“If you are short on time go to Rwanda, if you want to see more of a country and go somewhere a bit off the beaten path go to Uganda, if you are an experienced Africa traveller and want some serious bragging rights go to the Congo.”
The Republic of Congo wouldn’t necessarily be the first place to spring to mind when considering gorilla safaris. Indeed whilst Uganda and Rwanda are undoubtedly the frontrunners when it comes to mountain gorilla tracking, safaris to Congo (not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo, where only essential travel is recommended by the FCO) are fast gaining popularity, thanks to its unique and thriving population of lowland gorillas.
So what’s the difference? Larger than their lowland counterparts, mountain gorillas are the world’s rarest primate, with estimates at less than 800 living in their natural habitat. By contrast, the Republic of Congo is home to over 100,000 lowland gorillas and unlike safaris in Rwanda and Uganda where permits cost upwards of $750 for just one hour spent amongst the primates, gorilla tracking in the Congo is seemingly far better value with two days’ access, although time spent in the presence of these majestic creatures is still strictly limited.
In addition to forest elephant, buffalo and other primate species, not to mention 430 different bird species, the world’s densest population of lowland gorillas can be found inhabiting the large expanses of tropical rainforest in Congo’s Odzala-Kokoua National Park. Situated in the remote north of the country, close to the border with Gabon and 13,600 square kilometres in size, this rainforest forms an integral part of the Congo Basin ecosystem.
There are two intimate and eco-sensitively constructed camps in the park each affording opportunity aplenty to view the wealth of bird and wildlife on its doorstep. Lango Camp sits on the edge of the savannah close to the Lekoli and Mambili Rivers whilst Ngaga Camp lies deep in the heart of a marantaceae forest, from where a number of habituated lowland gorilla groups can be tracked and observed.
So where to go? Which gorillas to track? We think Elizabeth Gordon of the Huffington Post sums it up perfectly: