Track lowland gorillas on easy treks through the pristine tropical forest of the Little Congo
Few wildlife experiences can match the thrill and privilege of seeing gorillas in their natural environment. Imagine moving stealthily through the jungle greenery, parting branches to see before you a group of magnificent western lowland gorillas, foraging and grooming. This adventure, available for the very first time, allows excitingly close views of these critically endangered animals through tracking, river safaris and observation at hides. The relative abundance of gorillas in this region, combined with fairly short, moderate treks and the guidance of expert trackers, makes this journey one of the best gorilla-viewing experiences you’ll find anywhere.
The Republic of Congo (or "Little Congo") lies in the heart of the Congo basin between Gabon and the larger Democratic Republic of Congo. Little known and sparsely populated, this small nation is home to the world’s largest population of western lowland gorillas, with density in Odzala-Kokoua National Park being the highest recorded. Odzala-Kokoua is one of Africa's oldest national parks, encompassing over 8,000 square miles of pristine rainforest. It is a place of exceptional biodiversity: 430 bird species and more than 100 mammal species, including Africa's highest concentration of chimpanzees.
Lowland gorillas can be observed in two different ways while in Odzala: tracking habituated groups using the impressive skills of our expert local Mbeti trackers, or waiting at hides on the edge of forest bais (grassy areas) for family groups to forage on the sedges there. Expeditions are based around two brand-new, sensitively constructed camps that are beautifully integrated into the forest, and fully staffed by locals. Lango Camp, nestled in mature rainforest on the outskirts of Lango Bai, offers access to the savannah as well as the Lekoli and Mambili Rivers. Ngaga Camp, surrounded by arrowroot forest, is especially good for tracking: the 11.5-square-mile area around the camp is home to no fewer than 7 groups, totaling 105 individual gorillas. If time allows while at Ngaga, you’ll visit the Gorilla Tracking Academy run by Dr Magda Bermejo and German Illera, where you’ll learn about the comprehensive training of local community trackers from all over west-central Africa and how this plays a role in gorilla conservation.
As you explore the scenic jungles of Odzala, you’ll witness the habits and unravel the mysteries of our closest wild relatives, on gorilla-tracking expeditions that range in length from .5-5 miles and last from 2 to 5 hours. Our guides and trackers are continually monitoring the gorillas, so they know their whereabouts—and once you find the great apes, you’ll get a full hour to observe their behavior, a thrilling and profoundly moving experience! Though forest undergrowth can be thick, in general the tracking is easier here than in Mountain Gorilla countries like Rwanda and Uganda, and you’ll enjoy two full days of it. Your adventure also includes guided forest walks, game drives, and motorized pirogue rides along the rivers and bais of this area.
Gorilla tracking, walking safari, game drives, boat cruises, guided forest walks
- View critically endangered gorillas in their natural habitat—without the need for permits!
- Travel a largely untouristed area as part of a small, private group and enjoy exclusive access to unique eco-lodges
- Treks involve flatter terrain and lower elevation than Rwanda or Uganda
- Stay in the heart of Odzala-Kokoua National Park, which houses the highest recorded density of western lowland gorillas—the area around Ngaga Camp is home to no fewer than 7 family groups!
- Visit the Gorilla Tracking Academy and learn about the training of local community trackers from all over west-central Africa
Duration: 7 days Start Location: Brazzaville, Congo End Location: Brazzaville, CongoDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Fly to Odzala-Kokoua National Park
In the early afternoon, we'll depart by private charter from Brazzaville to M’boko Airstrip, Odzala-Kokoua National Park.The charter flight takes approximately two hours (possibly three hours if a fuel stop is required due to the plane’s load) and includes a light packed lunch. On arrival at Mboko Airstrip, we will be met by an Ngaga Camp guide for our three- to four-hour savannah and forest drive to Ngaga Camp, our home for the next three nights. On arrival at Ngaga Camp, we will be met by the staff and given afternoon tea, followed by an opportunity to settle in. The group will later receive an extensive briefing on Western Lowland Gorillas, including the research project in the area, conservation of the species, its biology and ecology and of course what to expect when tracking the habituated groups of the area. If time allows, there will be a short introductory forest walk and / or sundowners by the Ngaga stream.
Day 2 : Gorilla Tracking
After an early wake-up and light breakfast we depart on foot with our guide and tracker on our first gorilla tracking excursion. Using the expert skills of the trackers, we start at the point where the group chosen to be monitored for that day slept the night before and follow their tracks as they move through the forest, hopefully being able to locate and catch sight of them foraging. While home range sizes are relatively small, the gorillas can move quite quickly through thick forest undergrowth and during a two- to five-hour tracking excursion (including up to a maximum of one hour observing the gorillas—please note that actual time spent viewing the gorillas may vary considerably from day to day depending on prevailing conditions) we may cover between 5 and 8 kilometres. After this exhilarating experience, we return to camp to freshen up and enjoy a more substantial brunch before spending the middle part of the day at leisure.
In the afternoon after a light tea, we enjoy a guided forest walk in search of birds and primates as well as forest duiker. If their research schedule allows, we can spend time with primatologists Dr Magda Bermejo and German Illera, perhaps over a sundowner drink whilst overlooking the forest from the main deck of camp. This is also a great chance to listen to the sounds of the forest as the diurnal animals retire and their nocturnal counterparts become more active.
Day 3 : Gorilla Tracking
This morning after another early wake-up and light breakfast, we set out again on foot for our second gorilla tracking excursion. Our expert trackers will again follow the tracks and signs of the group through the forest, hopefully until we find the group and enjoy a fascinating experience watching them resting and foraging. Returning to camp, we freshen up and enjoy lunch and a siesta. The afternoon sees us out on the forest trails in search of the birds and mammals of the area, returning to camp to enjoy a sundowner on the main deck looking out on the forest canopy. Alternatively we can enjoy an interactive cultural experience in the nearby traditional village of Ombo. Ombo provides an authentic rainforest village experience, with houses constructed from locally available natural materials and people continuing with a way of life entirely bound up with the surrounding forest. Ombo is where we purchase some of the supplies for the Camps, from pineapples to traditional baskets made from woven raffia palm leaves. We can be sure of a friendly welcome from our neighbours in Ombo and they evidently enjoy the opportunity to meet and interact with guests from all over the world. Night walks in the forest are another option, giving us a chance to look for unusual nocturnal primates such as galagos and pottos.
Day 4 : Transfer to Lango Camp
Today after breakfast in Camp we have a three- to four-hour savannah and forest drive to Lango Camp, passing through different habitats and the village of Mbomo on the western boundary of the Park. Once inside the Park, we pass through open savannah and forest patches with views of the forest fringe and into the interior. Once at camp, we will have lunch and be given an opportunity to freshen up and settle in before embarking on our short late afternoon activity (time permitting), which may consist of a walk around Lango Bai and the forest fringe and stream, or perhaps a savannah drive.
Day 5 : Odzala-Kokua National Park
An early morning wake-up is followed by a light breakfast and coffee on the main deck, after which we embark on our first activity for the day. This could be a walk from camp through Lango Bai and down the clear, shallow waters of the Lango Stream to its confluence with the Lekoli River. We then travel by motorized pirogue upstream for two hours (stopping en route for tea/coffee). The return to camp includes a downstream portion of the river followed by a drive through the savannah.
Back in camp a more substantial brunch and rest period awaits before we head out again later for the afternoon activity. An example of this would be a return savannah drive to the boat jetty followed by a pirogue trip downstream along the Lekoli River with a stop for sundowners on the way. A night drive back to camp offers intriguing potential opportunities to see some of Odzala’s more secretive nocturnal creatures.
Day 6 : Odzala-Kokua National Park
Wake up early for a light breakfast and coffee before setting off on the morning activity. Today this may begin with a savannah drive to the boat jetty at the confluence of the Likeni Stream and Lekoli River and then a pirogue trip down the Lekoli River in search of primates, forest buffalo and other species, before returning to camp on foot through Lango Bai. The trip along the river offers great opportunities for birding and mammals, while the walk can provide excellent viewing of buffalo, red river hogs, a number of primate species and even the secretive bongo.
Our return to camp is greeted by an appetising lunch and some downtime before heading out again in the afternoon. This afternoon we may head back to the boat jetty and take a pirogue trip upstream along the Lekoli River enjoying sundowners before returning to camp on a night drive, searching for elusive nocturnal species such as spotted hyaena, serval, the enormous Gambian pouched rat and even water chevrotain.
Day 7 : Depart Brazzaville
On this, our last day, we'll finally have a leisurely start to the morning, leaving after breakfast for M’boko airstrip (a drive of 2.5 hours) to meet our private charter flight back to Brazzaville. We will land in Brazzaville in the afternoon in plenty of time for any onward flights.
DATES: Best time to go: May - December Departures: Sep 4 - 10, 2014 *We have blocked space on these dates, but if you prefer a different date just let us know and we can check availability for you, a trip departs every Thursday during most of the year
$7,695 (2-12 members)
$5,000 single supplement
Rates quoted are per person, based on sharing double accommodations.
Ngaga Camp's 6 guest rooms are raised 3 meters off the ground, like tree camps with wraparound balconies allowing a full experience of the forest canopy. An identical use of natural materials will facilitate the large comfortable hides at the forest bais where guests will spend time waiting for and watching forest wildlife such as forest elephant, forest buffalo, sitatunga and even lowland gorilla.
This camp will consist of six creatively designed guest rooms, taking inspiration from the designs of the local Pygmy or ‘forest dweller’ groups. Natural, locally sourced materials will be used extensively in the construction of the camps: sustainably harvested hardwoods (FSC certified), bamboo and raffia palm matting. Each of the guest rooms will be raised 3-4m above the ground with a wraparound walkway allowing full appreciation of the forest canopy.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
There is no trip leader on this journey, but you will be met and escorted each step of the way and the local camp guides at each camp are fantastic!