Central African Republic

Flight Time

14 Hours and 40 Minutes (via Ethiopia)

Time Zone

UTC+1

Best Airlines

Ethiopian, Air France, Kenya Airways

Fly From

London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle, Edinburgh

Central Africa Weather

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
When to go
                         
Temp °C 25 28 30 30 29 26 25 25 26 26 26 25
Rain mm 0 28 27 62 120 150 200 240 225 130 20 0

Not many people have ventured to the Central African Republic – a landlocked country located, as its name suggests, in central Africa, bordered by Cameroon to the west, Republic of Congo to the south west, DRC to the south and Sudan to the east.  Home to the second largest rainforest in the world – the Congo Basin – and specifically the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in the far south west of the country – the area is well known for its incredible biodiversity and phenomenal wealth of wildlife.  This is one of the remotest safari destinations on the planet and it is worth the extra effort to get there!

The Republic of Congo has one of the lowest GDPs in Africa and in recent years has been listed as a red – or no go – country on many international governments travel advice webpages.  However – travel is very possible and indeed safe – especially in the far south west of the country.  Whilst the country is listed as red on the UK FCDO website – intrepid travellers can travel with full travel insurance by using a handful of insurers willing to cover visitors to this fascinating destination.

Access to the rainforest is primarily via Bangui – the country’s capital city – where an overnight is recommended in one of the many hotels frequently used by the myriad of NGOs working in the area.  The overnight not only allows you to rest but acts as a buffer – there is normally only 3 WWF flights into the rainforest weekly – which takes just over an hour.  You can also combine a stay at Sangha Lodge with a stay at Odzala-Kokoua National Park in neighbouring Republic of Congo, which avoids traveling through Bangui altogether.

The Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, established in 1990 and jointly managed by the WWF and the government of the Central African Republic, is located in the far south west of the country and is split into two sectors – the northern Dzanga sector and the southern Ndoki sector.   Between the two sectors of the national park stretches the Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve – the national park and the special reserve, each with its own protective status, are a part of the Dzanga-Sangha Complex of Protected Areas.

Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in Republic of Congo, and Lobéké National Park in Cameroon, form the Sangha Trinational protected area – awarded World Heritage Site status in 2012.  The Dzanga sector has one of the highest densities of western lowland gorillas in the world.

The main river running through this region is the Sangha River – and it is on this river that Sangha lodge is perched – just outside the reserve in its own private concession, overlooking the river and the dense rainforest of the Congo Basin on the far banks.  But what makes this lodge really special is its access to the wildlife right on its doorstep – forest elephants, primates such as the western lowland gorilla and agile mangabey monkeys, and the rare tree pangolins – just a drop in the ocean of the vast biodiversity of wildlife found in the area.

The park is formed on alluvial sands and along streams and crystal-clear waterways forest clearings can be found with marshy areas – known as bais.   One of these is called Dzanga Bai – the village of elephants – a sandy mineral-rich salt lick which attracts thousands of forest elephants every year and is one of the best places on the planet to observe forest elephants from a platform, with approximately 40 to 100 visiting every day.

Key forest species within the area include the western lowland gorilla, African forest elephant, chimpanzee, giant forest hog, red river hog, sitatunga, endangered bongo, African forest buffalo, and six species of duiker and over 400 bird species can be seen, including the Red-Headed Picathartes, African Grey Parrot and Hartlaub’s Duck.  The region is well known for its wealth of small mammals, butterflies, reptiles and amphibians.

The area attracts researchers from all over the world to study the behaviour of forest elephants and gorillas, to investigate the population dynamics of different species, and to deepen their knowledge about the ecology of the rainforest. Ongoing projects include the Primate Habituation Programme at Bai Hokou, long term studies on the population dynamics and communication of forest elephants, bio-monitoring and the setting of camera traps.

The local communities are largely the BaAka tribe – traditionally  a semi-nomadic group of hunter- gatherers who have played a key role in the success of the habituation and research within the park.  The BaAka tribe are completely at home in the forests and have extensive listing skills, awareness and knowledge passed down from countless generations of living, tracking and hunting in the rainforest.  A fixed share of the fee paid by visitors to observe the gorillas goes to the local communities.

We recommend staying at Sangha Lodge which was opened in 2009 by Rod and Tamar Cassidy who have many years’ experience of living, travelling and guiding in the area.  It is one of the most remote lodges in Africa, blending in with the rainforest, and offers a wonderful mix of rustic charm and a comfortable base from which to explore the area.  Just by staying at the lodge you will be contributing to sustainable tourism in action and making a lasting difference to the conservation of eco-systems and the welfare of the local BaAka people.

During their time at Sangha Lodge Rod and Tamar have rescued many orphaned animals from the bushmeat trade, especially the two arboreal species of pangolin found in Dzanga-Sangha. They are known globally for their work with both the white-bellied (tree) pangolin and the black-bellied (long-tailed) pangolin and have had incredible success rehabilitating and releasing these endearing, endangered animals.

Tamar is a co-founder of the Sangha Pangolin Project that’s supported by global conservation organisations like the Born Free Foundation and the Pangolin Crisis Fund, as well as the IUCN’s SCC Pangolin Specialist Group.

Both Rod and Tamar have worked closely with the BaAka to achieve the successful rehabilitation and release of more than 70 pangolins, creating important awareness of the plight of pangolins within the communities they work with.

Intrepid travellers will enjoy a complete immersion in the rainforest and there are many activities which you can enjoy during your stay.  Currently activities include:

Dzanga Bai experience – visit the village of elephants by road and then on foot through the rainforest and spend the day on the platform at the Bai – a real highlight of your trip!

Waterfall trekking & the Valley of the Giants – an exploration of the rainforest taking in a short river cruise and then hiking in the forest where you will have the chance to see some amazing trees towering up towards the light beyond the canopy and hike to enjoy wonderful views from the waterfalls.

Boat-based activities – explore the rivers of Dzanga Sangha by boat and kayaking opportunities on both the Sangha and Yobe Rivers.  Enjoy an evening sundowner cruise up the Sangha River from the lodge and drift down slowly back while enjoying sundowners.

Forest walks – discover Sangha Lodge’s surroundings on foot walking on forest trails close to the lodge which are perfect for exploring during the day and at night.

Bai Walk – drive to the Primate Habituation Centre and walk from bai to bai through the forest.  You can also trek to see the habituated mangabey monkeys before or after your bai walk.

Wildlife watching – spot rare and endemic species. The forest around Sangha Lodge is filled with an incredible diversity of mammal and bird species and creates wonderful opportunities for walking with a pair of binoculars and a camera to see what can be found.

Birding at Sangha Lodge – is simply spectacular with more than 400 species recorded in Dzanga-Sangha, 300 of those in and around the camp and along the 3km access road and the forest trails around the lodge.

Cultural immersion – visit the local BaAka village and learn all about this ancient tribe of forest people and their connection to the forest.  You may also have the opportunity to accompany a group of BaAka net hunters as they go into the forest in pursuit of small mammals for food and medicinal plants.

Spend the night in the forest – it is possible to spend a night with the Ba’aka people in a forest camp and experience their music and dance.  All monies from this activity go directly to the Ba’aka to help with education and health services.  Alternatively you can opt for a night at Dzanga Bai sleeping on the platform where you can listen to the forest elephant activity at night and wake to see the elephants visit the bai at dawn – do bring a sleeping bag!

Western lowland gorilla trekking – has been temporarily halted due to the demise of the silverback gorilla of the only fully habituated family – two other groups are in the process of being habituated and gorilla trekking will resume once these families are fully habituated to visitors.

We recommend either a week or 10 days and Tracks Safaris runs a 7 night small group tour once a year in March, or we can arrange a tailor-made itinerary for you based around your interests with the comfort of the knowledge that your adventure is ATOL bonded.  We will be publishing the dates of our small group safari shortly but if you would like to get the ball rolling sooner then please either email [email protected] or call us on the telephone number below!

Call Sue on 01984 667420 for an informal chat – and talk to someone who has visited!  I visited Sangha Lodge recently in March 2024 and have experienced the lodge first hand and participated in all the activities on offer – so  happy to answer any questions!

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