The EA guide to Republic of Congo safaris
The Republic of Congo safari adventure
Arriving into Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, you are immediately overwhelmed by vibrant streets lined with art, fabric stalls, flower markets, cafes and the smells of freshly baked baguettes. This is the ‘Little Paris of Africa’ and the French influence is most evident along these streets. A night here to start and end your adventure is worthwhile.
The highlight of the Congo is of course Odzala-Kokoua National Park, one of Africa’s oldest (founded in 1935). It is located in the north west of The Congo and forms part of the second largest coherent rainforest area on earth spanning almost 3.5 million acres. The African rainforest basin provides shelter for over 10,000 plant species, 1,000 bird species, 700 fish and 400 mammal species.
There are a number of tribes in the area known as forest dwelling people. What this means is Odzala is one of earth’s lungs and without it, should logging and mining take over, the impacts of global climate change are incomprehensible.
The already heavily forested landscape is characterised by networks of swamps, bais and rivers. It is also one of the last homelands for the critically endangered western lowland gorillas. The reason for the classification is because the lowland gorillas face habitat loss, are prone to diseases from humans and are poached, killed and sold as part of the bush meat trade.
Congo wildlife safaris offer gorilla trekking, birding safaris, walking safaris, boating, cultural visits, kayaking, and fantastic photographic opportunities in a remote habitat that’s far away from tourist crowds.
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The Republic of Congo Safari in-depth
Odzala-Kokoua is a vast and truly wild region with an impressive range of landscapes and habitat. This means the wilderness is home to an incredible diversity of wildlife. You can see forest elephant, leopard, bongo, sitatunga, rare birds, forest buffalo, giant forest hog and hippo plus of course the western lowland gorilla plus various monkey species. With minimal impact on the ecosystem, you track gorilla on foot, explore forest walking trails, kayak, river boat and more. There are two properties inside the national park and one just outside in a private concession area. There is a Congo circuit created to ensure an effortless experience with the emphasis on immersing into the wilderness.
One of the camps is in the Ndzehi Forest section on the western boundary of Odzala-Kokoua National Park and from here, you gorilla trek. Stilted accommodation with 360 degree wraparound walkways connecting to the main area offer a beautiful rainforest holiday experience. You will also see Moustached monkeys, crowned and putty nose monkeys, over 416 species of butterfly, forest duikers, insects and the Great blue Turaco and black-casqued wattled hornbill birds plus the gorillas.
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Another camp within Odzala-Kokoua is set out along the Lekoli River complete with canvas cabins, star decks and main area all designed to be as sustainable and low impact as possible. The emphasis here is on expedition experiences like walking, boating, wading through streams looking for wildlife like hyena, aardvark, serval, forest buffalo, bongo, sitatunga, forest elephant and more.
Finally, a camp sits in the south central area of the park overlooking the Lango Bai. Constructed out of all natural materials, this treehouse style property is a fantastic experience. The main activities focus on the bai, Lekoli River and surrounding savannah. You will drive, walk, boat, kayak and head out on adventure trails along the edge of forest areas to see into the arboreal world. Wildlife rich, expect a brilliant Congo birding safari along with butterflies and mammals.
Images courtesy of Odzala Discovery Camps
Congo and Conservation
Eco tourism in the Congo contributes to global awareness, local sustainable development and protection of imperative rainforest areas. The Sabine Plattner Africa Charities (SPAC) conservation efforts around Odzala-Kokoua National Park are impressive and unique in their approach. The priority is working to strengthen the people so they become protectors of their own families and the rainforest. It is this protection and conservation that in turn creates employment and one staff salary supports up to 10 family members.
In this region, barely 10% of the population has regular income from paid labour, so the tourism business of Odzala is creating employment and community unity.
Preserving this vulnerable rainforest, the lungs of our planet plus the vast areas of savannah and mineral rich bais are the conservation initiatives supported when our guests stay at the Odzala Discovery Camps.
Equally important is the protection of the western lowland gorillas. Collaborating with government, the tourism industry protects habitat and ecologically important resources that benefit this critically endangered species inside the national park. There is a successful gorilla research centre based at one of the Odzala camps and guests can learn about their work and huge impact on the western gorillas’ survival.
Best time to visit The Congo
The Congo lies on the Equator meaning temperatures vary little throughout the year. It is a tropical climate characterised by relatively heavy precipitation, moderately high temperatures and humidity. Dry season is June to September and December to February. Air is hazy and humidity is lower whilst rainfall still occurs quite variably. Ripe fruits result in easier primate sightings and a diversity of behaviours. Green season runs March to May and September to November. These wetter months herald tropical rainstorms and then clear blue skies. Ripe fruit becomes scarce, so gorillas and elephants move smaller distances. Elephants visit the bais to obtain mineral reserves whilst sunrise, sunsets and electrical storms provide a theatrical setting of note.