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Bonobo with Stick, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo – In Search of Bonobos

  • GROUP TOUR
Start date End date Days
Prices from
ex. flights
Single Supplement Tour Expert Group Size Status
15/09/23 27/09/23 13 days £12,995 £675 Local Guides 8 Max AVAILABLE Reserve place

Register your interest to join Steppes Travel’s Managing Director, Justin Wateridge, on a pathfinding journey in search of one of the world’s most elusive primates: the bonobo.

This potential pioneering expedition into the heart of the Congolese rainforest is very much about the experience as opposed to comfort. The rainforest is humid and home to a host of insects. The journeys are long, delays and breakdowns are an occupational hazard of travel in the DRC and accommodation is simple. Sense of humour is vital.

So why go? The fun lies in getting there – flying over an endless horizon of green then penetrating this rainforest by river – and entering a world where few have set foot. In a world of increasingly contrived travel experiences, this is an adventure…

The ultimate goal is to encounter wild bonobos. These fascinating primates can only be found in forests south of the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Sometimes known as the pygmy chimpanzee, bonobos weren’t recognized as a separate species until 1929. As the last great ape to be scientifically described, much remains unknown about the bonobo—including the extent of its geographic range. Efforts to survey the species over the past two decades have been hampered by the remote nature of its habitat, the patchiness of their distribution and years of civil unrest within the DRC.

Key Highlights of this Itinerary

Bonobo and Baby, Democratic Republic of the Congo 1

Bonobos

Opportunity to see bonobos in the wild and aid in their protection.

Aerial view of winding river flanked by rainforest, Democratic Republic of Congo 2

Expert Insight

Spend time with bonobo researchers and learn about the research and conservation efforts of the AZF.

Troop of Bonobo sat on grass, Democratic Republic of Congo 3

Bonobo Conservation

Visit and see the work of Yola la Bonobo Sanctuary.

Forest Elephants, Dzanga-Sangha, Republic of Congo 4

Congolese Wildlife

Access remote jungle terrain and the abundant wildlife within.

Explore our suggested itinerary

  • Day 1

    Kinshasa (Invest Hotel)

  • Day 2

    Kinshasa (Invest Hotel)

  • Day 3

    Kinshasa to Basankusu (The Auberge)

  • Day 4

    Basankusu to Lingunda (Camping)

  • Day 5

    Lingunda to Lomako Yokokala Reserve (Camping)

  • Days 6 - 9

    Lomako Yokokala Reserve (Camping)

  • Day 10

    Lomako to Lingunda (Camping)

  • Day 11

    Lingunda to Basankusu (The Auberge)

  • Day 12

    Basankusu to Kinshasa (Invest Hotel)

  • Day 13

    Kinshasa to Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary

Day 1

Kinshasa (Invest Hotel)

Arrive in Kinshasa airport where you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel.

Day 2

Kinshasa (Invest Hotel)

After breakfast and a tour briefing head out to explore Kinshasa, one of Africa’s most thriving capitals. Visit the colonial town, the fishing quarter and the National Museum of arts and traditions.

Day 3

Kinshasa to Basankusu (The Auberge)

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for a three-hour private charter flight to Basankusu. The town is in the Equator province and is situated on the Lulonga River, a tributary of the Congo River. On arrival walk to your accommodation for lunch, followed by a walking tour of the town.

Day 4

Basankusu to Lingunda (Camping)

An early start to board prigoues (dugout canoes) and embark on a 10 to 11 hour river journey deep into the rainforest. The pirogues have wooden/cane chairs with umbrellas, and breakfast, lunch, drinks and snacks will be provided. It is a long journey but one in which to relax, read or contemplate and listen to the sights and sounds along the river. Arrive in Lingunda village before nightfall.

Day 5

Lingunda to Lomako Yokokala Reserve (Camping)

After breakfast, head back to the Lomako River for a two and a half hour canoe trip to the Lomako Yokokala Faunal Reserve. On arrival, it is a three hour walk through the jungle to ‘camp’ where we will be based for the next four days.

Days 6 - 9

Lomako Yokokala Reserve (Camping)

Over the next four days, four of the group at any one time will head out with guides and a bonobo researcher, in search of bonobos. Thus each member will get two opportunities to head out into the forest. Those not searching for bonobos can hike into the forest in search of other wildlife.

Day 10

Lomako to Lingunda (Camping)

A last potential opportunity to search for bonobos before walking (three hours) back to the Lomako River for the two and a half hour canoe journey back to Lingunda. Arrive in Lingunda in time for a well-earned sundowner…

Day 11

Lingunda to Basankusu (The Auberge)

An early departure for the eight to nine hour canoe trip back to Basankusu.

Day 12

Basankusu to Kinshasa (Invest Hotel)

Early morning visit to the released orphan bonobos, before boarding the three hour charter flight back to Kinshasa. Arrive in Kinshasa in the afternoon and transfer to your hotel.

Day 13

Kinshasa to Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary

After breakfast, a short drive to the Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary, a sanctuary for orphaned bonobos. As well as a chance to see the orphans at close quarters, this is an opportunity to learn about the plight of the bonobos and the work of the sanctuary.
Return to Kinshasa, where the tour ends. Transfer to the airport for your return international flight(s).

Two bonobos sat in grass, Democratic Republic of Congo
Bonobos

Bonobos and their plight

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), bonobos and chimpanzees both share 98% of their DNA with humans. Smaller, leaner and darker than chimpanzees, the bonobos matriarchal society also tends to be more peaceful. They maintain relationships and settle conflicts through sex. However, bonobo life isn’t entirely violence free: if two groups come together, they may engage in serious fighting. Civil unrest and increasing poverty around the bonobos’ forests have contributed to poaching and deforestation. Though the size of their population is largely unknown, it has likely been declining for the last 30 years. Scientists believe the decline will continue, due to the bonobo’s low reproductive rate and growing threats.

Solitary bonobo sat on branch in rainforest, Democratic Republic of Congo
Bonobo

Lomako Bonobo Project

Experts from the AZF, Antwerp Zoo Foundation have been studying bonobos since the first nature conservation project was initiated in Congo in the 1990s. By financing and appointing park rangers at Lomako Reserve, AZF have enhanced security against illegal poaching and logging, and their team of 10 bonobo guides monitor the population, carrying out scientific research and tracking their movements. Working in conjunction with local authorities and the indigenous population, they aim to develop non-invasive commercial activities, encouraging private entrepreneurship and facilitate small scale bonobo tourism that can coexist in harmony.

Black and white crested hornbill sat on branch, Democratic Republic of Congo
White crested hornbill
Black Mangabey Monkey, Democratic Republic of Congo
Black mangabey monkey

Wildlife of the Congo Basin

In addition to the bonobos the Lomako Yokokala Reserve is home to a wealth of other wildlife including forest elephants, buffalos, leopards, African palm civet and pangolin. Golden-bellied and black mangabeys and wolf’s monkey are just a few of the many primates you can expect to see, plus 400 species of birds.

Why a Steppes expert-led group tour

1.Experience Matters

We have been running insightful and groundbreaking group tours since our inception in 1989. We have worked with institutions such as the British Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum and run wildlife tours in conjunction with conservation agencies such as Fauna & Flora International, Wildlife Conservation Society, the Orangutan Foundation, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and the Jane Goodall Institute.

2.Size Matters

Our average group size is typically eight to ten people, smaller than other group tours typically offered – a factor which many of our clients appreciate. Travelling as part of a smaller group provides a more intimate, personalised and relaxed atmosphere.

Wade Davis, Sue Flood and Stephen Venables in Antarctica
Liz Bonnin, Galapagos Islands

4.It’s about who you know

We have developed an enviable pool of expertise from which to choose our tour experts, who we carefully select based on their knowledge, companionship and personality. Often, these experts can use their influence to facilitate private access to sites not typically open to the public.

3.Like-Minded People

Steppes Travellers are like-minded people – interesting, interested and curious. Our group tours aim to create an easy and informal atmosphere – we have a lot of fun on our tours and many friendships have been formed.

5.Value for money

Our tours are well-priced to ensure you get real value for money. We include gratuities on the majority of our tours and do not pass on currency surcharges. We strive to look after single travellers as well as we can, keeping single supplements to a minimum.

6.Peace of Mind

When you travel on one of our group tours, you will be looked after by our local agents and your tour expert with the back-up of our 24-hour emergency number and duty manager. All our holidays are fully bonded and protected – our ATOL number is ATOL 6495.

Includes / Excludes

Important Information

Activity Level
Active
Single Supplement

Travelling on your own? Our group tours are perfect for solo travellers, as travelling as part of an organised group in faraway places provides security and peace of mind. We handle all of the arrangements for you and there will be a local tour guide on hand throughout to provide advice and help if needed, as well as the expertise of a Tour expert.

Flexibility

To allow flexibility, our group tours do not include international flights as standard. We can arrange international flights on your behalf, please get in touch with our travel experts for a quote. All international flights from the UK are ATOL protected.

What is included

  • All transfers (cars and motorised canoes)
  • Accommodation on a full board basis, except Kinshasa which is bed and breakfast
  • Private charter flight from Kinshasa to Basankusu
  • English-speaking guide throughout
  • All park fees, permits and mentioned activities
  • Donation of £500pp to African Wildlife Foundation
  • Gratuities for local guide, driver and porters

What is excluded

  • Democratic Republic of Congo Visa
  • International flights and air taxes
  • Lunch and Dinner when in Kinshasa
  • Drinks with meals
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Travel insurance

Other available dates

For further information about any of these tours please call 01285 880 980

Start date End date Days
Prices from
ex. flights
Single Supplement Tour Expert Group Size Status
15/09/23 27/09/23 13 days £12,995 £675 Local Guides 8 Max AVAILABLE Reserve place

Reserve your place on this group tour

Our travel experts have a wealth of first-hand knowledge, so if you have any questions about this expert-led group tour, please get in touch. They would love to help. We hope you can join us on this tour.

01285 880 980

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Why Choose Steppes?

Our knowledge and expertise set us apart. So too our curiosity. It is this that drives us to create a journey that is really bespoke to you, all the while ensuring we travel and operate sustainably.

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