BIEGA NATIONAL PARK INFORMATION
KAHUZI-BIEGA NATIONAL PARK is located in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Part of the border between Rwanda and the DRC is Lake Kivu itself. Here in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, there are two dormant volcanoes, Mounts Kahuzi and Biega. Since 1980, Kahuzi-Biega National Park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its biodiversity; both the last refuge of the rare Eastern Lowland Gorilla and one of the last true rain forest habitats in Africa. The park is 6,000 square kilometers in size, one of the largest in the DRC.
There are two major activities in Kahuzi-Biega National Park. Hiking Mount Biega and Mount Kahuzi, the two dormant volcanoes and the popular tracking of the Eastern Lowland Gorillas, also known as the Grauer’s Gorilla. The Grauer’s Gorilla is the largest of the four Gorilla subspecies; they feed on the herbaceous materials and fruits in the forest.
VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK INFORMATION
VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK is the continent’s most biologically diverse protected areas, as well as Africa’s oldest National Park. The park is quite diverse, in that there are the glaciated peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains, active volcanoes, lava plains, swamps, forests, savannas and erosion valleys; the park is 3,000 square meters in size.
One quarter of the world’s rare and endangered Mountain Gorillas live in Virunga National Park, as well as two other Great Ape species, the Eastern Lowland Gorillas (Grauer’s Gorilla) and many species of Chimpanzees; it is the only protected area in the world that hosts three Great Ape species. Another rare and unusual endangered species is the Okapi, most closely related to the Giraffe, but resembling the zebra. Other interesting wildlife include large colonies of lions, savanna and forest elephants, hippopotami and hundreds of rare bird species.
There are 3 distinct divisions of Virungu National Park. The Southern Sector is covered with dense forest, making it an ideal habitat for the numerous species of primates, including the Mountain Gorillas as well as the well sought after Chimpanzee. Most of these primates live on the flanks of the dormant Mikeno Volcano. The Central Sector, is defined by the Ishasha River, the Rwindi plains and Lake Edward. There are over 50 species of fish in Lake Edward as well as many rare bird species. The Ishasha River valley, adjacent to Lake Edward is the habitat for the hippopotamus population, which is recovering from near extinction. Also there are high concentrations of elephant, warthogs and buffalo found here. The elusive Topi can be found on the Rwindi plains. The Northern Sector of Virungu National Park has the son-capped Rwenzori Mountains defining the DRC/Ugandan border. One of the primary sources of the Nile River is the snowmelt from the Rwenzoris. The rare and unusual Okapi can be found along the Semiliki River valley of the northern sector.
DAY 1: KIGALI AND TRANSFER TO KAHUZI-BIEGA NATIONAL PARK
Your Jewel Safaris guide will meet you at Kigale International Airport and brief you on your upcoming itinerary. You will then proceed immediately to Cyagungu, the border town where you will cross from Rwanda into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The drive from Kigale International Airport to Cyagungu will take a few hours, passing through the town of Butare, the Intellectual Center of Rwanda and the Nyungwe Forest. Butare can be most interesting as here there are a large number of cultural and historical sites to visit, including the various institutions of higher knowledge. On the DRC side of the border, the town is called Bukavu, which is located on the shores of Lake Kivu. Here in Bukavu your Jewel Safaris guide will take you to your accommodation, where you will have dinner.
DAY 2: EASTERN LOWLAND GORILLA TRACKING AND TRANSFER TO VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARK
After breakfast, your Jewel Safaris guide will take you to the headquarters of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, about an hour’s drive along the shoreline of Lake Kivu. You will register and be assigned to a group with a Park Ranger and begin your tracking of the Eastern Lowland Gorillas.
After you have spent the permitted hour with the Eastern Lowland Gorillas, you will reunite with your Jewel Safaris guide, who will then take you to the Virunga National Park, to the north. This drive will prove to be very beautiful, though the roads themselves are not the best. Immediately, you will be taken to your accommodation where you will have dinner.
DAY 3: MOUNTAIN GORILLA TRACKING
After breakfast, your Jewel Safaris guide will take you to the headquarters of the Virunga National Park, register you and assign you to your group and Park Ranger. 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, as the Gorillas roam the forest and sometimes it can take a while to connect with them. You will be permitted to spend up to one hour with the gorillas, observing and photographing them within the guidelines that will be outlined to you at the registration.
After your Gorilla encounter, your Jewel Safaris 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.