Republic of Congo Safaris
|When to go|
Republic of Congo (or Congo Brazzaville)
One of the most unique wildlife experiences in Africa - a visit to Odzala Kokoua in the Republic of Congo is an absolute must for those wanting to see western lowland gorillas in their natural habitat in safety and comfort. You will travel to a remote part of Africa to visit an area which has hardly been touched by tourism - a vast area with just three comfortable camps. Where you will meet knowledgeable guides and wildlife researchers passionate about the flora and fauna of the area and keen to show you their corner of Africa. This isn't just a safari - this is an amazing and educational journey into the heart of Africa, a remote dot on the map in the middle of a vast continent.
Experience the ultimate safari adventure as you explore the towering forests, crystal-clear streams and expansive open savannah of north-west Congo: track western lowland gorillas through pristine rainforest and discover a mosaic of grasslands and waterways as you search out unique birds and wildlife. This is a safari like no other and will showcase the incredible biodiversity of the park.
Very importantly your journey will not only enrich you - it will put money directly into the local communities who have been custodians of the gorillas for generations and who call the forest home. The charitable organisation working alongside Congo Conservation Company is Sabine Plattner African Charities. SPAC aims at enabling and empowering local people at the Republic of Congo’s Odzala-Kokoua National Park to act independently and sustainably for a future in the rainforest that is worth living.
Around Odzala-Kokoua national park mainly Bantu and Pygmy people live in villages - some just consist of a few huts, while others have some thousand inhabitants. Odzala means home to around 80,000 people. The women grow corn, cassava and other crops on the fields and in some villages in the north also coffee and cocoa. What the families don’t need for themselves is sold on the market.
The rainforest is the livelihood for millions of people in Central Africa. Humans and nature live together closely, in good times and in bad times. Entire cultures, such as the Pygmy people, lead a ‘forest life’. Pygmies and Bantu live along the national park - the forest is their environment, jungle pharmacy, shelter and food source. Thus any destruction of nature will sooner or later affect the people, too. The aim therefore follows a comprehensive approach: to strengthen the people in order to allow them to become protectors of their own families as well as of the rainforest and its animals.
Brazzaville, named after the explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, is the capital city gateway to the Republic of Congo and lies in the southern corner of the country. Even though the country gained full independence in 1960 traces of the French connection can still be seen (and tasted) in the city. The Congolese economy is based upon petroleum, forestry and village agriculture. Brazzaville is a wonderful place to spend a couple of nights exploring before or after your safari and we recommend building in some time to absorb the culture, vibe and markets of this fascinating city.
Access to Odzala Kokoua National Park is by a scheduled flight on a daily basis and takes around 1.5 hours - on arrival at the airstrip you are met by your guide and transferred the short distance into camp.
Odzala-Kokoua National Park in Congo’s remote north-west is one of Africa’s oldest national parks, having been proclaimed by the French administration in 1935. It is some 13,600 sq km of pristine rainforest and is an integral part of both the Congo Basin and the TRIDOM Transfrontier Park overlapping Gabon, Congo and Cameroon. The park is managed by African Parks and is home to 400 bird species, 114 mammal species and in excess of 4,400 plants species. Mammals of the area include Western Lowland Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Forest Elephant, Forest Buffalo, Spotted Hyena, Sitatunga and Bongo.
Covered in forests, rivers, marshes and swamps the Park receives some 1 500 mm of rain annually mainly during the two wet seasons. Permanent rivers are a primary feature with the Lekoli and Kokoua rivers flowing into the Park’s major channel, the Mambili. In some places, the Mambili is up to 100 metres wide between densely forested banks; it then flows into the great Congo Basin.
Bais, or salines, are major features of this rainforest. These swampy, grassy areas are dotted across the rainforest and offer a rare chance to catch a glimpse beyond the ‘green curtain’ into the lives of the forest dwellers. Various mammal species come to the bais on a regular basis in order to access various elements, from water to minerals and salts to sedges and water-loving grasses to water.
WILDLIFE AND BIRDLIFE
Viewing of birds and mammals in tropical forests anywhere in the world can be challenging. The dense environment and slow-going through the undergrowth means that a skilled guide with a comprehensive knowledge of behaviour and calls is essential to get the best sightings.
Below are a few of the key species likely to be encountered on an Odzala expedition:
Bulls of this species are regularly seen in the M’boko area, both in the savannah and forest fringe as well as along the Lekoli River. Small family groups are less often seen.
This charismatic species is abundant and is commonly seen in the M’boko and Lango areas and especially at Lango and Mbouebe Bais, along the Lekoli River and in the savannah.
This exciting forest species is resident in the area around Lango Camp and although primarily nocturnal is regularly seen, either as single animals or in a small herd of about six animals. It is also occasionally seen at one of the bais that is visited on most expeditions to Odzala.
This is a resident species in the area around Lango Camp and is regularly sometimes seen, especially at the bai near Camp.
This is the most regularly-seen forest duiker species since it visits the open bais and can therefore be more easily observed.
Red River Hog, Harnessed Bushbuck, Grey Duiker and Peters’ Duiker are regularly seen in the M’boko and Lango areas while a number of other forest duiker are occasionally encountered but are difficult to observe (Blue, Yellow-backed, White-bellied and Bay Duiker). Another exciting species occasionally seen after dark is the Water Chevrotain. Hippos occur in the Lekoli River but are secretive and rare.
Apart from the western lowland gorilla there are around 11 other primate species that can be seen in Odzala:
This is one of the more visible primate species in Odzala and is seen in the Mboko and Lango areas, as well as along the Lekeni and Lekoli Rivers. It is also a regular visitor to the forest bais, including several that we visit on a regular basis.
Another fairly visible species that is regularly seen in the forests around Mboko especially in the early morning.
Although difficult to observe for long periods of time, this colourful species is fairly regularly seen in mature forest.
Agile Mangabey, de Brazza’s Monkey, Allen’s Swamp Monkey, Crowned Monkey and Putty-Nosed Monkey are all regularly seen in their preferred habitats and visitors to Odzala should see a number of these species during their trip. Central Chimpanzees are regularly heard in the Mboko and Lango areas as well as along the Lekoli River but are not habituated and are therefore seldom seen.
Nearly 450 species of birds have been recorded in the Odzala-Kokoua National Park, with more than 300 of these known to breed there, making Odzala one of Bird Life International’s Important Bird Areas and perhaps the richest forest block in west-central Africa for birds. The diverse array of pristine habitats is the reason for such high numbers of species, especially the forest areas which host some 250 resident species. The forests also present the most challenging birding and it is here more than anywhere where the services of a skilled guide are required.
The guides employed at Odzala have also been tasked with the development of these skills in local community employees. It is with these local experts that reliable sightings of some of the region’s ‘specials’ can be found, species such as Plumed Guineafowl, Hartlaub’s duck, Cassin’s Malimbe, Bare-cheeked Trogon, Blue Malkoha, Black-casqued Wattled Hornbill, Black Bee-eaters, Blue-throated Roller and many others.
This vast area of Odzala-Kokoua has just three camps which are all operated by Odzala Discovery Camps - and each camp offers something different and unique!
Ngaga Camp is in prime Western Lowland Gorilla habitat and trekking to see the habituated groups is done from camp in the mornings. A visit to the village of Ombo, afternoon walks in the forest or sundowners at the river deck gives you a variety of options to choose from for afternoon activities.
A three hour drive away, Mboko and Lango camps offer pure adventure – whether it be exploring a bai, canoeing down the Lekoli River or going on adventure walks through forest swamps. It is here that sightings of elephant and buffalo are common and guests often see large flocks of African Grey Parrots landing in the bai in front of Lango Camp.
All three camps are small, intimate camps offering superb guiding. Even though tourism is a relatively new but growing industry in The Republic of Congo, service standards at the camps are excellent and they are very comfortable.
NEW! Join a set departure safari to Odzala National Park every Thursday or Monday! Fly directly to the park avoiding a long road journey and keep costs down by flying on the scheduled flight in and out of Odzala every Thursday or Monday - a choice of 4 night, 7 night and 10 night itineraries is now available.
NEW! Combine Odzala National Park with Sangha Lodge bordering the Dzanga-Sangha National Park in the CAR by a safe and easy access route between the two destinations involving a flight and a 4 hour river journey and experience two phenomenal destinations in one itinerary!
Reduced single supplement departures - please ask!
A night or two either side in Brazzaville is recommended to explore this vibrant city!
If you are travelling in a group of more than 4 then ask us for a tailor made itinerary to suit your dates and interests.
Tracks Safaris are just one of a handful of UK safari operators who have visited The Republic of Congo and visited all three Odzala camps - not just once but twice - in the last couple of years. Talk to us as we have experienced first hand the wonderful wildlife and activities on offer and can give you the very best up to date information and advice. At the moment we are delighted to offer the 4 night, 7 night and 10 night set departure every Thursday or Monday - or we can tailor make you your perfect package if your party is 4 or more guests.
Ask about extending your safari to Ethiopia, Kenya or South Africa!
Call us on 01984 667420 to discuss your options and talk to someone who has been there!