KAHUZI BIEGA NATIONAL PARK.
The Kahuzi-Biega National Park is a protected area near Bukavu town in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is situated near the western bank of Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border. Established in 1970 by the Belgian photographer and conservationist Adrien Deschryver, the park is named after two dormant volcanoes, Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega, which are within its limits. With an area of 6,000 square kilometres (2,300 square miles), Kahuzi-Biega is one of the biggest national parks in the country. Set in both mountainous and lowland terrain, it is one of the last refuges of the rare species of Eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), an endangered category under the IUCN Red List. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed in 1980 for its unique biodiversity of rainforest habitat and its eastern lowland gorillas. In 1997, it was listed on the List of World Heritage in Danger because of the political instability of the region, an influx of refugees, and increasing wildlife exploitation.
Geography of this National Park.
The park lies west of the Bukavu town in South Kivu Province, covering an area of 6,000 km2 (2,300 square mi). A small part of the park is in Mitumbi Mountain range of the Albertine Rift in the Great Rift Valley, and the larger part is in lowland terrain. A corridor of 7.4 km (4.6 mi) width joins the mountainous and lowland terrain. The eastern part of the park is the smaller mountainous region measuring 600 km2 (230 square miles); the larger part measures 5,400 km2 (2,100 square mi) and consists mainly of lowland stretching from Bukavu to Kisangani, drained by the Luka and Lugulu rivers which flow into the Lualaba River. Two dormant volcanoes are set within the park’s limits and lend their names to it: Kahuzi (3,308 m (10,853 feet)) and Biega (2,790 m (9,150 feet))
The park receives an average annual precipitation of 1,800 mm (71 in). The maximum temperature recorded in the area is 18 °C (64 °F) while the minimum is 10.4 °C (50.7 °F).
The earliest reserve, Zoological and Forest Reserve of Mount Kahuzi, was created on 27 July 1937 by the then Governor General of the Belgian Colonial administration, that reserve has been part of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park since November 1970. Five years later, the park was extended to cover 6000 km2. The park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, under Criterion (x) for its unique habitat of rainforest and diversity of the mammal species, particularly the eastern lowland gorillas, Gorilla beringei graueri.
The park has a rich diversity of flora and fauna. As of a survey conducted in 2003 by the Wildlife Conservation Society, it protects roughly 349 species of birds and 136 species of mammals. Over 1,178 plant species have been observed in the highland regions of the park alone. Because of its varied topography and habitat types, Kahuzi-Biega National Park is also a hotspot of plants and vertebrate endemism for.
The park’s swamps, bogs, marshland and riparian forests on hydromorphic ground at all altitudes are rare worldwide. The western lowland sector of the park is dominated by dense Guineo-Congolian wet equatorial rainforest, part of the Northeastern Congolian lowland forests ecoregion, with an area of transition forest between 1,200 metres (3,900 feet) and 1,500 metres (4,900 feet). The eastern mountainous sector includes continuous forest vegetation from 600 metres (2,000 feet) to over 2,600 metres (8,500 feet), and is one of the rare sites in Sub-Saharan Africa which demonstrates all stages of the low to highland transition, including six distinguishable primary vegetation types: swamp and peat bog, swamp forest, high-altitude rainforest, mountain rainforest, bamboo forest and subalpine heather. The montane rain forests are part of the Albertine Rift montane forests ecoregion. Mountain and swamp forest grows between 2,000 metres (6,600 feet) and 2,400 metres (7,900 feet), bamboo forest grows between 2,350 metres (7,710 feet) and 2,600 metres (8,500 feet), and the summits of Mounts Kahuzi and Biéga above 2,600 metres (8,500 feet) have subalpine heather, dry savannah, and grasslands, as well as the endemic plant Senecio kahuzicus.
The national park protects a greater diversity of mammal species than any other national park in the Albertine Rift. Among the 136 species of mammals identified in the park, the eastern lowland gorilla is the most prominent. According to a 2008 status report of the DR of Congo, the park had 125 lowland gorillas, a marked reduction from the figure of 600 gorillas of the pre-1990’s conflict period, and consequently the species has been listed in the endangered list. The park is the last refuge of this rare species. According to the census survey of eastern lowland gorillas reported by the Wildlife Conservation Society in April 2011, at least 181 gorillas were recorded in the park.
Other primates include the eastern chimpanzee, and several Cercopithecinae, Colobinae and owl-faced monkey. Some of the mammals include the bush elephant, bush buffalo, hylochere and bongo, eastern needle-clawed galago, Maclaud’s horseshoe bat, Ruwenzori least otter shrew, and Alexander’s bush squirrel. Two species of genet (animal) that live within the park are endemic to the Congo Basin: the aquatic genet and the giant forest genet
Of the 349 bird species identified within the park, at least 42 of them are endemic to the region, including the threatened Albertine owlet. Other native bird species include the Yellow-crested Helmet-shrike (Prionops alberti), the Congo peafowl (Afropavo congensis), the African green broadbill (Pseudocalyptomena graueri), and the Rockefeller’s sunbird (Nectarinia rockefelleri).
The species of fauna listed under the IUCN Red List as threatened include.
African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis)
Albertine owlet (Glaucidium albertinum)
Eastern chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii)
Mount Kahuzi climbing mouse (Dendromus kahuziensis)
Maclaud’s horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus maclaudi)
The species of fauna listed under the IUCN Red List as least concern or near threatened include
Lowland bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus eurycerus)
African forest buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus)
Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)
Giant forest hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni)
Leopard (Panthera pardus)
Ruwenzori otter shrew (Micropotamogale ruwenzorii)
Olive baboon (Papio anubis)
A 2020 survey of the freshwater fish in the park and its three drainage basins identified 147 species, 11 of which were found to be endemic to the Lowa River basin, and 7 of which were previously undescribed. Cyprinidae was by far the largest family represented
CONSERVATION AT KAHUZI BIEGA NATIONAL PARK.
The park, under the management of the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature, has a basic management and surveillance structure. However, the park’s 1975 expansion, which included inhabited lowland areas, resulted in forced evacuations with about 13,000 people of the tribal community of Shi, Tembo and Rega affected and refusing to leave. Cooperation by the communities living around the park and employment of the Twa people to enforce park protection was pursued by the park authorities. In 1999 a plan was developed to protect the people and the resources of the park.
In a survey conducted between 2015 and 2016, the national park rangers reported a low level of satisfaction with the job, highlighting low salaries, lack of support from the authorities, and poor living conditions.
ACTIVITIES AT KAHUZI BIEGA NATIONAL PARK.
Apart from trekking lowland gorillas, the park also offers visitors other activities such as;
Chimpanzee Habituation at Lwiro Sanctuary
For just US$ 40 dollars per person, tourists in Kahuzi-Biega national park have an opportunity to see habituated Chimpanzees at the Lwiro Sanctuary. Tourists who visit the primate rehabilitation center are taken through its history and conservation works at the center.
Camping Safaris in Kahuzi-Biega National Park:
Camping safaris in Kahuzi-Biega national park are one of a kind. Campers get to enjoy spending quality and quite time with nature. Get an opportunity to wake up to the blissful sights and sounds of birds whistling, chipping and singing in the morning as the sun rises above the horizons. Tourists who love to be amidst nature and wish to explore the tropical forests in the national park can pay for camping activities which cost USD 50 dollars per person per day and is inclusive of food and a park guide. However, tourists who wish to camp in the park must bring along their own tent and sleeping bag, or hire them from the park at a cost of USD 5 dollars per person per night, for each.
Community/ Cultural tours in Kahuzi- Biega national park offer visitors an opportunity to mingle with locals living in communities near the national park. Cultural encounters in the park are a great way for visitors to learn more about the different ethnic cultures in Congo and how the local people get to spend the day-to-day lives. Watch dance and singing performances from local dance troupes, put your creativity to the test by making local arts and crafts like baskets, beads, necklaces, earrings, and clothes using locally sourced materials such as recycled paper, sisal, papyrus and Kinteges. Visitors also have an opportunity to learn how to cook traditional Congolese delicacies and share a meal with a local family.
Visitors who love watching birds will find Kahuzi-Biega national park in Congo an ideal spot to partake in birding activities since the park is home to over 349 species of birds. Tourists on a bird watching safari in the national park, have high chances of spotting bird species like; the Congo pea fowl, Ruwenzori Turaco and the trogons among others.
Hiking Mountains Kahuzi and Biega:
The Mitumba Mountain ranges provide the iconic spot for hiking adventure safaris for any tourist visiting the national park. Visitors can hike through the forest vegetation and explore the beautiful scenery and wildlife of the park. Tourists on holiday in the park can also hike to the Kibatu waterfalls at a price of USD 25 dollars per person, while hiking the mountain ascents of Kahuzi or Biega will cost US$ 100 dollars per person.
Boat cruise on Lake Kivu:
Tourists visiting the park can opt to go on a boat cruise on Lake Kivu which is shared by Congo and Rwanda. This activity costs US$ 50 dollars per person and is best done after trekking gorillas in the national park.
Accommodation in Kahuzi- Biega National Park.
here are a few accommodation facilities situated within and around Kahuzi-Biega national park and most of these facilities offer visitors budget, mid-range and luxury services which have been tailored to suite your personal tastes and preferences. Accommodation options within and around the national park include; Mount Kahuzi Hotel, Hotel Begonias, Lodge Coco, Orchids Safari Club, Lakeside Hotel Bukavu and Hotel Exodus Bukavu among others.
Security in Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
The Democratic republic of Congo is known to be one of the politically unstable regions on the African Continent. However, unlike most areas of the country, the eastern province of the DR Congo is quite safe. Security in Kahuzi-Biega national park is guaranteed for tourists visiting the national park. However, visitors are also advised to continuously stay up to date with the political situation in the park and in Congo at large. Never go on a self-game drive in the national park because it is quite risky.
How to Get to Kahuzi Biega National Park.
Most tours to Kahuzi-Biega national park start from Rwanda with pick-ups in Kigali city or Cyangugu town. Other tourists may also prefer to fly into Goma International Airport where you will find our company guide waiting for you. It takes about 6-7 hours to drive from Kigali City to Kamembe in Cyangugu town via the Rusizi I road. After crossing the borders at Goma and Bukavu, travelers will have to drive for about 1½ hours to get to the national park.
Alternatively, visitors can choose to board a flight from Kigali Airport and land in Goma Airport, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is a very convenient mode of transport to the DRC. Once in Goma, travelers can drive 230km to the national park.
Kahuzi Biega National Park in eastern Congo is located 30 Kms from Bukavu Town and it takes one and Half Drive to enter into the national park and its can be accessed by road and by air however travelers have to understand that from kavumu airport and at Miti, take left and keep going straight until you reach the visitor centre.