Kahuzi-Biega was given National Park status in 1970 and covers an area of 6000 square kilometers. Two impressive extinct volcanoes: Kahuzi (9,153ft) and Biega (1,085ft) are the highest peaks in the Mitumba Range.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park has some diverse and abundant fauna. But it was primarily created to preserve the important gorilla habitat. It’s here that American Zoologist Dian Fossey began her work with gorillas. And in 1975 the designated park area was increased from 750 to 6000 square kilometers to include the watershed, Luka and Lugulu River tributaries and the connecting belt of mountain valleys.
Surrounded by a very high population density, conservation within the park is a challenge. One of the last groups of eastern lowland (graueri) gorillas (250 individuals form 86% of the total world population) live between 2,100 and 2,400 m above sea-level. But numbers were devastated during the Civil War.
In 1990 there were about 284 mountain gorillas living within 25 families. But since 2004 only 2 families of around 40 individuals have been recorded. Other wildlife resident in the park includes forest elephant, several other sub-species of monkeys and chimpanzees. There are numerous birds also living within the park.
Since 2004 the situation has marginally improved. Although easy access from Bukavu which allowed the support and protection of the park through tourism has not returned to normal. In 1994 refugees and rangers were murdered and animals were killed when Rwanda’s genocidal warfare swamped the area.
Illicit mining of Coltan ore (which produces tantalum used in the production of cell phones) has also increased habitat destruction. So the United Nations Environment Programme request that electronic component manufacturers to use Tantalum which is not illegally produced.
In 1997 UNESCO declared Kahuzi-Biega and 4 other national parks in eastern Congo as ‘World Heritage Sites in Danger’.
Lowland Gorilla Trekking
South Kivu’s star attraction is Kahuzi-Biega national park, where you can track habituated eastern lowland gorillas (Grauer’s gorillas) for just US$400 per person, a relative bargain! The park also contains a chimp orphanage at Lwiro (US$30 per person), where between 40 and 50 chimps are kept in excellent conditions.
It’s often possible to get gorilla permits for same-day hiking, and never a problem to get them with a few days’ notice. The starting point is at Tshivanga, 30km northwest of town. Moto-taxis there and back cost about US$20 to US$30, while hiring a taxi costs US$80.
Lwiro Sanctuary Visit
Established in 2002, Lwiro Primate Rehabilitation Centre provides care and rehabilitation for orphaned primates and this is all aimed at ensuring their survival in the wild. The rehabilitation center is located on the grounds of the Congolese Government Scientific Research Centre, situated in an old Belgian colonial building near the park headquarters. The center currently has over 70 monkeys and over 50 chimpanzees all of which were rescued from danger.
Other activities undertaken include education programs for local people, children, military and tourists. The center has fascinating exhibits and visit to this centre will reward with great information about the primates on top of helping in conservation through paying the fees to visit this research centre.
Accessing the park
The park can best be accessed by land through Rwanda and crossing over to Bukavu via Cyangugu border. For international airport, you will arrive through Kigali international airport, and either transfer by road via Nyungwe Forest up to Cyangungu or take a flight up to Kamembe and cross over to Bukavu which is very near.
The park can also be accessed while coming from Goma by speedboat or ferry from Goma to Bukavu, which sails on Lake Kivu south to Bukavu.Book This Safari