Nestled into primary rainforest... Ngaga Camp is your first stop in Odzala.
Ngaga Camp: Our full report
Ngaga Camp is the first stop on a set six-night trip into Odzala National Park and its surrounding areas where people come to experience a unique rainforest environment and see the very rare lowland gorillas. Based on the local architecture of the Baka people, the camp has an unusual style that cleverly blends an African rusticity with modern touches. It is located just outside of Odzala.
Almost identical in style and design to its sister camp, Lango Camp which is located inside Odzala and about a three hour drive away, Ngaga is a luxurious camp. Though its the unique location in the heart of dense rainforest that makes it all the more special and atmospheric. We also thought the staff who are mainly employed from the local area, were delightfully friendly, and although still new to tourism and trying to learn English, tried very hard to make your stay enjoyable and comfortable.
The main area is raised off the forest floor, up a number of steps which elevates it into the tree line giving the loveliest views from the front. It is one large structure that sits under a vast thatch roof, with the dining room and lounge area sharing the same space, though they are located at opposite ends.
At a mid level, half way up the steps at the front of the structure is a beaten brass fire-pit around which are some large lounging cushions and directors chairs. Sitting here in the cool evenings with the fire illuminating the surrounding forest and trees is really magical.
Then it is up a few more steps into the main building. The lounge and bar are on the left, with rustic locally made chiefs chairs at the front looking out over the forest. There is even a spotting scope for those who want to look out for birds and monkeys that move around the camp in the trees. Behind, are some rather more comfortable sofas, and a vast blue rug that softens the interior decor making it quite homely. Low, antiqued coffee tables are dotted with coffee table books about the area and its wildlife, as well as little trinkets from all over Africa. The well stocked bar made of beaten metal and green canvas sits at the far end and provides a sociable place to gather for drinks before dinner.
At the opposite end of the room, is a vast table made from beautiful reclaimed wood and around which sit a collection of stunning hand carved Congolese chairs. Though they are heavy and a bit of a challenge to move, they are so indicative of the area that it is impossible not to admire them. We particularly enjoyed the leisurely and delicious communal meals that took place here.
The rooms at Ngaga Camp are identical to those found at Lango Camp. Each is an individual, traditionally built chalet, which is a thatched dome offering views into the forest. At the front is a veranda with soft deckchairs where you can sit and look into the trees – if you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of some of the primates that are found around here. In through the canvas doors at the front is the bedroom with either twin or double beds. What acts as a headboard on one side, has a sink with running water sunk into the canvas surface of the other side. Toiletries are provided and there is some storage space for clothes underneath. A separate cupboard in the style of an upturned trunk offers more storage and hanging space. There is also a plug socket with a multi national converter for different plugs. The room could do with slightly better lighting, but aside from that it is very comfortable and well appointed.
In the back third of the room is a large free-standing beaten-brass structure – curved round to provide a shower with hot-and-cold running water and a flush toilet. Toiletries are provided.
The activities from Ngaga Camp centre around the main reason people come here – to see some of the worlds few habituated Western lowland gorillas. This area has the highest density so far recorded in the world, arguably making it the best place to see them. Every group that visits Ngaga Camp will have two chances to track the gorillas. There are two habituated groups that guests can visit (there is a third but this is reserved for the researchers only). On one day you will track the group Neptuno – named after its silverback of the same name. This group has 16 individuals and when we were there, Neptuno himself posed for lovely pictures in a tree whilst various youngsters and family members scampered around on the forest floor. On the other day you will try to find the Jupiter group, which with 25 members is larger but generally seem to be a little more elusive.
In comparison to Rwanda we found the gorilla tracking a little easier – there are fewer hills to climb and the forest is easier underfoot than in the Volcanoes National Park. However these lowland gorillas are less habituated and so not nearly as relaxed. This does lead to some exciting chest beating from the gorilas, but makes taking pictures much harder. We also found these gorillas spent much more time up in the trees, rather than eating and sitting on the floor in large groups in quite close proximity to you. So this experience feels very wild, but it is more hit and miss. Arguably it might be better suited to those who have already seen the mountain gorillas and are looking for something a bit different.
Gorilla tracking takes place in the mornings and guests are usually back in time for brunch. This leaves the afternoon free to do a more localized forest walk, learning about the plants and eco-system. Your guide will also keep an eye out for some of the other primates found in the forest – we saw moustached monkeys and putty-nosed monkeys though its also possible to spot the guereza colobus, grey cheeked mangabey and various others. There is also a rich bird life here, but spotting them in the high trees is probably the areas greatest challenge of all.
Those seeking a little culture will also enjoy the visit to Ombo village. Ngaga has a great relationship with the community here, from whom they purchase occasional vegetables and baskets. In return the guests of the camp are welcomed to see this untouched slice of local life. The brave may also sample the local homemade brew!
Ngaga also offers fascinating night walks, which keep to the main road into camp, but give you a totally different perspective on the area. With your guide and a torch, look out for nocturnal animals such as bushbabies and if you are very lucky a pangolin.
Our viewNgaga Camp is a beautiful place to enjoy this unique environment. Compared to Lango its well run, with friendly service, lovely food and the gorillas provide one of the best wildlife experiences we have ever had. But it still has some way to go if it is to compete with the service of top camps elsewhere in Africa.
Ideal length of stay: 3 nights
Directions: To reach Ngaga Camp, it is a two and a half hour flight from Brazzaville to Mboko Airstrip which is inside Odzala National Park. These flights operate once a week until May, departing on a Thursday on a set departure for a six night itinerary combining Ngaga with is sister property, Lango Camp. After May there will be two departures a week, on a Thursday and a Saturday. From Mboko Airstrip it is then a three-hour drive to Ngaga.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Ngaga Camp was very good indeed – every meal was delicious and well made from tasty fresh ingredients. The only complaint we had was that there were often long breaks between the meals, with no snacks at all. When it is eight or nine hours between brunch and dinner, we felt it was too long. The camp would benefit from offering cake and savory snacks at tea time and some pre-dinner nibbles whilst the drinks are being served at the bar.
Breakfast at Ngaga Camp was served at 5:30 on the dot, so as to facilitate a prompt 6am departure for the gorilla treks. Cold meat, French bread, cheeses, cereals and some fruit were always on offer. Omelets and other varieties of cooked eggs were on offer too. Juice, coffee, tea and water were provided also.
Then brunch was served at around 11am by which time everyone should be back in camp after the trek. This was always served as a buffet, with some mixed salads, pasta and rice salads, tasty meat dishes such as sticky barbequed ribs, grilled lemon chicken and steak skewers. There was always plenty for seconds and even thirds for the really hungry. There wasn’t as desert served with this meal.
Though dinner was a plated three course meal – always delicious and offering real variety. Starters we enjoyed included a blue cheese salad and a rich and slightly spicy pumpkin soup. A highlight for dinner was a herb crusted white fish with roasted tomatoes and vegetables. A rich chocolate mousse rounded things off nicely, before guests opted for some tea or coffee, or even a final drink around the campfire.
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.
Further dining info: Ngaga are also able to offer private dinning on peoples own decks.
Attitude towards children: Ngaga 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 here.
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 under the age of 15, due to the minimum age regulation for visiting the gorillas.
Communications: People should consider themselves out of touch whilst at Ngaga. There is no WiFi or internet for guests use, 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
Water supply: Borehole
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: All senior staff members and guides are first aid trained at Ngaga Camp and this is renewed every three years. Ngaga has a full first aid kit on site and portable ones that are taken out on activities too. They have a link to Wilderness 24 that puts them in touch with a doctor around the clock – managers can speak to them or guests can talk to the doctor direct. Wilderness 24 would also be in charge of coordinating medevac in cases of an emergency.
Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk
Security measures: Ngaga does not have dangerous game around the camp and so they do not escort people after dark unless it is requested. If guests feel at all nervous they are welcome to ask for an escort. Ngaga has a main safe in the office for valuables.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers dotted around the camp at Ngaga and they provide training on how to use them as well.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: All laundry at Ngaga Camp is machine washed and tumble dried. It is not advised to bring delicate clothing but the camp staff will wash underwear.
Money: There is a main safe. No currency exchange is available at Ngaga Camp.
Accepted payment on location: Cash only.