Kahuzi-Biega national park is one of the largest and most protected area in Democratic Republic of Congo. Situated in the South Kivu province and lies west of Bukavu town near the western bank of Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site with an area cover of 6,000 square kilometers. The park has both mountainous and lowland terrains. Kahuzi-Biega National park is dominated by lowland gorillas.
Named after two dormant volcanoes which are Kahuzi and Biega which are 3308 and 2790 meters high respectively. Popularly known as home to eastern lowland gorillas which are a part of the various animal species found in the park. According to the 2004 research study report, there are 4 gorilla sub species and the Eastern lowland gorillas are the largest of these four with a male being 1.85 meters tall and weighing about 210 kilograms while females are 1.6 meters tall and weigh about 100 kilograms.
Eastern lowland gorillas are very social and they peacefully live in groups of 2-30 and individually too. These groups also known as families are headed by a silverback which are dominant in nature. The families consist of many females and their offsprings. Just like the ancient polygamous families in Africa. Silverbacks are like fathers, they are the alphas of the family and are stronger than the other gorillas hence are in charge of protecting their families against harm and danger.
When the infants mature into silverbacks, they leave the family and form their own, this prevents conflicts within the family as they can’t have two silverbacks. Females usually give birth to only 1 infant after a gestation period of 8 months, twins are rare among gorillas and once this happens, it is highly celebrated.
Kahuzi-Biega is home to 9 gorilla families/groups though only 5 of these have been habituated. Habituation is when animals are trained to get familiar with human presence. Therefore this means there are only five families that can be trekked with in the national park and these are;
Bonnani Gorilla Family
This is the smallest lowland gorilla family within the park, it only has 5 family members and this is because it has just been habituated and part of the new families habituated within the park.
Chimanuka gorilla family
The second largest and most interesting family to trek (according to testimonies), it’s said to have charming members. The family consists of 19 family members led by a silverback named Chimanuka, I guess you can tell where the family name was derived from.
Mpungwe Gorilla family
The largest lowland gorilla family amongst all the habituated families within the park and Democratic Republic of Congo at large, it has 21 family members. It is most loved by those who enjoy the lowland gorillas and hate trekking steep areas.
Mugahuka gorilla family
This is an interesting family that experienced disputes, these happened between it and Chimanuka gorilla family, the chimanuka family won the battle and took most of the family members that originally belonged to Mugahuka therefore leaving him alone. Till date, this family only has one family member, Mugahuka a silverback who stays alone. Since it’s a one member family, it’s easier to trek and it’s also found closer hence advantageous to the less energetic trekkers and the elderly too.
Nganwa gorilla family
This family is not fully habituated, still undergoing the trainings and therefore not yet open for gorilla trekking. It is a 10 member family.
How to get to Kahuzi – Biega National Park
With its location based in the Eastern region of Democratic Republic of Congo in Bukavu, 30 kilometers away from Bukavu town making it approximately 1 hour and a half from the town to the park. The park is very accessible by both air and road transport, though the road is not so well maintained but it is nevertheless easy to navigate through and for air, there are chartered flights that land in both Kavuma airport and Miti, from the airport you can then use a vehicle to reach the park gate.
Visiting Kahuzi – Biega National Park can be carried out all year round with no hindrances to weather or any other factors.