We will be traveling to Congo-Brazzaville, a green treasure, which is a peaceful and stable nation of people who are warm and incredibly welcoming to visitors. Here, Odzala-Kokoua National Park is home to the second largest rainforest in the world with more than 500 different wildlife species, in addition to thousands of plants and over 400 birds.
Congo is divided into two territories and the western area, the sophisticated and very French Republic of Congo or Congo-Brazzaville, is very different from the Democratic Republic of Congo. These two countries with nearly the same name are separated by the mighty Congo River. Similar as they sound, they are in fact dissimilar in every other way. Most significantly Congo-Brazzaville has focused on conserving its natural wealth and offers exceptional wildlife experiences found nowhere else on earth.
MEET THE WESTERN LOWLAND GORILLAS
Over the course of a few days, we will be immersed in the rich world of these unique gorillas, their personalities, dynamics and interplays. Leaving us with a once-in-a-lifetime bond with nature.
You can expect a very rare and special form of wildlife interaction. There are several habituated gorilla families in the area we are visiting, which means they are used to people and we can get really close to them without disturbing their normal behaviour.
Added to this we will be able to learn detailed background information and details about the groups and individuals we see from the dedicated researchers who spend their time conserving these remarkable creatures. We will meet the researchers on the first night in camp, in preparation for the first of our Gorilla Treks.
Western lowland gorillas are classed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN due to the complex risks they face. For those who have previously encountered mountain gorillas in Rwanda or Uganda; there are several key differences between the two species.
Western lowland gorillas are found in low-lying tropical forests and are slightly smaller than their mountain cousins and lack the very thick fur of mountain gorillas (contributing to the perceived size difference). Most significantly, western lowland gorillas tend to rest in cover during the midday siesta in contrast to mountain gorillas, which rest in open clearings. So, to avoid noise disturbance, we observe them when they are feeding and active – making for the most unbelievable sightings.
An important plant species for these gorillas is marantaceae – a shrub that grows in abundance on the forest floor. They use it for cover and to build nests. Seeing them clearly through the dense marantaceae presents some challenges but we are more likely to see unique behaviour such as playing and tree climbing.
WHAT ELSE YOU’LL SEE
Forest Elephant – regularly seen in the Mboko area
Forest Buffalo – an abundant and charismatic species
Bongo – a unique and exciting forest species
Sitatunga – resident swamp-adapted antelope seen around the camps
Nearly 450 birds have been recorded in Odzala, with more than 300 breeding in the area, making the area one of BirdLife International’s Important Bird Areas and perhaps the richest forest block in west-central Africa for birding.
Other primates are all seen regularly in their preferred habitats and you will see a number during your time, such as: Guereza Colobus, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, the Moustached Monkey, Agile Mangabey, de Brazza’s Monkey, Allen’s Swamp Monkey, Crowned Monkey and Putty-Nosed Monkey. Central Chimpanzees are regularly heard in the Mboko and Lango areas and along the Lekoli River but are not habituated and are therefore seldom seen.
Other Mammals include: Red River Hog, Harnessed Bushbuck, Duikers and Water Chevrotain. Hippos occur in the Lekoli River but are secretive and rare.