The Congo at night is a beautiful, but slightly unnerving experience. The lack of anything too large and predatory (elusive leopards and hyena aside) meant our group could explore the forest at leisure, but the strange nocturnal sounds and talk of the local Ejengi forest spirit ensured I was never too far from the group.
On this particular night, we are blessed with a full moon and light mist, creating a wonderfully eerie atmosphere as the guides spotlight picks out shining eyes reflecting back at us, jumping and dancing in the trees above us.
Amongst the white noise of a million unseen insects, a distant alarm call from one of the troops of monkeys found here. “Have they seen a snake” I asked? “No, us.” My guide Olivier replied, making me realise just how unexplored this part of the world really is.
Looking for wildlife on foot is always thrilling, even more so at night, as the smaller flora and fauna and engaging guides bring the forest alive. As Olivier sweeps his UV torch across a tree, a dozen tiny scorpion’s glow fluorescent green against the purple bark as he adds; “There are plenty of these in the trees back at camp.” Not knowing whether to be amazed or terrified by this statement we return to the lodge, but not before hundreds of fireflies glitter just out of my line of vision, performing what seems like a beautiful optical illusion.
The following night, back at Lango camp, after carefully checking the trees under which we sit, the Congo conjures up its most spectacular show. Under a full moon and starry sky, in the large bai, over which the camp looks, a family of forest elephants appear as if from nowhere. Washing and drinking in the shallow stream, shadows of all shapes and sizes are reflected in the silvery water, their rumbling calls barely audible above the chorus of frogs. As we strain in the darkness to look again they have all but disappeared and we are left staring back at the dark forest as a lone young elephant, picks up his pace – keen to ensure he’s never too far from the group…