Kahuzi-Biega National Park
Kahuzi-Biega National Park, located in the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is the last place in the world where travelers can embark on a lowland gorilla tracking safari. The park was expanded to its current size of 6000 km2 in 1975, and is divided into two zones which are connected in the center. The eastern half is quite small, but very high, reaching 3300 m, and is filled with swamps and bamboo forests. The thick rainforests in this region reach up to 2300 m above sea level. The western part of the park, known as the Central Congo Basin, is much larger, but only reaches 1200 m. The park is also famous for its two towering mountains, Mont Biega (2790 m) and Mont Kahuzi (3308 m).
It has been estimated that there are less than 5,000 gorillas remaining alive. These gorillas tend to move in families, and can be tracked with the help of local guides and park guides, who follow the movements of the gorillas in the park. The thick forests and swamps also house many other kinds of primates, including the colobus monkey and the chimpanzee, in addition to elephants, antelope, and buffalo. In addition, it contains more than 40 kinds of amphibians and 69 types of reptiles, which you can see while gorilla tracking. The park’s wide range of elevation allows it to house this wide variety of fauna as well as flora. More than 1,000 plant species have been identified in the eastern half of the park alone. Intense humidity results in quick natural composting of fallen leaves and animals in the park; it is so warm that fallen leaves can be re-digested into the soil in as little as two months.
Kahuzi-Biega is also inhabited by a more familiar primate: humans. The oldest inhabitants of the area, the Pygmies, have lived in the region for more than 2500 years. They survive primarily through hunting and gathering, but now some are employed at the park, and efforts are in place to increase their access to education and services more commonly available in populated areas. The Bashi people who live in the park are subsistence farmers who famously cultivate bananas used to make banana beer. When visiting the park on your Congo Tour, take the opportunity to visit these people and understand how they eat, work, and survive in harmony with the birds and beasts of the forests.