega.
Visitors after something a bit more relaxed are encouraged to visit the primate rehabilitation centre, located close to park headquarters. It’s here where small primates and chimpanzee are rescued and rehabilitated.
There are no accommodation options inside the national park, apart from a campsite that requires visitors to bring all of their equipment. Lodgings are all located in Bukavu town where there are small hotels, lodges and safari clubs built to look like cabanas. Most accommodation options have swimming pools, pool bars, on-site restaurants and travel desks.