Gorilla Trekking in Kahuzi Biega National Park
Gorilla Trekking in Kahuzi Biega National Park is a top activity done in this national park to explore more about the lowland gorilla species in Congo. Gorilla Trekking Safaris in the Democratic Republic of Congo are such a remarkable experience for any tourist visiting the Central African country. Not only is it cheap to trek gorillas in Congo, but also safe for visitors now with security measures heightened by both the government and park managements. One such place that is safe for tourists to do gorilla trekking is Kahuzi Biega National Park, where visitors get the chance to trek both mountain gorillas and the eastern lowland gorillas as well.
A Brief Background on Kahuzi Biega National Park in Congo.
Kahuzi Biega National Park is one of the 9 national parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The national park is located in Bukavu town, in Congo. The park derives its name from two dormant volcanoes, mount Kahuzi and mount Biega, which form the national park.
Kahuzi Biega national park in Congo was first established as a zoological reserve in 1937 before it was later gazetted as a national park in 1970. Originally the national park only covered the parts Mount Kahuzi and areas adjacent to the mountain, and later in 1975, the park was expanded to cover Mount Biega and its surrounding areas.
The national park covers a total surface area of 6,000km² and comprises a large rainforest and a rich variety of flora and fauna species. In 1980, Kahuzi Biega national park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its rich bio-diversity, especially the endangered species of mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas. The national park is home to about 136 species of mammals, 34 bird species, approximately 2,500 east lowland gorillas and over 1,178 plant species.
There are a variety of tourist attractions in Kahuzi Biega national park, which tourists can see on a visit to the park, and these include; Lake Kivu, Mountain gorillas, Eastern lowland gorillas, mountains Kahuzi, Biega and Bugulumiza, Lwiro Chimpanzee Sanctuary, and numerous plant species among others.
Gorilla Trekking in Kahuzi Biega National Park.
Gorilla trekking activities in Kahuzi Biega are fast increasing, with visitors having the option to trek both east lowland gorillas and also mountain gorillas, or either of the two subspecies. However, most tourists choose to trek eastern lowland gorillas while on a visit to this national park.
In the early 1970s, eastern lowland gorillas, also known as gorilla beringei Graueri, were the first sub species of gorillas to be tracked by tourists in Kahuzi Biega national park. There are two habituated gorilla groups in the national park; Chimanuka and Mpungwe. These gorilla groups were first habituated by a Belgian photographer and conservationist named Adrien Deschryver, along with his team of well-trained Congolese staff. The above mentioned gorilla groups were led by dominate silverbacks called Casimir and Mushamuka, which were also habituated. The Silverback Casimir, died in 1974, due to health problems.
By 1980, there were four habituated gorilla groups in Kahuzi-Biega, and these were led by Silverbacks; Mushamuka, Ninja, Maheshe and Mubalala. Gorilla trekking activities in the national park increased in 1988, after the release of the movie ‘Gorillas in the Mist.’ However, all four of the above mentioned silverbacks; along with majority of members of their groups, died in the civil wars that occurred in Congo, starting in the mid-1990s. These wars created a lot of political instability in the areas within and surrounding the national parks, thus leading to the decline in tourism activities in the national park.
However, the political situation in Congo has greatly improved, as well as in the national park. The Highland sector of Kahuzi Biega national park has greatly improved, thus making it safe for visitors to engage in gorilla trekking activities in the national park. In addition to this, a second gorilla group led by a silverback called Mpungwe, has successfully been habituated. This habituated gorilla group consists of 17 members, and tourists are free to track it.
As earlier mentioned, there are only two habituated gorilla groups in Kahuzi Biega national park. Gorilla trekking activities in Kahuzi Biega involve a lot of hiking activities, and may require visitors to be in excellent physical shape.
Gorilla trekking activities in Kahuzi Biega national park is done in two groups of a maximum of 8 members per group. Each gorilla trekking group of tourists is accompanied by an armed and well-trained park ranger, just to ensure the safety of both tourists and the gorillas.
Visitors doing gorilla trekking activities in Congo’s Kahuzi Biega national park should be aged 15 years and above. Gorilla trekking activities in this national park can last between 2-4 hours, with tourists getting to spend only an hour with the gorillas once they have been located. The location of the eastern lowland gorillas depends entirely on the availability of food in the areas where they are staying. From mid-October till August, the tracking time can vary between 20 minutes to 2 hours; while in the month of September, gorilla trekking activities can take about 3 hours or even more.
All gorilla trekking activities in Kahuzi Biega national park, in Congo, commence at 7am. Tourists trekking gorillas in the national park are briefed first by the head ranger at the park. Visitors are then placed into two tracking groups. All gorilla trekking activities begin from Tshivanga Station in Kahuzi-Biega.
Cost of Gorilla Trekking Permits in Kahuzi Biega National Park.
Gorilla trekking permits in Kahuzi Biega cost USD 400 dollars per person. However, during the low seasons in the park, the price of gorilla trekking permits in Kahuzi Biega can go for a low as USD 200 dollars per person. With the cost of gorilla trekking permits being this low, gorilla trekking in the national park has increased greatly; with more tourists opting to do gorilla trekking in Congo, as compared to Rwanda and Uganda.
Where to stay when trekking gorillas in Kahuzi Biega National Park.
There are plenty of accommodation facilities to choose from for gorilla trekkers visiting the park and some of these include; Mount Kahuzi Hotel, Lakeside Hotel Bukavu, Exodus Bukavu, Hotel Begonias, Lodge Coco and Orchids Safari Club among others. These accommodation facilities offer budget, mid-range, and luxury lodging depending on what you may prefer.
Access to Kahuzi Biega National Park.
Visitors travelling to Kahuzi Biega National Park can access the national park by either road, air or water. Those travelling by road will have to drive 40km west of Bukavu town, which take about 1½ hours to get to the national park. It takes about 5-6 hours of driving to get to Kahuzi Biega from Goma town.
Tourists can also choose to fly from Kigali International Airport in Rwanda, and land at Goma International Airport. From here, visitors can embark on a 6 hours’ drive to Kahuzi-Biega.
Alternatively, visitors can access the national park by water. There are speed boats available to transport visitors to Kahuzi-Biega, and this can take about 3 hours to reach the park. There are also ordinary boats that tourists can use to reach the national park, although this option can take approximately 4-5 hours to get to the park.
Visitors should not exclude a visit to Kahuzi Biega national park in your travel itineraries. There is so much to be explored in this national park, and choosing to do gorilla trekking in Kahuzi Biega is the icing on the cake.
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