In Africa, Eastern Lowland Gorilla trekking tours are one of the most interesting safari activities undertaken in Kahuzi Beiga national park of DR Congo. Eastern Lowland gorilla is a subspecie closely related to mountain gorillas that live in the mountains of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. In Congo Eastern lowland gorilla trekking can be done in either Kahuzi beiga national park or Maiko national park respectively whereas Congo Mountain gorilla trekking tours are specifically done in Virunga national park.
Kahuzi beiga is more famous and convenient to most travelers by combining the lowland gorilla trek with mountain gorillas on the same tour. Its also possible to do a short lowland gorilla tour as you just need 3 days starting from Kigali in Rwanda.
Kahuzi Beiga national park is protected area near Bukavu town, situated in eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo in the western bank of lake Kivu and Rwanda boarder. It is well known as a home for the surviving eastern lowland gorillas which is the biggest gorilla subspecie in the world. Currently, lowland gorillas are considered to be the most tourist attraction in the park. By appearance, the male Eastern lowland gorillas are marked by a jet black coat which becomes silver at a mature stage similar to that of mountain gorillas. The eastern lowland gorillas have large hands, shorter but huge body and have head hair.
Kahuzi Beiga national park started as a zoological reserve in 1937 on the slopes of mount Kahuzi in order to provide protection to the eastern lowland gorillas by the Belgium colonial government. It was then established in 1970 by a Belgium photographer and conservationist called Adrien Deschryver. It was then declared a national park.
Kahuzi Biega national park is one of the biggest national parks in Congo, set in both the mountainous and lowland terrain. It was named after two dormant volcanoes of Mt Beiga and Mount Kahuzi which are found within the park. This national park covers an area of 6000kmsq and 10% of the landscape is comprised of high mountains marked by extinct volcanoes.
The park has two seasons every year, the rainy season appearing in April-May and October-January having the rest of the months as dry season.
Eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri) feed on fruits, seeds, plant leaves, insects and they look for their food in mountainous and lowland habitats. They have extended groups of 5-30 members which are managed by an alpaha male. The eastern lowland gorillas have a gestation period of 8 and a half months. Females usually breast feed for 12 months and the baby gorillas crawl for about 9 weeks and walk at about 35 weeks old from which they spend 3-4 years with mothers and become independent. Eastern lowland gorillas mate at 11 or 12 years and the cycle continues. These lowland gorillas are active during day but they are shy though social, they future 25 vocalization sounds which they use in communication. They can live up to 50 years in the wild as their life span.
Besides the Eastern lowland gorillas, Kahuzi Beiga national park has a range of other animals. These include eastern chimpanzees, forest elephants, owl faced monkeys, forest buffaloes, Bongo, Mt Kahuzi climbing mouse, forest hog, hippopotamus, baboons and leopards. The park has 349 bird species of which 4 species are listed on the international union for conservation of nature. They include Congo pea fowl, yellow crested helmet, shrike, Rockefellers, Sunbird and African Broadbill.
More attractions in the Kahuzi Beiga national park are the Lwiro sanctuary which is a rehabilitation center for the orphaned chimpanzees and monkey species. These were established in 2002 close to Tshivanga visitors center and currently has around 55 chimpanzees and over 60 species of monkeys. Kahuzi Beiga national park has 1178 species of plants making a lush forest cover worth exploring. The dense equatorial forest and beautiful forest and beautiful river line flora combined make the park more worth exploring.
Gorilla trekking in Kahuzi Beiga national park takes you to a habituated gorillas and currently 9 groups are habituated while only two groups are open to visitors for trekking.
As the most adventurous safari in Africa you can go for, trekking lowland gorillas is popular in Congo’s kahuzi Beiga national park and Mountain gorillas in Virunga national park respectively and can be enjoyed by travelers that risk all the warnings on travel forums. A gorilla trekking permit for Viewing lowland gorillas in Kahuzi Beiga cost $400., for international visitors.
Just at Tshivanga Visitor center, before you enter the park you will be briefed and guided by the park ranger of Kahuzi Beiga national park who will assist with registration and other formalities for the best gorilla trekking experience. You will be able to take photo with the large gorilla statue while waiting for the trackers to locate the gorilla family. After trackers have located the family group, you are notified to start entering the park.
While trekking, gorillas, you are advised to follow the guides directive as you enjoy the jungle trek. Tracking length depend on the location of the gorillas as they keep making movement searching for food. Trekking time may be between 1-5 hours in total and a period of one hour is allowed for viewing and photographing.
The preparation and what you should pack for Lowland gorilla trekking adventure is the same as those for visitors of mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable national park of Uganda, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park of DR Congo.