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Exploring the Untamed Beauty of The Congo Basin: A Wilderness Privilege

When you think of Africa, certain expectations come to mind: the rich tapestry of culture, diverse wildlife, and stunning landscapes. The peaceful Republic of Congo, a region that might not be on everyone’s radar, offers an unexpected and exclusive experience that is a world apart from the typical African adventure. And if you’ve travelled to Africa before, be prepared for a wholly unique encounter that defies your previous perceptions.



Scott Ramsay

Scott Ramsay

Why the Republic of Congo?

The Republic of Congo overall possesses a West African vibe, and it is reassuring to know that there is no sign of over-tourism here. Kamba-African Rainforest Experiences is the sole tourism organization in the Republic of Congo. Your Luxury Travel Manager and the team at Kamba will guide you through the full process of planning, all the admin and paperwork and they even have the ability to reach out to the president in case of any issues. This kind of personal attention sets the tone for a privileged and remarkable adventure.

Exploring the Congo Basin is an immersive expedition into one of the Earth’s most untamed, isolated, and distant regions. This rainforest, second in size only to the Amazon, teems with over 400 mammal species, including the critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla, as well as 1,000 bird species and a rich diversity of 10,000 plant species.

The Western Lowland Gorillas are slightly smaller than their mountain cousins and their fur less dense, tend to be more agile, spending quite a bit of time in the tree branches of the rainforests.

The Gorilla trekking experience here stands in stark contrast to the more well-known Gorilla trekking destinations like Uganda and Rwanda and provides a fresh perspective on the continent.

Here is some insightful information about the Gorillas & Western Lowland Gorillas »


The Journey begins

From the moment you land in Brazzaville, the capital city, you’ll realize that this is no ordinary African journey. The level of sophistication in Brazzaville is distinctly Afro-centric. Here you will find colourful markets, French Colonial architecture and picturesque restaurants along the banks of the Congo River.

There’s an immediate sense of safety and a welcoming atmosphere, as the modern airport boasts reliable Wi-Fi and efficient services. VIP treatment ensures a smooth transition through customs and immigration, and a short transfer to your hotel.

Basile, 51, has been a sapeur for 30 years and works as a manager of human resources. His most treasured item of clothing is his Jean Courcel suit. Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo.

The Sapeurs

One of the aspects that sets The Republic of the Congo apart is its unique combination of cultural French and African influences, embodied by the Sapeurs. La Sape, an abbreviation based on the phrase Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (literally “Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People”) and hints at the French slang word sape which means “clothes” or sapé, which means “dressed up”, is a subculture centered on the cities of Kinshasa and Brazzaville in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Republic of Congo respectively.

We highly recommend exploring the city and meeting these dandies! Pictured is Basile, 51, a sapeur for 30 years who works in human resources. His most treasured item of clothing is his Jean Courcel suit.

What to wear guidelines

Speaking of fashion, when thinking of what to pack, be prepared for a blend of urban chic in the city and safari-style walking attire when you venture into the rainforest. See our insights into what to pack for a trip to The Republic of Congo »

Activities on privately guides walks in the Congo forest

Congo Conservation Company

Into the Forest

From Brazzaville you are whisked away by charter flight (around 2 hours) to the Odzala Kokoua National Park and the flight in itself is breath-taking.  Seeing the immense rainforest from above with no visible signs of human activity, it is almost surreal. Odzala is a rare and precious conservation area that contains the highest density of Western Lowland gorillas in Africa, plus over 11 other primate species, more than 100 mammal species including forest elephants, hyenas, buffaloes, bongos and a wide array of bird species.

On arrival in the rainforest, your local hosts will transfer you to your camp, a journey that may see wild gorillas, chimpanzees or even leopards to welcome you. Immediately you will know you have arrived at a place will privileged access and something incredibly special.

The heart of the experience lies in Ngaga Lodge (located next to the gorilla research station), where you’ll find yourself in the midst of a 2 million-acre rainforest, an area roughly the size of Belgium. The exclusivity of this destination is truly a privilege, with a maximum of 12 guests at any given time. Safety is paramount, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that the rainforest exudes a feminine and nurturing energy.

It’s a place of respect for nature, where you’ll encounter vibrant flowers, insects, and butterflies. The attention to detail in providing a unique and intimate experience is evident, with a focus on slow and gentle exploration.

Gorilla Trekking

The trek to see the Western Lowland Gorillas is unlike any other.

You will be given a full briefing the night before your trek by the research team. In the morning, before dawn, you walk directly from your room at Ngaga into the heart of the forest, forging an immediate connection with the wild.  You are accompanied at all times by your tracker and guide. You will not feel like a tourist on this trek, but more like you are going on a walk with the research team. The silence is broken only by the chirping of insects and the crunching of shoes.

The terrain is relatively flat, and the trackers lead the way, cutting through the Marantaceae, the dense plant that fills the forest around the camp.  The humidity in the rainforest is palpable, but it’s not a strenuous sweat-inducing trek.

The forest is divided into routes, with parallel and vertical grid systems, and paths you walk along at first and then into denser forest. The typical trek takes 30 to 45 minutes to find the gorillas and an hour to spend with them. Walks range from 1 to 8 km over undulating terrain.

First, you will find the nesting site, where the gorilla family spent the previous night. From here, the trekking to find the family starts in earnest. We call it trekking, but is a slow, comfortable walk, we can’t even call it hiking.

The expert trackers rely on leaf patterns and natural signs to locate the gorillas, and they communicate with them by cutting vegetation with secateurs, a sound that lets the gorillas know that humans are approaching.

The Western lowland gorillas are known for their high activity levels, making them even more engaging to observe than the Mountain gorillas. This region boasts a 70% active to 30% resting ratio, which means you’re more likely to witness lively family interactions.

Once you reach a Gorilla Family, you will don your face mask (compulsory to ensure the gorillas are not affected by any diseases carried by humans), you will be led in and out and back again into the sighting, spending a total of 1 hour with them. You will be led slightly out by your tracker, and then back in closer for a different angle, until you have spent your allotted hour with the family.

The sightings are classified as:
  • Good sightings: seeing the gorillas on the ground.
  • Better sightings: getting a view of the gorillas in the trees; they are arboreal and climb up and down the trees (imagine a fireman pole scenario). You will witness them climbing trees to feast on ripened fruit, swinging from branch to branch hooting and howling along the way.
  • Premier sightings: Seeing the family moving along the grid paths and interacting with each other, with the ultimate sighting when the gorillas start digging for roots and communicating with each other.

Following this golden hour, you will walk back to the lodge. During your 3 night stay at Ngaga Lodge, you will have the incredible opportunity to do 2, possibly 3 Gorilla treks. There will be a maximum of 4 persons per trek, plus the guide and tracker.

At all times the encounters with the gorilla families are rooted in research and conservation. The trekking experience is based on observing, not engaging or interfering and allows you to connect with the families in a respectful, authentic and personal way.

Top Tip: 

We highly recommend taking a private guide, as this will allow you to walk at your own pace and dictate how long you want to spend along the way, marveling at the plants, insects and other- worldliness of the forest.

Venture further and follow the footsteps of the great explorers

When venturing into the Lango region, the experience takes a different angle. You will transfer out of Ngaga by road through the forest and then swop over to kayak along the Congo River, immersing yourself in the incredible water and forest landscape. The water is pure and clean, with no dangerous creatures like crocodiles or hippos.  You may see some chips of porcelain, left by the explorers of old. As you drift along, keep your eyes open for monkeys, colourful birds and possibly elephant, buffalo and antelope along the banks.  This is a tranquil journey that will soothe your soul.


Prepare to get wet and a little muddy as you walk and wade through the last part of the river into camp. From Lango you will explore the streams and marshes of the forest on foot. You are likely to encounter Green Pigeons and African Grey Parrots, forest elephants and more. Baï is the local word for the natural clearings found around the rainforest. The salt and nutrient-rich soil and water draws water forest elephants, buffalo, and birds to feed, bathe and socialize.

At night, experience the forest on foot, with flickering lights of fireflies adding to the enchantment. Or on a nature drive, your guide will point out all manner of curious creatures such as palm civits, galgos and the sloth-like pottos.  You will be keenly aware that the forest is alive no matter the time of day.

Moving on to Mboko Lodge, you will experience savanna drives along plains dotted with cathedral-like termite mounds, forest walks and river cruises where every bend in the river brings the potential of another discovery. And time to simply be, sit in stillness and feel connected to something greater than yourself.

It’s a privilege to explore this wild and exclusive realm, where nature embraces you with open arms. It is not just a safari, it is a life-changing experience.

Kayaking down the river

Kayaking down the Lekoli River - Scott Ramsay

In this article
  • Introduction
  • Why the Republic of Congo?
  • The Journey begins
  • The Sapeurs
  • What to wear?
  • Into the Forest
  • Gorilla Trekking
  • Follow the footsteps of the great explorers

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