Congo is one of the few places to see the endangered Western lowland gorilla...
Congo safarisSadly our one trip to the Congo is not currently on offer and so we cannot arrange trips to this destination at the moment. Please call us for the latest details.
Expert Africa first visited the Republic of Congo in 2013, when an operator we have worked with for many years opened two safari camps in the incredibly remote Odzala-Kokoua National Park. We revisited the country in 2016 when management of the camps was taken over by a new safari operator. Although we were very impressed with the running of these camps, and the activities on offer, we had some serious concerns about the transfers from the capital Brazzaville, your arrival point for international flights in the south of the country, and Odzala National Park in the north. We are currently not confident enough in the safety and reliability of this necessary transfer in order to include the Congo as part of our programme.
Often wild, and certainly untamed in parts, it’s the calmer, quieter and all together better-behaved neighbour of the more troubled Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Although many don’t distinguish properly between the two, the Republic of Congo is very different: it’s much safer, and hence very keen to distinguish itself as a peaceful and ordered place. The official language is French and it’s spoken widely, although on a day-to-day basis most people speak the local languages, Lingala and Kituba.
A safari in the CongoThe real draw – and reason for the Congo’s inclusion here – is the opening of two camps in the north of the country, which give access to the remote Odzala-Kokoua National Park and its surrounding rainforest. This protected area sits within the Congo Basin and supports varied habitats, including dense primary forest, low-lying swamp forests which break out into lush open bai’s. It’s an environment unlike anything else that we offer; an environment that few of even the most experienced Africa travellers have ever seen. These thick forests harbour species not found anywhere else and, of course, the world’s highest concentration of Western lowland gorillas. These are the real highlight, though a host of other primates, forest elephant and buffalo, sitatunga and even the rare and elusive bongo are also seen here.
Visas for the Congo have to be arranged in advance of travel, and all people applying for one will need a letter of invitation. Once you have booked a trip with us we can arrange this letter for you, which then allows you to apply for a visa. Please note that these visas can take quite a while to be processed, so it’s best that you leave plenty of time for the application.
When to safari in CongoThe Republic of Congo straddles the Equator and, as a result, its climate is broadly the same across the country; varying only slightly between the northern and southern parts. Generally, the north of the country is hotter, more humid and wetter than the south. From around September to December the Congo experiences its heaviest rains. These are followed by a short dry season in January and February; March to April brings another, shorter rainy season; then the long dry season – which is often seen as the best time to visit – is from May to August.
While the months of May to September usually have the least rain, they also characteristically have fairly constant white cloudy skies; light which photographers may find tricky. The rainy season, on the other hand, has lots of impressive thunderstorms, often followed by clear blue skies and beautiful light. However, travel during the rainy season is more challenging and less predictable, but the gamble is those few hours of perfect light for photography.
Activities on a Congo safariIn Odzala-Kokoua National Park there are two camps and each group visiting the area will spend three nights in each. The activities offered by the camps vary due, in large part, to the immediate environment and wildlife that surrounds them.
Your first stop will be Ngaga Camp, where the primary activity is tracking Western lowland gorillas. Each visitor will have two chances to track them, departing in the early morning. In the afternoon, it is possible to do a shorter rainforest walk, looking at the trees, plants, insects and maybe some of the other primates found here. There is also a lovely and uncontrived village visit on offer too.
The next three nights are spent at Lango Camp where each guest will have the chance to do a bai walk – wading through waist-high water to reach the far corners of the bai in front of the camp. Boat trips down the Lekoli River are also a highlight, while game drives offer the chance to see forest elephant, buffalo and sitatunga.
Congo in contextThe Congo is a phenomenal country – untouched, wild and remote. Those seeking an unusual adventure will love it, but it is not for the faint of heart. There are lots of biting flies at Lango Camp and the rainforest is filled with insects too. None of them cause any harm or pain, but the bites can be very itchy.
Also the wildlife-viewing experience is limited, with few large mammals around and the primates elusive and skittish. The gorillas are a real highlight and, at time of writing, every guest that has been to Ngaga has seen them at least once – so this experience does make the six days worthwhile. However, it’s important to note that the gorillas are viewed in thick rainforest, often up in trees, and are still in the process of being habituated. It is not easy to get clear sightings and photographs. The experience is so untamed though that we found it much more interesting and exciting compared to gorilla trekking in Rwanda, where the gorillas are very relaxed and will sit next to you and eat for an hour. Though, perhaps we took a more relaxed approach, having already had the chance to visit Rwanda’s mountain gorillas on a previous occasion.
The Congo is probably best suited to travellers who have been to Africa before, and already experienced areas with high concentrations of wildlife. That said, ultimately this is a place for people who want to enjoy a unique environment and ecosystem; who don’t have high expectations for big game, but do want to see some wildlife and will also appreciate the smaller things such as plants and trees. So this could be ideal for someone’s first time to Africa as well, as long as they know what to expect.