Changing the face of African travel, the Republic of the Congo has opened up Central Africa’s great equatorial rainforests. Intrepid travellers now walk through sunlit jungle in search of gorillas and chimpanzees, staking out salt licks for forest buffalo and elephant, and sweeping a spotlight around at night for rare antelope and stealthy predators.
With most of its population concentrated in the south and the capital Brazzaville, the Congo has managed to keep most of its northern forests and wetlands intact, epitomised by the superb Odzala National Park. Here, over 13 000 km² of primary rainforest provides Central Africa’s most important sanctuary for lowland gorillas and forest elephants. Congo accommodation is limited to a pair of fly-in lodges - Ngaga Camp and Lango Camp - but it’s worth the effort to travel there: the sensitively designed eco-lodges deliver comfort and adventure in equal proportions, and something of a pioneering spirit fills the people who you meet in them. Expert guides lead you along forest paths clouded with dazzling butterflies; boatmen take you down lazy brown rivers to the calls of monkeys and tropical birds.
The best game viewing is at a ‘bai’, a marshy forest clearing where open water, good grazing and vital minerals in the soil attract Africa’s hardest-to-see animals. Forest elephant, bush pig and forest buffalo wallow in the mud; leopard, hyena and even bongo, the rainforest’s largest antelope, slip in silently after dark. The most dramatic wildlife experience, however, is deep in the forest’s interior where lowland gorillas still live in unprecedented numbers. Finding them is tough work – the rainforest does not give up its secrets so lightly – but the reward is an hour in the company of a habituated gorilla family, complete with curious infants, moody teenagers and poker-faced silverbacks.
Raw, real and perfect for experienced safari travellers with a thirst for adventure, the Congo is Africa’s newest travel destination. It’s also one of the most under-developed, so take the uncertainty out of arranging a Congo safari and speak to us about creating an itinerary that delivers it as a complete stand-alone tour package or in combination with other African safari destinations and the Indian Ocean islands.