KAHUZI-BIEGA NATIONAL PARK is situated near the western bank of Lake Kivu in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Lake Kivu forms part of the border between the DRC and Rwanda. The park is named after two dormant volcanoes, Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega, both within the park borders; the park is one of the largest in the country at 6,000 square kilometers. Kahuzi-Biega National Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980, inscribed for its unique biodiversity of both a rainforest habitat and one of the last refuges of the rare Eastern Lowland Gorillas.
The Eastern Lowland Gorilla, also known as Grauer’s Gorilla, is the largest of the four Gorilla subspecies, and is distinguished by its stocky body, large hands and short muzzle. As other Gorillas, the Grauer’s Gorilla subsists mainly on fruit and other herbaceous materials.
There are two major activities in Kahuzi-Biega National Park; the foremost being the tracking of the Eastern Lowland Gorillas, but there is also another adventure, hiking the two dormant volcanoes, Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega.
VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK is Africa’s oldest national park and the continent’s most biologically diverse protected area. The park is 3000 square miles in size and includes forests, savannas, lava plains, swamps, erosion valleys, active volcanoes and the glaciated peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains.
Here in Virunga National Park, live one quarter of the world’s endangered Mountain Gorillas; there are two other Great Ape species as well, the Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Grauer’s Gorilla) and Chimpanzees. Virunga National Park is the only protected area in the world that hosts three of the Great Apes. The Okapi, another endangered species that resembles a zebra but is more closely related to the Giraffe. The park also has large colonies of hippopotami, forest and savanna elephants, lions and numerous rare bird species.
The park is divided into three distinct areas. The Northern Sector is defined by the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains that border Uganda. The snowmelt from the Rwenzoris is one of the primary sources of the Nile River. Here, along the Semiliki River valley, the Okapis can be found. The park’s Central Sector is defined by Lake Edward, the Ishasha River valley and the Rwindi plains. Lake Edward contains over 50 species of fish as well as numerous bird species. Here by the lake and adjacent Ishasha River valley you will find the park’s recovering hippo population and the highest concentrations of elephant, buffalo and warthogs. The Rwindi plains is the area that the Topi can be found. The Southern Sector is best known for the Mountain Gorillas that live on the flanks of the dormant Mikeno Volcano. Most of Southern Virunga is covered with dense forests, which make an ideal habitat for Chimpanzees and numerous species of Monkey.
DAY 1: KIGALI AND TRANSFER TO KAHUZI-BIEGA NATIONAL PARK
Your Gorilla Cousins Rwanda guide will meet you at Kigali International Airport and brief you on the itinerary. Immediately, you will travel to the border town of Cyagungu, where you will cross over from Rwanda to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the town of Bukavu on Lake Kivu. Here you will overnight at your accommodation and have dinner; we recommend an early night as the next 2 days of Gorilla Trekking Safaris will be demanding on your energy.
DAY 2: EASTERN LOWLAND GORILLA TRACKING AND TRANSFER TO VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK
After breakfast, your Gorilla Cousins Rwanda guide will take you to the headquarters of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, an hours drive along the shoreline of Lake Kivu. Here you will register and be assigned to a group with a Ranger Guide and begin your guided Gorilla Trekking of the Eastern Lowland Gorillas.
After you have spent the allotted time with the Gorillas, you will reunite with your Gorilla Cousins Rwanda guide, who will then take you to the Virunga National Park, to the north. You will be taken to your accommodation where you will have dinner. Again, we suggest an early night, as the next day you will start early for your Mountain Gorilla Safari.
DAY 3: MOUNTAIN GORILLA TRACKING
After breakfast, your Gorilla Cousins Rwanda guide will take you to the headquarters of the Virunga National Park, register you and assign you to your group and Ranger Guide. You will then begin your Mountain Gorilla Tracking. It can take up to many hours to find the particular Gorilla family you are assigned to; after which you will be permitted to spend up to one hour with the gorillas.
After your Gorilla Trek, your Gorilla Cousins Rwanda guide will reunite with you and then take you back to Kigali. Time permitting, your guide can give you a cultural and historical tour of Kigali, including the Genocide Memorial Center; tours to Rwanda should include a visit to this monument to the million people that died a few years ago.