No other country holds the promise of adventure or delivers unforgettable travel experiences quite like the Republic Congo (also known as Congo-Brazzaville). The bais, clearings in the forest, are a great place to view western lowland gorillas and forest elephants.
For more adventure, roll up your sleeves and track primates in the forests of Odzala National Park. You will be in awe, not only at the scale of jungle around you but also the unerring skill of the trackers.
WHAT TO EXPECT ON YOUR CONGO HOLIDAY
The Republic of Congo is unfenced and untamed - so too are its camps which can be a little unnerving on your first night. Distances are vast so journeys can be very long and delays and breakdowns are an occupational hazard of travel to the Congo.
So why go? The fun lies in getting there - flying over an endless horizon of green and driving along dirt roads into the depths of the forest - and entering a world where few people, let alone tourists, have set foot. In a world of increasingly contrived travel experiences, what better way to put the fun back into adventure?
SOME IDEAS FOR A CONGO HOLIDAY
- Experience the Republic of Congo in style - fly to Odzala National Park, search for gorillas and watch elephants in the bai under a full moon whilst enjoying a delicious single malt around the fire.
- Jump in a 4x4 to head off into the wilds, get a feel for the country and its people before camping in the forest alongside primate researchers and thousands of sparkling fireflies.
- Search for the Fresco of Africa, a painting at the entrance to Brazzaville's Poto-Poto market which shows the history of Congo. The market itself is also great fun.
- Head north to the remote Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, where WCS researchers monitor the park’s threatened wildlife.
BEYOND THE ORDINARY
Charter a plane from Odzala National Park and fly north to the Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve in the CAR, combining two of the region’s greatest wilderness areas.
OUR CONGO EXPERTISE
Chris has travelled to the Republic of Congo numerous times since his first visit in 2003. He has battled bad roads and bureaucracy, stayed in bush camps and private lodges, worked alongside elephant and primate researchers of WCS and WWF and planned a trip to look for dinosaurs. There's no one better placed to help you plan your own trip to the Republic of Congo.
Very much opposite ends of the scale. On the one hand you have Lango
Camp and Ngaga Camp in Odzala, which are very much upmarket lodges, catering
for those who prefer their safaris on a fly-in basis, with high levels of
comfort and great food and wine after a day in the wilds (although make no
mistake, step outside your room and you are very much in the heart of Africa!)
These two camps have private bathrooms, hot showers, a selection of wine for
dinner and are very comfortable, reflected in the higher costs.
At the other end of the scale there are simple dome tents and basic
cabins on raised wooden stilts, with a bucket of hot water provided each
morning for washing and long-drop loos. These are aimed at those who prefer a
more bush-camp adventure and prefer to be immersed in the forest and its
wildlife. Simple meals are provided here and boiled, sterilised water for
drinking, but as the camps also double up as research stations, they are
designed for practical long term use in the rainforest. There is however a great
sense of fun here, given many of the researchers live here permanently, so it
is there home! In the cities, in Brazzaville in particular, there are numerous
3, 4 and 5 star international hotels to choose from, which are great for
unwinding at the end of a trip, before flying home.
The Republic of Congo is 1 hour ahead of GMT.
Very exciting, adventurous, frustrating, but never dull. Even when
using the charter flights in and out of Odzala, changes in weather can cause
unexpected delays and sudden showers can make roads impassable if driving. We
use the most reliable 4WD possible, but given the terrible state of many of the
forest roads, breakdowns are not uncommon, although our guides are also expert
mechanics and people in the Congo are adept at overcoming any problem so whilst
it might take a while, people will always find a solution. All of the parks
require very long drives of a few days to get there, or if your budget is more
flexible, then charter flights are the best option, usually done in 12 seater
There are three main places where you can see gorillas in the Republic
of Congo – one region in Odzala and two in Nouabale Ndoki National Park
(Mondika region and Mbeli Bai region). The
Western Lowland Gorilla occurs in Odzala and is found here at the highest
densities so far recorded for the species, in the area of Ngaga Camp, with the groups
ranging in size from 10 to 25. There are two groups found around the Ndzehi
Forest at Ngaga Camp: the Neptuno Group ( of 16 individuals) and the Jupiter
Group (around 25 individuals). There are also gorillas found in Nouabale-Ndoki
National Park, one of the wildest parts of the country, perfect for those
looking for an even bigger adventure further north from Odzala. Whilst this
region is harder to reach and accommodation much simpler, the atmosphere is
wilder and the gorilla viewing here usually provides better sightings than
those in Odzala given the habituation process has been established for longer. There
are two groups open for trekking in Mondika, the Kingo and Buka groups, both
monitored by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society, where you head
out each day with the researchers to pick up the trail of the gorillas. The
third area in which you can trek gorillas is in the area around Mbeli Bai a
clearing in the forest which draws gorillas due to the plants found nearby.
There are 180 western lowland gorillas in the area around Mbeli Bai, although
unlike trekking in Odzala and Mondika where you search for the gorillas, Mbeli
Bai has an observation platform where you base yourself for the day as the
gorillas come to eat, so you remain stationary.
Since Chris’ first visit to the Republic of Congo in 2003, he has
continued to travel through this wild part of Africa over the years to ensure
his knowledge is up-to-date in a country where things are constantly changing.
From flying in to the relative luxury of Odzala a the camps at Ngaga and Lango,
, to driving the length and breadth of the country spending time in wildlife
research stations in the remote Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the far north,
Chris knows his stuff. He has explored the markets of Brazzaville, enjoyed pirogue
rides along remote rivers, waded knee-deep through swamps and been stranded in
remote villages, allowing him to understand better than most the unexpected
challenges the Congo presents and how to keep them to a minimum when planning a
safari here! Our partners in the Congo are the most experienced and established
in the country and will ensure you are well looked after at every step of the
Chimpanzees, Gorilla’s, Elephants, Striped Antelope and an array of
other rare and beautiful wildlife can all be spotted. It is also one of the
last places to see the declining lowland Gorilla, the highlight of any trip to
the Congo - the perfect place to see them is at Odzala National Park.
depends on how adventurous you want to be. The capital, Brazzaville is the main
access point, with regular flights here with airlines such as Air France, Kenya
Airways and whilst there are a few options, none are currently direct. You can
drive in overland from Cameroon if you are looking to visit the remote northern
parks at Nouabale-Ndoki, but this requires some planning and can be very
Given the rains in the Congo tend to arrive around October and
continue through to April, it is best to travel outside of these times as heavy
showers can severely disrupt travel and cause long delays, with many rural
roads impassable and flights cancelled. It will always be hot and humid anytime
of the year!
When photographing wildlife, bear in mind you will be in humid
rainforests, with a lot of moisture around so lenses can become foggy very
quickly. It is best to keep a small, dry cloth in an old film canister or
similar to counter this, along with putting plenty of silica gel packets in
your camera bag. A good zoom lens is essential and a minimum of 300ml is
recommended, but 400 ml would be even better. Remember much of the photography
in the forest will be in shadow, looking at dark subject matters a small
monopod can be a good idea, or use a high ISO. It is also worth remembering that some camps have limited power supplies, so you may not be able to charge batteries every day - we recommend bringing spares. In the cities and markets
photographing people may not always be appropriate so do ask first and strike
up a conversation to put people at ease. A wide angle lens can be a great way
to get a sense of place in the forest, or a sense of scale in the markets, but
do bear in mind you will have to carry all of this! Do not take photographs of
any military or government officials or buildings as they will likely
confiscate your camera.
Yes. The Republic of Congo is not to be confused with the neighbouring
DEMOCRATIC Republic of Congo. We have been running tours here for years and the
safety of our clients is paramount. We remain in constant contact with
government officials, tourism bodies, charities and lodge owners who update us
on the political situation and the Congolese people are some of the most
welcoming you will meet. You are usually safer in the remote camps – given the
difficulty in getting there – than you would be in the larger cities, although
when in the cities, common sense prevails in terms of keeping an eye on your
valuable as you would in any large city. The opening up of new, upmarket camps
is testament to the ongoing stability of the country. We also use the most established
operators in the country, whilst also providing a 24 hour contact telephone
number on the UK , which you can call and speak to somebody 7 days a week, 365
days a year for peace of mind.
the upmarket lodges there are generators that run throughout parts of the day,
but in some of the smaller tented camps there are limited facilities so you may
not always get the chance to charge batteries every day, which is why we
recommend bringing spare camera batteries.
We provide all the necessary paperwork for your trip to the Republic
of Congo as different parks require different vaccinations and you will be given a list of medical vaccinations for some of
the visits, where are very specific, including yellow fever. We do provide a
comprehensive list in our confirmation pack, but if you require any more
information, please do call.
Very. Outside of the cities, the going is very tough, with thick
forests, bad roads and a developing infrastructure. Trekking here is much
harder than that in Uganda and Rwanda given it is a tropical, lowland
rainforest and will be muddy and hot, with knee deep water in some places,
through very thick vegetation with gorillas moving around a great deal.
Journeys can be long so you need to be comfortable in bumpy 4wd’s and sitting
in small dugout canoes for a few hours at a time. To be honest, it is more
important to be prepared mentally as even those who have travelled in Africa a
great deal in a variety of lodges can be overwhelmed by the forest, but for
those who persevere, the sense of achievement and rewards are incredible.
Given you will be spending time in areas of high humidity with rain
possible at any time, good waterproofs are essential as are good walking boots.
That said, if you are caught in a tropical storm, no amount of expensive gear
will keep you dry! A good, waterproof camera bag and rucksack is very
important. If you are spending time in the more upmarket properties in Odzala,
then facilities for drying clothes are available and most of what you will need
is already provided in the same way that you are looked after in other upmarket
African camps. If spending time in the more remote regions of Nouabale-Ndoki,
then you would need to pack light given facilities are limited but a spare set
of dry clothes goes a long way if you are caught in a shower, especially if on
a boat as the wind-chill and breeze from moving, can make things cold very
quickly. A head torch is essential, as
are Malaria tablets. Spare camera batteries are also a good idea given some of
the remote camps are primarily research stations so whilst the do have
generators, priority is given to scientific equipment and camera charging may
not always be appropriate. A small hand towel can also be quite useful as you
will sweat a lot in the 100% humidity. Given you are also potentially out in
the forest all day, some clients take energy bars to supplement the lunches
which are provided.
where you go. If visiting Odzala and Mondika, then you should be prepared for
treks of between 2 - 8 hours, occasionally longer (the record is 11 hours!) as
you will be following them through the forest as they move through thick
vegetation, starting from a fixed point at the camp. When watching gorillas at
Mbeli Bai, there is a short drive from the lodge, then an hours walk through
the forest to the viewing platform, where you remain all day, with lunch being
provided, although the gorillas do not always appear, so it is worth keeping an
eye out for other wildlife.
Officially 7 metres. Unofficially, much closer as the
gorillas are surprisingly well camouflaged!