What most travelers on safari to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have in mind is that tourism in the eastern side of this magical country entirely depends on the mountain gorilla trekking but the later isn’t true. A visit to this particular side of DRC offers travelers yet another incredible opportunity to encounter the unique eastern lowland gorillas that thrive in Kahuzi Biega National Park. This park was gazetted in 1970 mainly to offer refuge to these rare primate species. For primate safari seekers, the park is the only site worldwide where you can catch a glimpse at these most fascinating creatures.
This forest protected area spans for over 6000 square kilometers making it one of the largest parks in the DRC. Its name comes from the two extinct volcanoes that dominate its high sector-Mount Kahuzi and Biega that stretch for about 3308 meters and 2790 meters respectively.
This park is a true hidden treasure of the world the fact that it rewards visitors with thrilling primate experiences. Its vegetation cover comprises of swamps, bogs, marshlands, tropical rain forests a mention but a few thus offering refuge to variety of wildlife species. Around 1980, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kahuzi Biega National Park is situated suitably in western Bukavu Town, south Kivu province and small portion of this park lies within the Mitumba Massif of the Albertine rift valley and largest portion of it is mainly lowland terrain. This park receives average annual precipitation of 1800 mm and maximum temperatures of about 18 degrees Celsius and minimum of 10.4 degrees Celsius.
The DR Congo visa
To pay a visit to Kahuzi Biega National Park in Eastern Congo for any purpose, you need a visa even when you are on gorilla safari. Interestingly, there are relatively affordable tourist visa for visitors who travel to Eastern Congo to see the great gorillas. While booking for your gorilla permit in the Democratic Republic of Congo still you can use the same safari company to help you secure a visa for you.
How to get to Kahuzi Biega National Park
This park is situated about 40 kilometers off Bukavu town and you need about 1 and half hours’ drive to get there. It can be reached through various means-by road-you drive or take a bus from Bukavu or drive from Rwanda through Cyangugu border area from Burundi through Uvira border and then from Goma by road on Lake Kivu. By boat-there are many operators that operate each day between Goma and Bukavu with tickets for rapid boats costing about US$50 and then those that are large and slow cost between 8 and 25 dollars. You can obtain a ticket at the ports in Goma and Bukavu and you can do this early enough. By air-take a flight and land in a nearby international airport in Goma, Bujumbura-Burundi or Kigali Rwanda, Entebbe airport then connect to DR Congo.
What to do in Kahuzi Biega National Park
There are lots of things to do in the Kahuzi Biega National Park. Here are the most popular adventure activities that you can incorporate into your next holiday into the park;
A visit to Kahuzi Biega National Park is perfect for you to track the lowland gorillas and this park comprises of 2 groups out of about 9 that are available. Treks to view these rare primates are more like mountain gorilla trekking in the Virunga National Park. Kahuzi Biega National Park offers refuge to eastern lowland gorillas making it a unique gorilla destination. The gorilla safari adventure may last you about half an hour to six hours while hiking through the dense vegetation.
A side from tracking the eastern lowland gorillas, Kahuzi Biega National Park is also ideal for volcano hiking. This park comprises of a duo inactive Volcanoes where it derived its name-Mount Kahuzi and Biega and exploring their summits rewards with breathtaking views of the park, wildlife and other surrounding areas. While on a hike, you also wind through the bamboo and subalpine vegetation which inhabits variety of wildlife species including several primates such as owl faced monkeys and birds.
Birding in Kahuzi Biega National Park
Kahuzi Biega National Park offers refuge to over 342 species of birds 42 of which are endemic to the park making it a true birder’s haven. While on birding safari at this park, you have a chance to spot out avifauna species such as the Congo peafowl, African green broadbill, yellow crested helmet shrike a mention but a few.
For nature lovers, the best way for you to explore the hidden treasures within this park is by embarking on nature walk. There are many trails that take visitors through this tropical rain forest protected area to different tourist sites including Kibati Falls plus other 3 magical waterfalls. Besides, you have a chance to meet other pristine wildlife, vegetation, trees, birds, plants a mention but a few. In addition, there are also historical and cultural resources that are worth exploring while you are on safari in this park.
Where to stay
Wondering about where to stay on your next safari? Currently, there are plans to develop good accommodation facilities within the park. You can consider staying at nearby lodges that have been developed in either Bukavu or close to the park. Some of the popular lodge for visitor overnight stay includes L’Orchids safari club and Lodge Coco in Bukavu.