Lying east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Maiko is a National Park divided into 3 sectors that spread in a total area of about 10,885Km². It is shared by provinces of North Kivu,Orientale and Maniema.  The national park is bordered by Lake Kivu to the East and the town of Kisangani to the West at a distance of about 515Km. It stretches from Oslo river and extends north to the Lindi River with an elevation that rises from about 600 to 1300m altitude. The parks history dates back as early as 1949 when it was declared a hunting reserve by the Belgian Colonial administration, Bakumu Hunting Reserve. The word Bakumu is derived from the name of the native tribe in the region, ‘Kumus’. However, the original plan for the park is believed to have been preventing the exploitation of mineral resources and protecting wildlife. Following the assassination of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, a rebel group known as Simba took refuge in the park in 1964. The word samba is derived from the Swahili language of Kenya and Tanzania which means Lion. Led by Gaston Soumialot and Christophe Gbenye, most of the Simba members were from the Kivu and Orientale provinces. The Simba group made a living by carrying out poaching and illegal mining in the park.

A Presidential Decree no.70-312 signed by Joseph Desire Mobutu was declared on the 20th November 1970 clearly asserting Maiko as a nature protection area. All the migrants were to leave the area of the park following the presidential decree.In 2005, a non-government organization, The Dian Fossey Gorrilla Fund; which was put in place to commemorate and carry on the act of conserving Gorillas and protecting wildlife from poaching; initiated by Dian Fossey; conducted the first Surveys in the park, in the southern sector; and documented a gorilla population increase compared to the past years of study. Dian Fossey was an American Anthropologist,primatologist and zoologist, who operated mainly in Rwanda. She was based in the Volcanoes National Park, north of Rwanda, along the Border with DRC in the East. She was murdered on the 26th December 1985 at the age of 53. She is believed to have been murdered by poachers who saw her as a threat to the abolishing the act.

However, the Simba group didn’t abide by the presidential decree of 1970. They continued to live in the park and the year 2007 saw the arrival of more rebel groups in the remote corners of the park.

In January 2008, the Simba group along other rebel groups living in the national park agreed to sign the Amani peace Agreement which headlined the eviction of all humans from the parks land; peace and stability within the newly established democratic rule system. The demobilization process of the human migrants in the park was further launched on the 6th May 2010 by the Congolese government, with support from the United Nations.Despite the two attempts of evacuating human migrants from the park, there are still Simba families living in the area.However, the Simba community in the park has been of great importance to the Congolese Wildlife Authority in terms of understanding and having reliable information about the national park’s Wildlife and environment.Still in 2010, a new approach to conserve the Wildlife in the park was implemented along compensation to the Simba’s willing to leave the park. Besides compensation, the Fauna and Flora International (FFI), an International Non-government organization meant to preserve and conserve both Fauna and Flora, initiated the construction of health centers and schools in the communities that exist in the park.

Lying along the Equator on the coordinates 00°24S  27°34E, Maiko National park has a tropical type of climate with a Rainy season that stretches from March to  May and from September to November. It is one of the rainiest parks in DRC with annual rainfall of about 1100 to 2000mm.The dry seasons run from December to February and June to August. However, there is little rain during the dry seasons amounting to about 60mm per month. The temperatures range from about 15 to 27°C.The park enhances tropical vegetation with a series of rivers and swamps that meander within the park. There is a riverine dense tropical rain forest

East Lowland Gorillas as an attraction in Maiko National Park
The gorilla species is also known as the Grauer’s gorilla and is the largest among all four gorilla sub species. Similar to the mountain gorillas, eastern lowland gorillas have a Jet black coat which turns silver on the back when the gorilla is mature. However, they are distinguished from other gorilla sub species by a huge body, large hands and short muzzle; shorter hair on the head and body.They have the widest altitudinal range than any other gorilla sub species. They live in mountainous, transitional and lowland tropical forest.They are social and peaceful. They live in groups of 5 to 30 individuals with a dominant alpha male, a silverback, who is in charge of safety and feeding of all group members. Silverbacks are usually the strongest in the social groups.
However, most males leave their social groups when they reach maturity and start up their own, attracting females from other groups to join theirs. A female’s gestation period is about 8½ months and they breastfeed their young for about 12 months. The baby is able to crawl at about 9 weeks;and can walk after 35 weeks. Infants stay with their mothers for 3 to 4 years and after become independent. They start mating at the age of 11 or 12 years old.
When groups meet, the heads of the groups (silverbacks) could get into a deadly fight using canines to injure one another. They will hoot, rise on their legs, throw, slap, tear vegetation, beat their chest with cupped hands, kick with one leg and thump the ground with their palms.

Okapi as an attraction in Maiko National Park
Despite its deer like appearance, the okapi is a unique animal that has legs similar to those of a Zebra, with black and white patches; abdomen similar to that of a horse; head and neck similar to that of a giraffe. In the whole world, Okapi species is only found in the democratic republic of Congo. The okapi is a unique animal that has legs similar to those of a Zebra, with black and white patches; abdomen similar to that of a horse; head and neck similar to that of a giraffe. The species belongs to artiodactyla order and is closely related to the Girraffe. Okapi’s scientific name is Okapia Johnstoni. The name was first described by Ray Lankester, a British zoologist, in 1901. The scientific name was derived from the British governor to Uganda during the colonial period, Sir Harry Johnston; and the generic name Okapi was derived from a word in the Lese Karo language of Kinshasa, o’api. The Okapi and giraffe are the only members of the giraffidae family. The species is primarily diurnal but can be active a few hours in the night. They are herbivorous, feeding on tree leaves and buds, grass, ferns and fungi. Okapis inhabit only in areas with canopy forests at altitude that ranges from 500 to 1500mm. They are endemic to the tropical rainforests in the Democratic republic of Congo.The species has a gestation period of 440 to 450 days, giving birth to usually a single calf.

Chimpanzeeas an Attraction in Maiko National Park
Sometimes called chimps, the chimpanzees are an exclusive African species of extant great Ape. The species is classified in the primate’s order and Pan Genus, troglodytes. It shares the closest DNA with humans at 98%, unlike other great Apes like the gorilla and other monkeys which share about 95% DNA with humans. The species is omnivorous, eating a wide variety of foods which include fruits, nuts, seeds, insects and others. They prefer living in dense tropical rainforest; but can also be found in woodlands, bamboo forest, swamps and open savannah land.
• Their hair is typically black and brown
• Males and females differ in size and appearance. Adult Males weigh between 40 to 90Kg and grow up to 5ft. Adult females weigh between 30 to 79Kg and grow up to 3ft.
• They have a life span of up to 70 years.
• A group’s territory can range from 30 to 150 miles. The males usually patrol the boundaries to look out for intruders. Meeting with rival group results into serious injuries and sometimes death.
• Alpha male protects the group and leads it to a new location or on a patrol.

Other wildlife as attractions of Maiko National park
Apart from habituating the 3 most important endemic species which include the Graure’s Gorilla, Okapi and Congo peafowl. It also has species such as the African forest elephant, Forest buffalo, leopard, Nile crocodiles, aquatic genet, suikers such as black forehead, yellow-backed, black-backed and many others species. Primate species include eastern Chimpanzee.

East Lowland Gorillas Tracking as an activity in Maiko National Park.
East lowland gorilla Facts
• They mainly feed on fruit, plants, seeds, leaves, stems and bark. They also feed on small insects such as ants and termites.
• Males weigh up to 163 kg on average; while females weigh almost half as much.
• Males have a standing height of up to 5ft 7inch on average. Females stand up to 5ft 3inch or less.
• The arms are longer than the legs
• They are shy but social; and very active during day
• Their life span is estimated to be about 50yrs in the wild.
• They have up to 25 vocalization sounds used for communication

 A gorilla tracking permit is required in order to track the endangered species. The permit can be got at the Institute of Congolese Conservation for Nature (ICCN) office in Bukavu.
 Anyone over 15 years of age can apply for a Gorilla permit
 A pair of gloves, head gear, long stockings to protect from insect bites.
 A pair of long sleeved shirt or t-shirt, trouser and hiking shoes to protect from thorns and nettles.
 A water proof rain jacket, which shields you in case it rains while you are tracking.
 Drinking water of a minimum of a liter and a snack for refreshment
PRO’s and CON’s
 A trekker is required to keep a distance of 27ft from the Gorillas. This is to ensure human safety and also minimize the possibility of transmission of human disease to the Gorillas.
 Drinking and smoking near the gorillas is forbidden.
 Photographs are allowed, but without the use of the flash light
 Rapid movements are not allowed as they may frighten the gorillas.
The trek will last for a maximum of about 3Hrs; but only an hour is spent with the gorillas. Trekking through the forest, making way through the dense vegetation, where you may come across other primates such as the Owl-faced Guenon; endemic birds like the colorful Ruwenzori Touraco; and the forest elephant.Often, the first gorilla seen is one of the young keeping look-out in the trees. The one hour spent in the company of the gorillas, you will witness the gorillas going about their daily lives; feeding, playing, resting, grooming, teaching.

Other activities done in Maiko National Park
During gorilla tracking, the other two most important species in the park can be viewed. They include the Okapi and Chimpanzees. Tracking of chimpanzees; There are about 310 bird species in the park, 27 of which are endemic. They include the great blue turacos, giant hornbills, red breasted sparrow hawks and many more.

By Air or Road
You can fly to BangokaInternatonal Airport (FKI) in Kisangani,Orientale Province, on a scheduled or chattered flight. Once in Kisangani, you travel to Maiko National Park by road. Kisangani is about 515Km northwest of Maiko National Park.

Kinshasa Airport to Bangoka International Airport, Kisangani 1Hr 50min