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Kahuzi-Biega National Park

By Pamela Drager

What is Kahuzi-Biega National Park?

Kahuzi-Biega National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Named after the two dormant volcanoes within its boundaries – Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega – it covers an area of approximately 6,000 square kilometers (2,300 square miles).

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Established in 1970, the park was initially created to protect the habitat of the eastern lowland gorilla, one of the world’s largest and most endangered primate species. Over the years, its conservation efforts have expanded to include other wildlife, flora, and ecosystems.

Text: Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Images: above, a view of the park; below, a gorilla with her baby on her back.
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The park has remarkable biodiversity, featuring a range of landscapes from dense rainforests to bamboo forests, marshes, and alpine meadows. It is home to not only eastern lowland gorillas but also several other rare and endangered species, including forest elephants, chimpanzees, okapis, and a variety of bird species.

Why is Kahuzi-Biega a UNESCO World Heritage site?

Kahuzi-Biega National Park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980. It was recognized for its outstanding universal value in terms of both biodiversity and cultural significance.

The park is a biodiverse hotspot, known for its rich flora and fauna. It is home to the eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), a species that is critically endangered and found only in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Protecting this species and its habitat is crucial for its survival. Additionally, the park harbors other rare and endangered species such as chimpanzees, forest elephants, okapis, and a wide range of bird species.

The park is also home to the indigenous communities of the Batwa and Bantu people who have inhabited the area for centuries. These communities have a deep spiritual connection to the land and have developed unique knowledge and practices related to sustainable resource management.

However, this park has been on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger since 1997. The park’s management is underfunded and understaffed, and the general political instability of the DRC contributes to this. The lack of funds means that poaching and “artisanal oil exploration” are difficult to keep under control. UNESCO notes that “Hunting of wild game for bush meat as well as the conversion of habitats are considered the consequence of the presence of numerous miners in the Park.”

A female gorilla with a baby gorilla on her back.

What can you expect on a visit to Kahuzi-Biega National Park?

Most people visit Kahuzi-Biega National Park for eco-tourism and wildlife encounters. Visitors can go on guided treks and observe the magnificent eastern lowland gorillas in their natural habitat. It is a rare and unique experience that provides a chance to witness these gentle creatures up close while contributing to their conservation efforts.

In addition to gorilla trekking, the park offers numerous other activities such as nature walks, bird watching, and cultural visits to nearby communities. It is also possible to climb Mount Kahuzi, which reaches an elevation of 3,308 meters (10,853 feet), offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

Is Kahuzi-Biega worth visiting?

Yes, but only for experienced travelers. The DRC has a long, complicated history filled with conflict and sometimes violence, including in the park because of poaching. Safety is paramount, so using a trusted travel company is recommended.

This 3-day tour, this 6-day tour, and this 13-day tour all include visiting Kahuzi-Biega National Park to see the eastern lowland gorillas.

A view of Kahuzi-Biega outside of the forest.

What sorts of travelers would like to visit Kahuzi Biega?

Travelers who love to go off the beaten path would love Kahuzi-Biega. Whether they are gorilla trekking or hiking Mount Kahuzi, adventure travelers would love exploring this part of the world that not many people get to see. However, this is not a place to visit with children or if you are mobility-impaired.

Tips for visiting Kahuzi-Biega

Check the latest travel advisories before you decide to visit the area. Also check that your travel insurance covers you there and find out what travel inoculations or medications you should take.

If you decide to go, find a reputable tour company that has experience traveling to the DRC. We visited with Africa Adventure Vacations, which helped with the border crossing from Rwanda, access to the park, gorilla trekking, and lodging in the park.

If you’re gorilla trekking, be sure to pack neutral-color clothing and waterproof hiking boots.

Book your hotel in Kigali, Rwanda, for before and/or after your tour.

Where is Kahuzi-Biega National Park?

The park is located in the Democratic Republic of Congo near the town of Bukavu and Lake Kivu. Most tours to see the gorillas start in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

For more information about Kahuzi-Biega National Park, visit its official website.

Have you been to Kahuzi-Biega? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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