Kahuzi Beiga National Park
Kahuzi Beiga National park is located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Bukavu where it borders with Rwanda close to Lake Kivu on an area of 6,000 square kilometers making it one of the largest national parks in Congo. Kahuzi Beiga National park was first gazette as a forest reserve in 1937. Later on in 1970 became a national park and in 1980 it was listed amongst the world heritage historical sites. The park has a stunning vegetation cover comprising of swampy forest, rainy forest, and two dormant volcanoes of mount Kahuzi and Mount Beiga which are even the origin of park’s name. The entire Kahuzi Beiga National park thrills with plenty of wildlife species including primates such as Eastern lowland gorillas which are not only the major tourist attractions in Kahuzi Beiga National park, Chimpanzees, Baboons, Red tailed monkeys, Black and white Colobus monkeys, Grey cheeked Mangabey monkeys, Blue monkeys, Owl faced monkey, Mammals such as Galago, forest hogs, buffaloes, otters, bush squirrels, bats, mouse, civet cats, plenty of birds, butterflies and many other wildlife.
Top 5 tourist activities in Kahuzi Beiga National park
Kahuzi Beiga National park is amongst the most visited national park in Democratic Republic of Congo after Virunga national park and this is due to the fact that the park offers a lot of tourist activities ranging from gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking, volcano hiking, birding, guided walks and many more that make it one of the best destination to visit while on a Congo safari.
- Eastern Low land gorilla trekking in Kahuzi Beiga national park: As mentioned earlier that gorillas are the major attractions in Kahuzi Beiga National park, thus gorilla trekking is the topmost tourist activity done in this park. Trekking Eastern lowland gorillas like any other gorilla trekking adventure starts early in the morning for trekkers aged 15 years and above which is the minimum age limit for gorilla trekking and it starts with a briefing and by 8:00am, trekkers penetrate the forest in search of these endangered gorilla species in their natural habitats in the park. The entire Lowland gorilla trekking period takes about 30 minutes to 8 hours depending on some factors such as the movement of gorillas since they always roam the forest in search of food, the fitness level of trekkers, the speed of trekkers as the speed is always determined by the slowest trekker, and entirely the nature of the terrains affects the time spent of gorilla trekking. However, the maximum time allowed to spend with gorillas is just one hour after searching for them for a long time. To engage in Eastern Lowland gorilla trekking, one must poses a permit which costs $400 per permit per person during the high or peak season and the permit goes as low as $200 during low season. It’s always crucial to hire a porter before penetrating the forest for gorilla trekking to assist you in carrying your backpack.
- Mountain hiking in Kahuzi Beiga: the park offers mountain hiking safaris to summit the dormant volcanoes. For instance a hike to summit the top of Kahuzi Mountain at 3,308m rewards hikers with a stunning view of the beautiful Lake Kivu and Bukavu town at large. And entire round trip to ascend and descent Mount Kahuzi takes about 6-7 hours with 4 hours of ascending and 3 hours of descending. On the other hand, a hike to summit Mount Beiga at 2790m and descend down takes about 5-6 hours and lastly, a hike to make a round trip of Mount Bugulumiza at 2400m which is the shortest mountain as compared to Kahuzi and Beiga takes 3 hours. During the mountain hike, hikers pass through the dense forests, bamboo forests, and sub alpine vegetation while spotting plenty of bird species, mammals, primates and the entire eye catching flora.
- Guide nature walks in Kahuzi Beiga: The Park has two well established walking trails that are used by tourists leading to different destinations including water falls, birding grounds for birders and even these are the similar trails used by tourists during gorilla trekking. These trails include Tshibati trail famously known as waterfall trail and Marais Musisi trail alongside armed rangers for safety purposes. The trails take tourists on a foot walk via bamboo forests, swamps while spotting plenty of fauna and flora species including primates such as Chimpanzees and monkeys that inhabit the forest without forgetting other mammals and different species of birds.
- Chimpanzee viewing in Kahuzi Beiga: The chimpanzees in Kahuzi Beiga national park aren’t habituated for trekking yet but there is Lwiro Primate rehabilitation center which was put in place to protect the orphaned chimpanzees and other small primates such as monkeys thus the best way to view these primates is by taking a visit to Lwiro and spend ample time with these primates in a sanctuary situated close to park headquarters for easy access.
- Bird watching in Kahuzi Beiga national park: Almost every activity done in the park is combined with bird watching as birds are always seen scattered everywhere in the park with over 300 species recorded in the park. For instance , during gorilla trekking in the forest, plenty of bird species are spotted, during the volcano hiking, birds are seen, during the guided nature walks also there are several birds seen making Kahuzi Beiga National park one of the best destination for bird watching. However, there are birding schedules put aside for travelers who need to take up bird watching as an independent activity and this can be done either early in the morning or in the evening. Some of the bird species spotted during birding include; Rwenzori turaco, sunbirds, and many other birds.
How to get to Kahuzi Beiga
First and foremost, before thinking of how to get to Kahuzi Beiga national park, you must obtain a Congo visa and proper documents indicating the purpose of entering the park for security reasons unlike other parks in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya.
Tourists from Kigali Rwanda access Kahuzi Beiga national park via Cyangugu and proceed with the road drive to Bukavu which takes about 7 hours thus it’s always advisable to spend an overnight in Kigali Rwanda and drive to Bukavu the following day. While tourists from Uganda must cross into Rwanda first via cyanika border and then drive to Musanze and finally to Bukavu though this is a long journey that requires an overnight along the way let say in Musanze.
By water, tourists from Goma can use water transport along Lake Kivu
By air, there are different daily flights from Entebbe international airport in Uganda and Kigali international airport in Rwanda to the airport in Goma.