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Searching for mammals in the Dzanga-Sangha Rainforest, CAR (July 2015)


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Anomalure

Day 7:

 

We decided to plan a relatively relaxing day today... For the morning, we planned on driving back to Bai Hokou to be the first group out to track the Agile Mangabeys. In hindsight, this wasn't a great move as the morning mangabey tracking was quite disorganized (more on that later). If I could have done it again, I'd have waited for the guys to find the Mangabeys and done the bai walk in the morning, during which I would have had the chance to see a Black-fronted Duiker (the only regularly-seen duiker species I missed), more monkeys, and maybe even something less common like a Yellow-backed Duiker or Congo Clawless Otter.

 

Before breakfast, Rod and I headed to the swamp forest where De Brazza's Monkeys and African Giant Squirrels live. We found neither of these, and only got brief looks at a Lady Burton's Rope Squirrel and heard Putty-nosed Monkeys. Unlike the previous morning, the drive to Bai Hokou was relatively quiet and the only mammals we observed were a pair of little Crowned Guenons in a branch above the road.

 

At Bai Hokou, we started the Mangabey tracking in earnest, but the guys following the troop hadn't left the clearest signs for us. As a result, we took a couple of wrong turns, which wasted about 30 min of our time, so Christian became quiet annoyed with the trackers and made this clear to them over the radio. We did get a little bit of action out this fiasco when we frightened a Red River Hog mother and calves off of the resting mats they had made for themselves (a bed of leaves on the forest floor), missing them by minutes. Sadly, such is the density of the forest that we had no chance of seeing them. Christian's stern warnings to the trackers had positive results as soon after making our way through some dense brush to an area just above a small forest stream, we found the main troop of Mangabeys. The pictures aren't much, but I do have some videos of the Agile Mangabeys (as well as other animals) that I'll upload in a few days as I feel videos capture the essence of Dzanga Sangha even more than pictures.

 

The drive back to the lodge was uneventful and I considered heading out with Christian to a site near Bayanga where he claims Allen's Swamp Monkeys occur (the description of the animals and habitat seemed convincing). The fact that it was going to be mostly flooded, muddy swamp forest (combined with the fact that the monkeys were quite elusive, in his opinion) made me decide to save that for next time and head back to the lodge for some rest.

 

We had a quiet evening until after dinner, when Rod and I decided to go on a night walk (some of the other guests joined too). I headed over to my room where I heard a Demidoff's Galago calling but couldn't quite find it, so Rod decided to make that the first stop on our night walk. Shortly after shining our spotlights into the dense riverside thicket, I found the bright eyeshine of a Potto and we all got great looks at it. Shortly after this sighting, the rain began bucketing down like I had never seen before. I was a little saddened by this since this meant I would be missing Thomas's Galago and African Palm Civet, two nice nocturnal species that are commonly seen at Sangha Lodge (add to that the fact that we were trying out a new route along the entrance road and Babongo River that would have given chances of Flat-headed Cusimanse and Servaline Genet too) but I guess you always have to save some stuff for next time...

 

Day 8:

 

The final day of safari is always a sad one, especially so for a place so remote, unique, pristine and movingly beautiful as the Central African rainforest. I headed out to the swamp forest for one last attempt for De Brazza's, only to be shocked by something bounding off into the swamp forest canopy. I didn't get a look at what it was, but I suspect it was an African Giant Squirrel. Back at the lodge, I just sat watching the mesmerizing river (which I still miss) and the thousands of white butterflies gliding across (no one know what the cause of this mass migration of butterflies was) to the other side. After finding out that our flight had been delayed till 3 PM, we talked to the other guests about their morning at the waterfall over lunch (they saw Picathartes too, and even got pictures).

 

Our plane arrived at the 3:30 PM due to customs issues in Gemena, DRC, where it came from. This put us dangerously close to missing our flight out of Yaounde, but Daryl had organized a customs official to accompany us through the airport and expedite our passage. This worked very well, and we even arrived at the gate with a little time to spare!

 

Anyway, I guess this is my first attempt at a trip report. I hope everyone who took the time to read enjoyed it. There's more coming - specifics regarding wildlife and your best chance at viewing it and some other mammal-related stuff, and I'll try to post some videos when I have time...

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**I'll just start off by saying that this is my first post on this forum, so please forgive any mistakes I may make in formatting, etc. as I'm just now getting used to the site...   Pre-trip:   F

Western Lowland Gorillas:   Makumba crossing the stream into the bai with impressive speed - and on two feet!   The Makumba Group out in the open, feeding

Before I get to the day-by-day, I first wanted to give an idea of how wildlife viewing is conducted in the African rainforest and some of the many activities you can take...   In Dzanga-Sangha, unli

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Anomalure

Mammal Info:

 

Mammal list: 33 species (a reasonably respectable total for 1 week in 1 location)

 

1. Western Tree Hyrax

2. African Forest Elephant

3. Potto (Bosman's)

4. Demidoff's Galago

5. Elegant Needle-clawed Galago

6. Moustached Monkey

7. Putty-nosed Monkey

8. Crowned Guenon

9. Gray-cheeked Mangabey

10. Agile Mangabey

11. Guereza Colobus

12. Western (Lowland) Gorilla

13. African Brush-tailed Porcupine

14. Lord Derby's Anomalure

15. Thomas's Rope Squirrel

16. Lady Burton's Rope Squirrel

17. Ribboned Rope Squirrel

18. Red-cheeked Rope Squirrel

19. Fire-footed Rope Squirrel

20. Red-legged Sun Squirrel

21. Green Bush Squirrel

22. Rusty-nosed Rat

23. Bates' Slit-faced Bat

24. Hairy Slit-faced Bat

25. Giant Roundleaf Bat

26. Noack's Roundleaf Bat

27. Black Hawk Bat (Pel's Pouched Bat)

28. Tree Pangolin

29. African (Forest) Buffalo

30. Sitatunga (Forest)

31. Peters' Duiker

32. Bay Duiker (Eastern)

33. Blue Duiker

*The fact that something like all but 1-2 of these species is new to me speaks volumes about how unique the wildlife here is, especially when compared to traditional savanna areas where most safaris are conducted.

 

Now, some of you will have noticed that I have ignored birds in this trip. I'm not a birder by any definition or lister, but I do like seeing certain charismatic species. Some of my favorites in the Sangha include: African Gray Parrot, Hartlaub's Duck, Crowned Eagle (2 in a courship fight over Dzanga Bai!), Crested Guineafowl, African Green Pigeon, Great Blue Turaco, and (best of all IMO) Gray-necked Picathartes. I'm sure competent birders could find much, much more!

 

I'll finish the written portion of this TR with a reference list of potential mammals that you can see in the park.

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Anomalure

Annotated Species list for the National Park and Dzanga-Sangha Reserve (incl. Sangha Lodge):

*I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this info future visitors, but what I will say is it corresponds to my experiences and conversations I had with other people in the area (ie: Rod, Christian, etc.) regarding wildlife sightings

 

Chimpanzee - Occurs in low densities in the Dzanga Sangha reserve compared to other comparable areas (Nouabale-Ndoki/Goualougo, Odzala, etc.); there are no habituated individuals, so sightings are entirely down to luck; Rod hears them Sangha Lodge 1-2 times a month (there is a troop that lives across the river) and more commonly at a couple of the waterfalls visited (a tour group saw them once). They might be more common S on the river towards Bomassa in the Ndoki sector, where they are seen more regularly.

 

Western Lowland Gorilla - There are two habituated groups: 1) the Makumba group (4 animals) at Bai Hokou and 2) the Mayele group (12 animals) at Mongambe; both are pretty reliable (>90% tracking success) provided arrangements are made. The Makumba group can sometimes be seen out in the open in bais, but the Mayele group is larger, so both have their advantages. 2 more groups are currently being habituated from visitors. Sightings of unhabituated animals occasionally occur in the road to Bai Hokou and animals can occasionally be heard from Sangha Lodge, but this is entirely down to luck.

 

Central African Red Colobus - Regularly seen South along the Sangha River 3-4 hours from Sangha Lodge N of Bomassa; they prefer the swampy forest here and are not found around Sangha Lodge or on the Dzanga sector of Dzanga-Ndoki NP

 

Guereza Colobus - The elegant lowland form is found most consistently around Dzanga Bai. Here, they can often be observed in the grassy fringe of the stream and in Dzanga Bai itself, where they come down from the surrounding trees to graze. They are regularly seen around the bais at Bai Hokou as well, as occasionally heard in the forest behind Sangha Lodge (and rarely seen here too).

 

Agile Mangabey - Most reliable with the habituated troop at Bai Hokou, which can be tracked given advance notice; unhabituated animals are occasionally seen throughout the park, and an animal was camera-trapped in the swamp forest behind Sangha Lodge

 

Gray-cheeked Mangabey - Commonly seen in most mature forests in the Dzanga sector, where poaching pressure on monkeys is relatively low; I observed them in Dzanga Bai, Mongambe, and Bai Hokou areas and they are easy to find by tracking their very distinctive call; the second most commonly observed monkey for me

 

De Brazza's Monkey - Previously more common in swamp forests around Bayanga and near Sangha Lodge; this species has faced a fair bit of poaching pressure recently, so is almost extinct from Bayanga; a small population lives in the swamp forests near Sangha Lodge, where they are frequently heard in the mornings; from here, they can be tracked down and searched for but they are quite elusive and capable of staying still for long periods of time so still not easy

 

Crowned Guenon - Slightly more difficult to observe than some of the other common forest monkeys (Gray-cheeked Mangabey, Moustached Monkey, Putty-nosed Monkey) because it prefers to remain silent and is rather small in size; the best way to find these is to focus on mixed troops of the aforementioned species and scan them closely with binoculars to see if you can find these little yellow and blackish-gray animals trailing

 

Putty-nosed Monkey - The most common monkey in the forest and heard multiple times every day and seen most days too; they have a loud, distinctive call (a sudden "pyow!") and their blackish color and bright white noses are quite distinctive too; I got good looks in Mongambe, Bai Hokou, and at Sangha Lodge in the forest behind the rooms

 

Moustached Monkey - Another common species that I saw reasonably often (especially on the Bai Hokou road and in Mongambe) in mixed species troops with Putty-nosed Monkey; they are quite distinctive, with their reddish-orange tail, white "moustache", colorful face; they are called mbeti in the local language

 

?Allen's Swamp Monkey - A species that was described convincingly by Christian that may occur in swamp forests near Bayanga; there is a local name for it, simbi, and this species is known to occur on Bomassa Island near the Congo-CAR border on the Sangha River about 3-4 hours to the South, where they can be observed from a boat; it would be interesting to come back and confirm this rumor

 

Bosman's Potto - One of the nocturnal species commonly observed on night walks from Sangha Lodge; while they tend to stick to the vine thickets (which is why Rod initially thought they may have been Angwantibos) and the canopy, they have very bright orange eyeshine, so are easy to pick out with a spotlight on the trails; they are very cool animals that move with astonishing slowness and a species that I think everyone who visits Sangha should try to see

 

?Golden Angwantibo - A species that Rod suspects might occur in low vine thickets and disturbed areas (ie: tree falls) possibly along the entrance road and near the river; would require targeted searching and a lot of luck to confirm, as they are very elusive

 

Elegant Needle-clawed Galago - One of the common Galago species that occurs in the main forest canopy behind the lodge; regularly seen on the night walks and Rod got me amazing views of one of these animals; my favorite Galago species and a beautiful animal with a rich fawn-colored back, grayish-white underside and a white-tipped tail (not illustrated in guidebooks); intermediate in size between Senegal Galago and Greater Galagos

 

?Allen's Galago - A species that may occur in more open forests (not near Sangha or Doli Lodges) in the national park, for example in Gilbertiodendron forests around Bai Hokou; little-known

 

Demidoff's Galago - This Galago, a tiny species and the smallest in Africa, occurs in heavily disturbed riverside thicket in around the lodge buildings, where it can be sometimes heard calling with its distinctive crescendo of chirps; difficult to spot due its preference for very thick cover and tiny size

 

Thomas's Galago - A small Galago (though not as tiny as Demidoff's) that according to Rod, is commonly seen on the edge of the forest surrounding the lodge's gardens; they also prefer edge habitats, like the Demidoff's; I should have seen this species

 

Golden Fruit Bat - A pretty fruit bat species with bright eyeshine that Rod thinks is often seen around fruiting trees in the forest near the lodge (fruit bat identification can be difficult in the best of times); another species I had a good chance of observing, but didn't get lucky around the fruiting figs

 

Hammer-headed Fruit Bat - A huge, grotesque fruit bat that frequents a large fig tree next to the dining area when in fruit; sadly, it wasn't fruiting, and despite checking other fruiting figs in the forest, we couldn't find any of these strange animals; they are easy to locate when present as their call is a loud, distinctive "donk!"

 

Giant Roundleaf Bat - There is a small roost of about 4-5 animals in a hollow snag on the trail to the waterfall; this area is sometimes shared by other bat species

 

Noack's Roundleaf Bat - There is a large roost of this species behind the waterfall next to Bai Hokou camp

 

Bates' Slit-faced Bat - The common bat species flying around Sangha Lodge at night, eating insects :)

 

Black Hawk Bat - A large, black insectivorous bat frequently observed hawing over the Sangha River from the lodge dining area at dusk; more common in the dry season, but can be observed year-round. An impressive species.

 

African Pygmy Squirrel - A tiny, mouse-sized squirrel Rod occasionally sees in liana thickets on the trail to the waterfall; I was hoping to see one, but they are uncommon and elusive, so unlikely unless one is very lucky

 

Ribboned Rope Squirrel - This is the striped squirrel species that Rod and I believe is frequently seen close the ground in vines and on the forest floor, especially near termite mounds, in the rainforest surrounding the lodge; we initially thought it might be the very similar Boehm's Bush Squirrel, but this species is only found across the Ubangi (according to Jonathan Kingdon, Boehm's is the eastern ecological equivalent of Ribboned Rope Squirrel)

 

Fire-footed Rope Squirrel - Occasionally seen in the midlevels of the rainforest within the Dzanga sector of the national park; easy to identify from its bright orange-red feet and underside and bushy tail

 

Red-cheeked Rope Squirrel - An attractive species with a distinctive reddish-orange cheek that is regularly seen in the midlevels of mature forests within the national park and in one specific site on the Sangha Lodge trial network (which Rod will show you, if you ask)

 

Thomas's Rope Squirrel - A duller relative of the Red-cheeked Rope Squirrel that is easy to see in the mornings and afternoons in brush close to the river around Sangha Lodge; the orange cheek color and distinct stripes shown in the Kingdon field guide are exaggerated for this species

 

Lady Burton's Rope Squirrel - An olive-colored squirrel with distinctive black stripes and a loud, recognizable squeaky-toy sounding call easily found in the midlevels of the rainforest, especially on the forest fringe next to Sangha Lodge only; often seen running across vines and thin branches

 

Red-legged Sun Squirrel - A large brownish-gray squirrel with an organish underside easily seen in the canopy of the forest in 2 areas near Sangha Lodge in the mornings: the trees right behind the veggie garden, and the trees surrounding the raft crossing the Babongo River at the lodge steps; they often come to the palm nuts near the dining area as well, but fruit within the forest sent them out of camp during our stay; I got lucky and saw one feeding alongside some monkeys in the forest on the road to Bai Hokou, where they are less easily seen

 

Green Bush Squirrel - A common species in the brushy fringe of Sangha Lodge; this species is most easily seen near the Babongo River on the steps up to the lodge in the mornings, and in the palm trees next to the dining area, where they come for palm nuts

 

African Giant Squirrel - Regularly seen by Rod in the canopy of the swamp forest on the trail beyond the lodge in the adjacent forest, especially early in the morning but theoretically at any time of the day; also occasionally seen in the canopy of marshy forests surrounding Bai Hokou

 

Lord Derby's Anomalure - Rod has identified two reliable sites for this species at the time of writing: 1) a crack in a dying tree in front of cabin 7, where the animal can often be seen sunning in the mornings; and 2) a hollow tree on the way to the waterfall (the same site as Hipposideros gigas/Giant Roundleaf Bat); both are quite reliable, and if you spent enough time trying, you should see one of these remarkable animals - large, dark gray, flying squirrels almost the size of cats!

 

Beecroft's Anomalure - Another common species in the forest, but rarely seen as Rod has not identified any den sites yet (unlike for Lord Derby's, which is rarer here); occasionally seen while spotlighting around Sangha and Doli Lodges

 

African Brush-tailed Porcupine - An interesting animal that is occasionally seen among the rocks at the Picathartes cave above the waterfall in the Hill zone; also frequently camera-trapped and occasionally observed on the trail network behind Sangha Lodge, sometimes on night walks; Rod found a very reliable site for them that is a short boat trip at 2 hour's walk from the lodge, if anyone really desires to see this species

 

Emin's Giant Rat - A huge rat that is occasionally seen on night walks on the trail network, generally by chance as they run across the trail having been startled; sometimes seen crossing roads at night as well; burrows are quite obvious and common

 

Zebra Mouse - These cool looking mice are apparently frequently live-trapped and sometimes seen crossing roads while driving through the farmbush zone North of Sangha Lodge and Bayanga

 

Congo Clawless Otter - Very rarely seen on the Sangha river from Sangha Lodge and more common in swampy creeks within the park; tracks are very common on the creek near Dzanga Bai and in Bai Hokou, where they might be possible to observe early in the morning

 

Spotted-necked Otter - Very rarely seen generally, though Christian did tell me that he has seen them in the evenings in the creek near Mongambe camp

 

Long-nosed Mongoose - Occasionally seen in the mornings and evenings in dense vegetation along the creek near Bai Hokou camp; Rod has seen them a couple of times in the morning at the forest edge near his house; I wish I could have been lucky enough to see this animal

 

Marsh Mongoose - Rod has camera trapped this species at the edge of the swamp forest on the trail network near Sangha Lodge

 

Flat-headed Cusimanse - A cool gregarious mongoose species that Rod has seen once in the dry season on the riverbank in front of Sangha Lodge; also seen once on the Babongo River near camp and often found in the bushmeat markets; they are rarely camera-trapped, but difficult to see in the wild

 

Servaline Genet - Rod has camera trapped this species walking on trails near his house, but only ever seen it once on the road to Sangha Lodge at night; common in the forest, but very elusive and difficult to see; maybe more reliable near Doli Lodge

 

?African Linsang - Seen once by German scientists in the trees next to WWF building in Doli Lodge; very rare and elusive, sticking to high canopied-tropical rainforest trees

 

African Civet - Rod has camera trapped this species at the forest edge in the Sangha Lodge gardens

 

African Palm Civet - Frequently seen in fruiting figs on night walks near Sangha Lodge, especially so when the large fig tree next to the dining room is fruiting; a species that I was sad to miss and really should have seen!

 

Leopard - Tracks are frequently seen in the clearings around Bai Hokou camp, but sightings are very rare, limited to occasional views on animals from the Bai Hokou road and in Dzanga Bai

 

Long-tailed Pangolin - A rare, arboreal, elusive diurnal species that is almost never seen in the park; only ever observed when released from bushmeat markets or found by the Ba'Aka; Rod's pet Pangy is a good example of how beautiful this species is!

 

Tree Pangolin - The more common Pangolin in the forest, but still only rarely seen on night walks; most reliable in the dry season, when the trails around the lodge can be scoured by Ba'Aka trackers, who are skilled at finding these animals by sound (they make a lot of noise shuffling through dry leaves); the pet baby Pangolin Oko is an example of this species

 

Western Tree Hyrax - An annoying animal as their loud calls are very clear and easily heard, even when calling from across the river; despite being only 10-15 ft from an animal, I could not see it as they do not have eyeshine and often stop calling when a spotlight is pointed in their direction (add to that their habit of living in dense thickets and you understand how hard they are to see)

 

Forest Elephant - Dzanga Bai is the best place in the world to see this species and families can be seen congregating at the bai year-round; numbers peak in the dry season, when you can see over 100 animals in the bai every day!

 

Hippopotamus - A small population lives in the Sangha River around Bayanga and Doli Lodge, where they are occasionally observed

 

Red River Hog - A beautiful pig with tasseled ears and bright orange coloration that is relatively common around Dzanga Bai and Bai Hokou, but rarely seen except during visits to Dzanga Bai, where they can be observed 1 in 4 times in the dry season and less commonly in the wet; also rarely observed on bai walks at Bai Hokou; hopefully Rod's future tracking plans (when they are developed) can make this species easier to find

 

Giant Forest Hog - A species that I wish I had seen as they were coming to the bai quite often around the time of my visit; they are elusive and generally stick to the edges of the Dzanga Bai; the evenings and early mornings are the best times to look and again, only found around 1 in 4 visits in the dry season

 

Water Chevrotain - Rarely seen in the evenings on the Bai Hokou Road and Christian has seen them rarely at night (4-5 times) around Mongambe camp

 

African (Forest) Buffalo - This attractive subspecies of the familiar African Buffalo is regularly seen in Dzanga Bai, as a resident herd of about 15 animals; also observed frequently on the bai walk around Bai Hokou, especially in the dry season

 

Bongo - Regularly seen in the dry season in Dzanga Bai, especially Feb-April when they can be seen in 1 in 2 visits to the bai, according to Rod, and are quite reliable, sometimes even in huge herds of up to 70 animals; much less common and irregular at other times of the year, when they head off into the deep forest; one of the prime targets for any visit to Dzanga Sangha and the park is arguably the finest place in the world to see this species

 

Blue Duiker - The most common Duiker species in the forest and Carolyn, the duiker/bushmeat researcher I spoke to, said that in unhunted forests around Mongambe and Bai Hokou, you can see dozens on a single night walk on forest trails; they can be seen anywhere in the park and near Sangha Lodge, but are best observed in forests around Bai Hokou, where they are very common

 

Black-fronted Duiker - A red duiker species easily distinguishable from its lack of a dark back stripe; this species prefers swampy forest at the edge of bais and can be often seen on the Bai Walks as a result near Bai Hokou, where it is quite common

 

?White-bellied Duiker - Maybe present in mono-dominant Gilbertiodendron forests near Bai Hokou - they prefer this forest type in Nouabale-Ndoki; rare in SW CAR and no one I talked to had ever seen one

 

Peters' Duiker - Another common Duiker species with yellowish-brown coloration preferring terra firma forest near Bai Hokou; seen regularly on Bai walks, especially when special effort to look for duikers is put in, but difficult to get good looks at; individuals in the park here have a much more pronounced black back stripe than shown in the field guides

 

Yellow-backed Duiker - An impressively large, black duiker species with a bright yellow back stripe favoring unhunted primary forests; they occur in reasonable numbers only around Bai Hokou, but even here they are rare and very elusive, so are only seen very rarely (Carolyn had only seen one once in several years of research)

 

Bay Duiker - Another more regularly seen Duiker species with reddish-brown coloration and a dark black back stripe that is often seen in tall primary forest surrounding bais; this and Blue Duiker are the species Carolyn reckoned I'd be most likely to see in the park and sign of this species, along with Blue and Peters' Duiker sign, was abundant in Mongambe and Bai Hokou

 

Bates' Pygmy Antelope - A rare, tiny antelope that prefers disturbed areas on the West side of the Sangha River; Rod has seen them as bushmeat, but never live

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twaffle

Thank you for posting this astonishing report. I almost felt like I was in the forest with you. Really enjoyed it.

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pault

I'm really looing forward to the next report. Could have happily read on if you'd stayed a second week too, Fascinating place.

 

Your mammal list is very impressive, even if some views were too fleeting (ot too disturbed by wasps) to grab a photo..

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Anomalure

@@pault I really wish I could have provided more photos of some of these species, but photography is tough out here...

 

If you get lucky and score with Bongos/Hogs or Colobus in addition to the usual Forest eles and Buffalo at Dzanga Bai, you'll get great photos (Dzanga bai was really the only place where photography was relatively easy). You should get pics if you do the gorilla tracking as well, even in the forest (if you have more skill than me which I'm sure most people here do) where it's more difficult.

 

Sitatunga photos should be doable on the bai walk as they're usually out in the open but you can forget about duikers and squirrels. For the monkeys, sometimes the Putty-nosed and Gray-cheeked Mangabeys stay still or out in the open long enough for a photo, but I was more focused on getting good looks (other monkeys were less obliging). If you are very quick with the camera, you might be able to do it. For the agile mangabeys, unless they're out in the open, I'd ditch the camera and go for the videocamera instead (will provide video at some point).

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Anomalure

Concluding remarks:

 

gallery_49768_1321_1022444.jpg

 

The airstrip on departure day

 

Visiting the Dzanga Sangha Park and Sangha Lodge fulfilled a longtime dream of mine and while the wildlife viewing was a little different than I was expecting (lack of Bongos and Hogs especially), the variety of unique and rare species (Brush-tailed Porcupine, Lord Derby's Anomalure, Black Hawk Bat, Elegant Needle-clawed Galago, and of course PANGOLINS!) more than compensated for this and made this initial disappoinment fade into the background. Searching for wildlife in, and in the process exploring, one of the last truly intact tropical rainforest regions of Africa, in a remote part of one of the world's most remote (and poorest) countries was an experience I'll cherish for years to come and not just because of the animals I saw but also the environment I witnessed and the people I met (Andrea, Carolyn, Christian, Rod, and everyone else who helped me out or patiently sat through my incessant questions) in the process.

 

Upon my return from the CAR, I spent a little while reading some of the other trip reports from Dzanga Sangha, both on ST and on mammalwatching.com, (which by the way I highly encourage anyone even remotely interested in CAR to check out) to reflect on my time on safari. Now after the preliminary wave of envy at others' sightings passed (especially of species that I missed, ie: @@gatoratlarge with your wonderful Bongos and GF hogs... :P ), I mainly found myself reflecting on two main things.

 

The first is how much I miss the forest, the river, and the peacefulness of the whole place. It's about as far away from the busy modern world as you can get and I don't think you will find anyone who visited the area without feeling a little sad when it came time to go home. I've been to several savanna safari areas, but the rainforest holds a special place to me. That said, there are a few things that I don't miss and that I'm happy I don't have at home: the 100% humidity and the accompanying feeling of constant sweatiness (seriously, nothing ever dries out here completely), massive columns of driver ants, thick mud and standing water full of elephant dung, wasps, biting flies, and mosquitos. But don't let these things scare you away from visiting - while this is a trip that's certainly more difficult than your standard vehicle-based safari tour, I don't think it's any tougher than a walking safari: and remember that at the end of the day, the food, company, and peaceful setting of Sangha Lodge will always relax you after a long, strenuous day.

 

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The second was something that wasn't as apparent to me when I was there, but more noticeable upon reflection back home. Everyone there was happy to see us - and not just guides, tourism admin, and others who were directly benefiting from our presence as tourists, even people like rangers and local villagers we passed on drives to and from the park who we never interacted much with. I'd in fact go so far as to claim that I've never seen a place where the local people were so happy to see tourists - and this was amplified when people saw us driving back to the airstrip with Rod - it was all smiles and friendly waves. Even upon our arrival, a whole crowd of villagers had arrived to greet the duiker researcher Carolyn, who lived for Bayanga in 2 years. It was amazing to see how happy it made everyone that there were people outside this remote corner of CAR who appreciated the rainforest, and ultimately, I think this kind of buy-in from local people is essential for tourism to work in places like this (I felt the same during my visit to Ishaqbini, a remote conservation area in NE Kenya last year - we had a whole crowd of rangers greet us at the airstrip!).

 

So I'll close by saying that if anyone has been considering visiting, now (or at least the next few years) is the time to go. The area is beautiful and still relatively untouched by pressures of logging and mining and the wildlife is truly amazing and unlike anything else you'll see in Africa. More importantly, a visit as a tourist will help prove that conservation of wildlife and pristine areas of rainforest like Dzanga Sangha is preferable to short-term exploitation such as mining, logging, and large-scale bushmeat poaching and that conservation is an investment that can help improve conditions in neighboring communities for years to come. The region deserves a quick upturn in tourism, one of Sangha-Mbaere's main industries prior to the recent coup.

 

Hopefully you enjoyed reading this report as much as I did writing it and putting it together. I hope through this I've done my own little part by convincing more people to learn about and perhaps even visit this incredible and truly wild part of the world. I for one am already thinking about when to plan my next visit - in the dry season - for Bongos, Hogs, and some of the other stuff I missed. I'm anticipating seeing Dzanga Sangha and the CAR in better times.

 

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There is a lot of space for those Bongos to hide though... ;)
-------
If anyone has any questions regarding a visit to the park or anything else, feel free to ask!
Edited by Game Warden
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Treepol

@@Anomalure thank you for posting this fascinating and detailed report. Your safari reads like a real live adventure with guides clearing trees knocked down by elephants and slashing vines out of the path.

 

What an impressive array of species you saw from lowland gorillas to squirrels and picathartes. I really enjoyed the pangolin pics and will be sure to re-read this TR in the upcoming weeks.

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Marks

This has been an amazing first trip report. Wasps aside, I wish I could've been there, too. I appreciate all the species detail.

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michael-ibk

Absolutely loved this report, thank you so much for sharing. I´ve been following Sangha Lodge on FB ever since we had the Rod interview here on ST and really admire what he is doing there. Sooner than later I really want to get there as well. Thanks for all the details and advice on when to go and what can realistically be seen and what not, very helpful! Picture-wise I especially loved the "Golden Elephants", what a great image. And of course fantastic to see the Pangolins - and the Gorillas. Hats off to your writing skills as well.

 

Hoping some of the videos are still to come? :)

 

Thanks again!

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Anomalure

Yes the videos will come soon. I have to edit a bunch of them so that will take some time... Thanks!

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gatoratlarge

What a great report! My only regret for my visit to CAR and Sangha Lodge was not meeting Rod and Tam who were in South Africa by necessity. I know they would have added a lot of knowledge and filled in some of the gaps---for instance, I now know it was a tree hyrax that sounded like a murder going on in the middle of the night!! :)

 

It is an extraordinary place and I really appreciate the detailed account---you confirm what I found to be the case---Dzanga-Sangha is a safe place to visit and also a must see place on the planet---you showed by your list of "mammals seen" that it's very unique with amazing opportunities to see species you'll likely not find anywhere else. Bravo for making the trek!! So happy it was such a great experience!

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Super LEEDS

@@Anomalure haha those damn tree hyrax! Reminds me of my time at Kigio in Kenya, it sounded like the bleedin' thing was in my room. At first I thought someone was being killed, then I just wanted to strangle it....

 

Excellent report, a great advert for CAR.

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Anomalure

@@Super LEEDS believe it or not I got used to the tree hyrax and was able to sleep reasonably well maybe 2 nights in. The biggest shock for me came on the first morning after I heard the noise and at breakfast asked Rod how far away they were - he said most of them were ACROSS the river!!

 

To hear how loud they really were, Rod decided to get me close to one on a night walk and the sound was very near deafening...

 

Also, I noticed that you were wondering when the area is the least buggy. Not sure about that and I'm pretty sure the area is quite buggy at all times of the year. In the time I was there, I got a few mosquito bites (I would have gotten 0 if I had been a little more careful the first couple days), a couple of wasp stings, and a few ant bites (one of which was rather painful as it latched on). Reg mosquitos and flies, rainy season (when I went) is probably worse so maybe Feb-Mar is better (I recall gatoratlarge said Apr was the buggiest); ants are there year-round and are a hazard on trails, with painful bites/stings - Rod will instruct you how to take care around them.

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Great fun to read about your lucky visit. I especially enjoyed imagining the picture of you going into stealth mode, sneaking up on the sitatunga, only to be hit by the wasps. Sorry.

Seems like the Sangha lodge is a good choice, especially considering the friendliness and tracks/walks available around. We stayed at Doli lodge, where we did not get that (in 2007). Next time, you should go with the Baakas medicinal walk or hunting - those were great experiences. But the best was probably the traditional dancing which was done in full costume - ie dressed as the forest animals/gods - truly amazing.

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Alexander33

Just a fascinating report. I've got a few more "traditional" places to go on safari before I feel I'm ready to take on CAR, but reports like yours give folks like me the inspiration we may need to get us thinking outside of our comfort zone. Thank you for your ample demonstration that such a trip is not only feasible, but exceptional as well.

 

Thank you also for taking the time to post such a through and informative mammal list -- a reference that I will bookmark for future use. (And Western Lowland Gorillas! Just check "yes.")

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  • 4 weeks later...
Anomalure

I just found out from the Sangha Lodge facebook page that Pangy is almost ready to be returned to the wild following Rod and Tam's excellent care. Raising a baby Long-tailed Pangolin into an adult that can survive in the wild is an amazing accomplishment and truly speaks to how dedicated they are to conservation and wildlife. Seems like Oko may be on his way back to the forest sometime in the not too distant future too...

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Livetowander

Thanks for taking the time to post and for being so detailed. It makes it easier to envision a possible trip in the future.

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For anyone not following the Sangha Lodge facebook page, I'm really sad to say that Oko (the White-bellied Pangolin orphan mentioned in my TR) passed away yesterday. RIP. :(

 

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On a positive note however, Sangha Lodge just took in another White-bellied Orphan - Use, or "Two" in Sangha. Hope she does well!

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Game Warden

@@Anomalure Have made some coffee and am now editing your posts to show the images full size...

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Hi @@Anomalure

 

Awesome write-up of your trip. Was great meeting you and your family out there; look forward to hearing about future mammal-spotting expeditions!

 

Chris

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@@Anomalure I am afraid I have only just got around to reading your trip report. ...and what a delight it is.

 

The detail you provide of the logistics is very interesting abd helpful and your daily diary, with the images, gave me agreat sense of being there with you.

 

Sadly it is a trip I am very unlikely to make but I hope this and @@gatoratlarge TR will encourage others to go.

 

I hope there were no long lasting effects from the wasp stings. Swarming jungle wasps would freak me out.

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Thanks @@Game Warden for the help!!

 

@@wilddog thanks for the comment. No lasting effects from the wasp stings, matter of fact, the pain subsided pretty quickly. As you say, my main goal of publishing this TR will be to encourage others to go. It's a truly magical, raw, and beautiful part of Africa with totally unique wildlife - Forest Elephants, Bongos, Pangolins, Hogs, and Lowland Gorillas the highlights (though not all are easy to see), not to mention all the other creatures large and small.

 

@@chrisjpl great to see you here! How were your wildlife sightings after we left? It was fun meeting/talking to you out there. Hope you had a good time in Kinshasa, etc. after Sangha Lodge. Did you visit the Bonobo sanctuary??

Edited by Anomalure
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@@Anomalure We didn't have any major new sightings after you'd gone. We only really had one day left after you'd flown, and we went back to Dzanga bai. Wonderful elephant viewing again, but no bongos, hogs, etc.

 

I went spotlighting on the last night with Rod, and although it was a really nice walk through the forest - we actually didn't see any mammals. (Rod thought maybe he'd caught sight of a galago briefly, but I didn't see anything, and even he wasn't totally sure.)

 

Two little highlights just as we left though: the Derby's anomalure reappeared in the tree by the water-heater on our last morning, and I managed to get a good photo of it. (I was feeling very pleased, because Rod called it the best anomalure photo - at Sangha - that he'd seen! But I just got lucky with the timing really.) And then secondly, when we were on our boat back to Nouabale Ndoki, we saw a hippo! Not the rarest animal in the world obviously, but it was fun because I'd heard about there being hippos in the area, but we hadn't seen any on our trip previously.

 

We had a nice couple of days in Kinshasa. It's very, very different to Brazzaville: massive and buzzing (as opposed to small and sleepy in Brazzaville). And we did do a trip to the bonobo sanctuary indeed. It's really good actually. Obviously nothing like seeing primates in the wild, but it's a very pleasant space to spend some time, and the animal viewing is actually really good. (I'd been worried that either we might see nothing at all, or the conditions for the animals might seem horrible - but neither of those was the case fortunately.)

 

Do you have any new trips in planning?

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