Lango Camp is nestled on the edge of a forest...
Lango Camp: Our full report
Nestled on the edge of a bai, with forest behind and open wetlands in front, Lango Camp is a luxurious permanent camp in Odzala National Park. It is visited as the second stop, in a set six-night itinerary, with three nights spent here after three at its sister camp Ngaga based just outside the park. Entirely elevated above the damp forest floor on a series of stilts, wooden pathways link the rooms and main areas. Almost all of the camp has lovely views across the water, which make for great spots to sit and watch for wildlife creeping out of the forest.Lango Camp and Ngaga are almost identical, with the same style throughout the main areas and identical bedrooms. Influenced by traditional building styles and constructed by local people from the nearby villages, they are made almost entirely from natural materials sourced locally. Wood and thatch comprise the majority of the construction, whilst African furniture is stylish but rustic and in-keeping with the untouched nature of the surrounding area.
The main areas at Lango are made up of two thatched structures with separate domed roofs, sharing one large wooden deck – both are open-sided and have a large open-plan layout. One houses a comfortable lounge area and the other the dining room.
The lounge has a beautiful hand crafted bar with a safari-green canvas top and beaten brass panels on the front. At one end is a breakfast bar with stools surrounding both sides – and a fantastic variety of drinks are on offer though we did notice that bar-tenders were sometimes hard to come by during the day. There are also a couple of large comfortable sofas chairs, arranged around coffee tables made from reclaimed wood. Congolese artifacts, wicker furniture and rustic metal lamps from South Africa are dotted around. It is an eclectic collection of furniture but it all pulls together and the result is a stylish but low-key area, which becomes a sociable spot to gather before dinner for drinks.
Aside from the aesthetics, the lounge has practical items such as bird and wildlife books to flick through in-between activities, umbrellas in case of rain and cooling fans. These thoughtful touches make your time in camp relaxing and comfortable – all aided by the friendly staff. Though it is worth noting here that the staff are mostly from the local villages, and so currently they lack experience in hospitality and their English is a bit limited. We did feel that this new camp is still finding its feet, but we hope that issues with the service will rapidly improve as the team settles in.
In the second thatched structure is a dining room, with a stunning long table made form a vast piece of reclaimed wood. Canvas directors chairs are placed around it, and its here that convivial communal dinners are hosted by the guides and management staff.
Between the two buildings and down a couple of steps is a fire pit surrounded with comfortable padded canvas deckchairs. From here there are great views across the bai and into the thick forest on the other side. We enjoyed watching herds of buffalo come down to drink, and we have been told that Bongos have been spotted here too (although very rarely we hasten to add).
The raised wooden pathways lead from the main areas to each of the six rooms. All built identically, they are unusual in their style with high domed walls extending into the roof and are made entirely from thatch. The rooms are not vast, but have space for two single beds or a double bed, tucked under a mosquito net. On bedside tables you will find insect sprays and bottled water, then behind the bed is a brass sink set into a safari-green canvas tale top. The water is fully plumbed in, and though not for drinking we were advised it was fine for brushing teeth. Storage space for clothes comes in the form of a custom made cupboard styled to look like an upturned trunk, and a luggage rack. There is also space below the sink to place some folded clothing as well.
The ensuite bathroom is highly unique, with the shower and toilet set at the back of the room in a free-standing structure built out of beaten metal. They are then separated by a wall built of the same material. The shower has its own boiler which is activated when you run the hot water, so hot showers are available at any time of the day. Then the toilet has a proper flush.
The acivities at Lango Camp were really varied when we visited. Our favourite was a walk in the bai, for which you should be prepared to get wet! Walking through the clear water, sometimes up as far as your waist, you get a fantastic perspective of this unusual environment. River shoes or old trainers/sneakers are recommended footwear, and a pair of quick-drying trousers are ideal too. We would also advise wearing long sleeved tops to avoid exposing too much skin as you do get a number of biting flies in the bais. Lango can dry your shoes and clothes around a fire or with the tumble drier and so there is no need to worry about laundry. The best approach is to embrace the water, and enjoy looking at birds, buffalo and maybe even forest elephant if you are lucky.
River trips in steel boats with an engine are also a highlight – journey down the Lekoli River and look out for moustache or putty-nosed monkeys and various birds. Dwarf and slender snouted crocodiles are also occasionally spotted here.
It is also possible to do safari drives in 4WD vehicles, and walks in the savannah and river forest areas. We spotted a couple of sitatunga on a game drive, and you will always see plenty of the small and delicate forest buffalo.
We visited Lango Camp in November, which is the rainy season and were surprised only to have the odd downpour but mostly high white cloud or blue skies. The wet season is meant to be good for photographers as the rain downpours in the mid afternoon tend to clear the skies for lovely light at the end of the day. However the dry season does see a lot less rain over all and though the high white cloud remains fairly constant, the insects are not as challenging and you are less likely to get heavy rain.
We understood the wildlife to be similar in its ease of viewing throughout the year. Every guest will see buffalo and probably elephant too. The luckier visitors will see sitatunga, bushbuck and maybe even the elusive bongo. There are also a number of monkeys in the forest, as well as over 400 different recorded species of bird. But it is important that visitors to Odzala National Park and Lango Camp have moderate expectations of wildlife. This is a phenomenal and fascinating environment, and the conservation challenges that Lango and Ngaga Camp face are interesting too. A visit here feels intrepid, off the beaten track, and vital in maintaining this stunning and untouched part of Africa. It is great for people who have spent time in Africa already and are looking for something very different. This is not a place to tick off the big five.
It is also important for visitors to know that this area has a lot of small biting flies and the river trip exposes you to tsetse flies too. This is not an area for the faint of heart! Though wearing lightweight long trousers and sleeves at all times will help prevent them biting.
Our viewLango Camp is totally unique in its location, offering its visitors a chance to explore the savannah, bais and forests of the Congo basin. The environment is the draw card here, not so much the wildlife. It is also a new camp in a remote location that has not seen tourism for decades. By employing local staff who don’t currently speak much English and have never worked in hospitality, they have set a real challenge for themselves and the service is not nearly as smooth as elsewhere in Africa. But the feel-good factor of supporting a venture such as this is high.
Ideal length of stay: 3 nights
Directions: To reach Lango Camp, it is a two and a half hour flight from Brazzaville to Mboko Airstrip inside Odzala National Park. Flights operate once a week until May, departing on a Thursday on a set departure for a six-night itinerary combining Ngaga and Lango Camp. After May there will be two departures a week, on a Thursday and a Saturday. From Mboko Airstrip it is then a one-hour drive to camp, depending on what you see along the way.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Lango Camp was superb – Santos the chef created tasty dishes throughout our stay. That said we did notice that they struggled with dietary requirements and so it is vital that you repeatedly reiterate these whilst you are at the camp.
Breakfast was served at 5:30am every morning and included a continental buffet with ham, salami, cheese, bread, cereals, pancakes, croissants and some fruit. On some mornings we were also offered eggs – the cheese omelets were a particular treat. Tea and coffee was also available.
Lunch was served after the morning activity, around 11am-12 midday depending on what time guests got back to camp. A vast buffet that you could help yourself too included tasty pasta salads, grilled chicken, beef of chicken skewers with a satay sauce, battered fish, barbeque ribs, green crunchy salads and more!
Then each three course dinner served at 8pm was a culinary highlight in the evenings. Starters included smoked salmon, with salad and reduced balsamic dressing, and a tasty green pea soup. A main course of steak cooked perfectly to order, with chips and creamed spinach was particularly delicious. Though a rich lasagna also hit the spot very nicely. Puddings such as panacotta with peaches or a creamy cheesecake rounded off a very satisfying and filling meal.
Most of the food comes from Brazzaville, though Lango and Ngaga Camp do share a garden located just outside the park. This supplies some of he fresh ingredients such as spinach, aubergine, pineapple, beans and some of the salads. Then bread and some other items are purchased in the village of Mbomo.
The standard of the food here was high, however it was severely let down by the fact that meals were space far apart and decent snacks were not offered in between. Unusually for a safari camp, Lango didn’t offer cake or sandwiches at tea time to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner – which was sometimes nine hours! Nor did they provide pre-dinner snacks to enjoy with drinks before dinner. We addressed this issue with them whilst we were there and in the final few days we did get some tea biscuits at 4pm, and a few nibbles before diner too. But we hope that with some work they will be able to add to this and provide a proper tea time and nibbles, as would most safari camps we have visited across Africa.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Most drinks are included during your stay apart from Champagne which is an extra cost of US$70 a bottle.
Attitude towards children: Lango Camp is not suitable for children under the age of 15 years. This is due to regulations for trekking gorillas, which is the primary activity at Ngaga Camp where guests will spend the first three nights of their set six-night itinerary.
Property’s age restrictions: Minimum age of 15 years.
Special activities & services: No
Generally recommended for children: We would not recommend this camp for children. There are a lot of biting flies at Lango Camp which can cause itchy bites and it would be uncomfortable for younger children. This camp also has to combine with Ngaga Camp where people trek gorillas through thick rain forest and this is only suitable for older teenagers. We also feel that the real draw here is the unusual environment, and with less wildlife than other parts of Africa it may not hold the attention of younger children very well. There is no space for triple rooms and so kids need to be old enough to occupy their own rooms.
Notes: The risks from wildlife at Lango Camp are minimal due to the fact that the camp is raised off the ground. However this is a camp better suited to adults who have spent time in Africa before. It wouldn’t suit families.
Communications: People should consider themselves out of touch here. There is no WiFi or internet for guests, though the office does have limited internet that can be used in an emergency. Cell phones do not work here, but again in an emergency Lango has a satellite phone.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Medical care: All senior staff members are first aid trained and take part in regular courses. Lango have a first aid kit, and a pharmacy with lots of medicines and will always take a simple first aid kit on activities. For more serious cases Lango have a support system called Wilderness 24 with doctors based in South Africa who are online 24 hours a day whom they can talk to for medical advice. Then in critical situations, Lango in conjunction with Wilderness 24, can also arrange a medivac to Brazaville where Netcare has a private hospital.
Security measures: There are no guards on site.
Fire safety: Lango Camp have fire extinguishers by every room and in the main areas. They train the staff on how to use them.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Washing machines and tumble driers.
Money: There is a central safe for valuables.
Accepted payment on location: Guests at Lango Camp can settle for extras with cash in dollars or Euros. Credit cards are not accepted.