Mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda and lowland gorilla trekking in Congo, All in all there are two species of gorillas in the world the western and eastern gorillas which largely dwell or live in the forests, swamps and lowland areas of East, West and Central Africa. Each species is further divided into two. The western gorillas are divided into Cross River gorillas and Western lowland gorillas while the eastern gorillas are divided into two sub-species, the mountain gorilla and Eastern lowland gorillas found only in Kahuzi Biega National Park in the DR Congo. Western lowland gorillas are more commonly found in the Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville, Angola, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon.
Lowland Gorilla Trekking is so exciting in the Odzala National Park Congo Brazzaville which hosts the largest known population and density of western lowland gorillas because most of them live in extremely remote habitats it is estimated that about 100,000 western lowland gorillas are still living in the wild. However recent discovery of an estimated 125,000 individuals in a remote swampy are in the north of Congo Brazzaville has excited both researchers and conservationists.
Eastern lowland gorillas are peaceful and quiet apes though they may attack when disturbed or provoct. The males may fight over females once in a while but only occasionally. Gorillas communicate using a variety of sounds or body language. They spend their day grooming, climbing, swinging on tree tops and playlfully chasing each other. Their diet consists of leaves, stems, fruit and shrubs.
The Mountain gorilla groups generally contain more individuals than Eastern lowland groups the groups may have between 20 to 30 individuals or more. Both subspecies live in groups that are lead by a dominant silverback. The other males in the group can choose to live as bachelors in the group before hopefully taking over from the dominant silverback or leave to find mates. Females usually move on to join a lone male or another group of their preference once they reach age. Females are known for changing groups throughout their life. Because of their considerable size and weight, gorillas live mostly on the ground. Both species build nests on the ground to rest in the middle using leaves, shrubs and tree branches.
The Eastern Lowland Gorillas differ from mountain gorillas in many ways in that they have browner coats and the silver on the back of the male may extend to the lower body to include the thighs. Although relatively small in size, the Eastern lowland gorilla has a larger and wider skull compared to the mountain gorilla. Eastern Lowland gorillas are more mobile than the mountain gorillas because their habitats spread over large areas. For both subspecies, the males are usually far larger than the females. Eastern Lowland Gorillas have remarkable intelligence and have been spotted using a variety of tools in the wild. Researchers have witnessed them testing the depth of swamps and rivers before deciding whether to cross to the other end and when in captivity, Eastern lowland gorillas have shown remarkable ability to learn sign language.
Eastern Lowland gorillas are considered critically endangered and are included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) List of species that need special protection.
Because they live in regions that are often volatile, they are killed for meat. Their habitats are being destroyed by humans interested in mining, logging, expanding grazing lands, establishing farmlands and new settlements on top of that diseases such as Ebola have been found to wipe out entire families. However all is not lost for the lowland gorillas. Conservationists and researchers are working tirelessly to ensure their survival.
Eastern Lowland Gorilla Trekking in Kahuzi-Biega National Park
Despite the relatively high population of lowland gorillas remaining in the wild, the range covered by them is wide requiring greater effort habituating them. The Central African Republic and Congo Brazzaville have the highest number of lowland gorillas and provide the greatest opportunities to see them but the most convenient place to track lowland gorillas is in the Democratic Republic of Congo. DR Congo is a volatile country but has become relatively peaceful in recent years as a result of having the largest UN peace keeping mission in the world. Visitors can track the Eastern lowland gorillas in either Kahuzi Biega National Park or the Western lowland gorillas at Maiko National Park.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park is the only place where one can track Eastern lowland gorillas which number to about 400 and live in 9 groups. Three of the nine groups have been habituated and are open for tracking. The park is located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo near Bukavu and Lake Kivu. Named after Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega, Kahuzi-Biega National Park is one of the largest game parks found in DR Congo. The terrain found in Kahuzi-Biega National Park provides perfect habitat for the Eastern Lowland Gorillas.
In general, tracking lowland gorillas is only for those who have a very special interest in primates or wish to have a totally different experience from the usual. The reward apart from seeing the gorillas is spotting areas that have never been visited by many visitors and a marvelous and remarkable biodiversity.
The Tracking of Eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega National Park starts with a briefing at the Tshivanga Visitor Centre which is found outside the park entrance. The park guide will guide you through the rules and regulations regarding lowland gorilla trekking while sharing with visitors’ facts about the gorilla families and the terrain they live in.
After the briefing, visitors are then led through established trails in search of the gorilla groups. The Eastern Lowland gorillas are always on the move and finding them may take some trekking. Visitors will probably first spot the youngsters playing about before the dominant silverback appears to check if there is any potential threat to the family. If all is okay, you are only allowed one hour with the gorilla group.
Day 1: Transfer from Kigali to Bukavu (Driving time 7 Hours)
Day 2: Gorilla Trekking in Kahuzi Biega National Park ( 1 Hour drive to the park from the lodge)
Day 3: Transfer back to Kigali ( 7 Hours Drive).
Coco Lodge Bukavu: Is a mid-range lodge of 8 well furnished rooms with African theme decorations located near the park. They offer self contained rooms equipped with televisions, a restaurant, two lounges with a fireplace, a private bar and VIP lounge.
L’Orchids Safari Club: Offers both budget and luxury. The starting price for some of the budget rooms is $90. Visitors are rewarded with beautiful scenery and wildlife animals moving besides Lake kivu. This hotel is considered among the best to book while on a Eastern lowland Gorilla trekking safari. Visitors can take part in other activities like bird watching, nature walks through the dense rain-forest, he park or tea plantations. There is even white water rafting in River Luhoho. Facilities in the Club include spacious rooms, well furnished bathrooms, a Lounge, restaurant services, helicopter hiring, a shopping center and swimming pool.
Lake Side Hotel Bukavu: Is ranked as a 4 star hotel and is located near the showers of Lake Kivu and Kahuzi Biega National Park. They have spacious resting bedrooms with en-suit bathrooms, a swimming pool, spa, a restaurant, well furnished dining rooms and a bar.
Hotel Begonias Bukavu: Located within Bukavu next to Kahuzi Biega National Park, this 4 star hotel is surrounded by a beautiful lush green courtyard. It has a large swimming pool that is perfect for relaxation after gorilla trekking. You will find well furnished, spacious and air conditioned rooms with a 24 hour front desk and room services. They even have balcony rooms offering great views, a children’s play ground, WiFi and a restaurant
Exodus Hotel Bukavu: This offers budget lodging facilities and is located within Bukavu. The hotel has committed multilingual staff that is determined to offer you the best services. The hotel has balconies with a sitting that has large flat screen TVs. There is a restaurant, a bar, Free WiFi and a Children’s play ground.