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Odzala & Dzangha Sangha deep Congo Basin rainforest journey 2022


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Hi folks.


I took a profesional break during 2022, and I enjoyed that time to fulfill my dream: visit the mysterious and deep rainforests of Central Africa in Congo Brazzaville, Central African Republic and Gabon.

This safari was part of a one year round the world trip started in February 2022 in Tanzania, where we basically followed the equator from the Indian Ocean with the white sand beaches of Zanzibar to the pristine beaches of the Atlantic Ocean of Loango in Gabon. We visited the endless savannas of Ndutu and Ngorongoro, the hostile Natron Lake, the flats of Enduimet at the base of the Kilimandjaro (the continuity of the Amboseli ecosystem in Nort-West Kilimandjaro, then the great lakes region of Uganda with safaris along the Albert Nile in Murchison Falls National Park, and the dry Kidepo at the border with South Sudan. We met some native tribes in Karamoja, trekked the Ruwenzori mountains, and went back to discover the wonderful Chimps of Kibale. We then flew West to dive in the endless green rainforest of the Congo Basin. We discovered the mighty Odzala rainforest, went up on the Sangha river to reach Dzangha Sangha, to stay an overnight at the Baï - the jewel of Central Africa - before visiting the Bateke savannas at Lesio Louna. We ended our African odyssey in Gabon. After organizing an expedition to Lopé and Ivindo National Parks with Gabon Untouched, to visit the mysterious Kongoue Falls as a highlight, we ended with buffaloes and elephants roaming on the Beach of the Atlantic Ocean at Loango - a real Africa Eden where the rainforest meets the ocean.


I will take probably a lot of time to finish this trip report, I kindly ask you some patience. But I would like today to share with you a first batch of pictures from the first part of this Congo Basin journey.


Please feel free if you have any questions to visit this region directly with local travel agencies (Congo Conservation Company, Sangha Lodge, Gabon Untouched & Luxury green resorts:






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This is Congo Conservation Company experience in Odzala:





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This is the Luxury Green Resorts experience in Pongara and Loango:









Edited by jeremie
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I will take probably a lot of time to finish this trip report


It takes some of us well over a month to write up two weeks, so I think you hardly need to ask for patience with a trip of this length. :D Take your time.


Some wonderful sightings and pictures so far.



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Absolutely world class photography - what an adventure.

Love it - keep it coming 

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Thanks @pault& @Africalover

And after Africa I continued traveling mostly in Asia but also in my homeland France, and I am now actively searching for a job so time is quite limited. After France, I traveled in Thailandia (not my cup of tea, it lost a lot of its soul in my opinion), then the magnificent Indonesia (Diving there is outstanding with manta rays, whale sharks and so on...), a very diverse country with different ethnies and cultures sometime in the same small island (Papua, Flores). the Philippines disappointed me a lot, but Nepal, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were a must!

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I have been looking for years about the Congo Conservation Company properties in Odzala.


CCC has the concession in the Lango and Mboko areas of Odzala-Kokoua National Park. Odzala Kokoua was first operated by a hunting company owned by the Frenchman Pierre Caravatti. By that time, lions were still vey present in the park. This fact has always fascinated me. I could not have ever imagined any place where lions, hyenas, serval, along with gorillas, chimpanzees, bongo antilopes and forests elephants could live together!

But it appears that the mosaique savannas-forests landscapes of the Bateke Plateaux in North-West Congo, North Congo and East Gabon were historically places where all these species were found together.


I watched as a child the Ushuaia documentary of French TV presenter Nicolas Hulot about the Congo rainforest. I got stuck by the vast wilderness of the Odzala, and the stunning beauty of the baïs, kind of "islands in the forest".


CCC camps are targeting top-end tourism, definitely out of our budget, but as dreams are sometimes to be fulfilled, we just decided to go for it!


About the park (wikipedia):



Odzala-Kokoua is one of Africa's oldest national parks, first protected in 1935 and given official designation by presidential decree in 2001. The park was designated a biosphere reserve in 1977, and administered since 1992 with financial assistance from Conservation and Rational Utilization of Forest Ecosystems in Central Africa (ECOFAC), a European Union-sponsored program that establishes a framework for conserving rainforests in the region. Conservation efforts were limited during the Republic of the Congo Civil War (1997–99). Odzala-Kokoua was neglected for years around the time of the Ebola outbreaks, and suffered from heavy poaching.

African Parks began managing the park in 2010, as part of a 25-year agreement with the Ministry of Forest and Sustainable Development of the Republic of the Congo. In 2013, African Parks, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and the World Wide Fund for Nature entered into a five-year, $10 million agreement to collaborate and work to conserve Odzala-Kokoua and the Sangha Trinational. WCS has been supporting the government's management and preservation of Odzala-Kokoua and other national parks since the early 1990s.


The park was thus enlarged and even renamed to englobe a much larger area in 2001, after long-term studies and work by the ECOFAC and the WCS and WWF NGOs. However, a unique opportunity was probably missed to include areas South and Southeast of the actual boundaries of the park, which would have protected significant areas to try any attempt to reintroduce lions in the future. 


However, the park has not always been a pristine vast wilderness. When the first French explores discovered the region, the area was inhabited by different tribes and people were resident in the park. Lango was a salt mine by then, Mboko was a village. However, the European Colons reorganized all the villages in Central Africa along the roads, mainly to control and for tax-levy. This is the reason why the park is totally empty of people for decades, and that all the villages in this region of Africa are distributed along the (few) roads in the country.


The area was administered by French Colonial Concession Companies during a while, and palm oil was exploited for a long time, until the actual government drop down this business. There is nowadays actually no other business than forestry in the area, apart from tourism and park conservation.


About wildlife species in Odzala: (APN website)



Odzala-Kokoua’s biodiversity is nothing less than exceptional, and is home to over 100 mammal species. While it is best known for its gorilla and chimpanzee populations, there are numerous other species resident in the park, including thousands of forest elephant, buffalo, and many antelope species.


Herbivores: Forest elephant and buffalo are found in the forests of Odzala, along with healthy populations of bongo antelope, sitatunga, bushbuck, giant forest hog and red river hog, numerous duiker species from the large yellow-backed duiker to the tiny Bates’s pygmy antelope and many others species, too numerous to mention.


Predators: Odzala is the only place in the region where spotted hyaena can still be found. The park is also home to the golden cat and serval.


Primate species: The western lowland gorilla and chimpanzee are amongst the most well-known, but other noteworthy primate species include the black and white colobus, and the rare to see De Brazza’s monkey and the agile mangabey.


The park is a real endangered population stronghold. It is home to a population of around 70 hyenas, the last ones from the Congo Basin.

They are now the top predator in this ecosystem after the extirpation of lions. Hi heared them hunting a buffalo just outside my room in Mboko during the night, this was amazing! I was said that they are also hunting and feeding on young elephants, a behavior I have not seen anyway else in Africa.

Hyenas not only live in the savanna areas, some clans seem to be resident around some baïs located far away the savannas from the South of the park, in the heart of the park. Some others might be going for hunting parties far away to the baïs.

The park is a stronghold for dwarf buffaloes. You can see them everywhere between Mboko and Lango. The park estimates there is a population of 1500 around. The 2021 anual report from APN states that 1150 of them were counted only in the savanna areas. Many more roam the forests of the park, or small baïs along the rivers, streams and in the middle of the rainforest.

Estimations of elephants, Chimpanzees and gorillas are more tricky. they are based of dung-decaying methods for elephants, and nests counts for the apes. The actual estimations are lower than those I will quote here, but I understand that it is not an effect of trend, but just issues form tricky estimations methodologies.


For elephants:



An estimated 9 600 forest elephants still reside in Odzala-Kokoua National Park in Republic of Congo, according to the results of a wildlife census commissioned by African Parks in 2012, but just released. Whilst higher than expected, this healthy number is believed to be a result of compression, with elephants fleeing highly poached areas outside the park and moving into the safety of the centre of Odzala.

The Odzala census was conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on behalf of African Parks. A total of 83 transects covering 208 kilometres were walked during the survey, which was a follow up to censuses conducted in 2005 and 2008. WCS recalibrated its results from its previous surveys to ensure consistency of analysis over the three survey periods.


Dr Fiona Maisels, who supervised the census, said the results indicated that an estimated 9 600 elephants currently live in the Park (with 95% confidence limits between 7500 and 12 400). Of these, 65% reside in the southern sector. "There has been no significant change in elephant density since the first comprehensive survey of 2005,” she said.

I understand that this number remains the same nowadays in the park.

Elephants were heavily poached in the past. Almost all the names of the Baï were given by poachers due to their abundance in bushmeat. For instance, APN park manager told me that Capital Baï was given because it was full of elephants... The image comes from the abundance of goods from the capital Brazzaville...




The WCS survey confirmed that the gorilla population in Odzala has declined over the past decade, dropping from nearly 40 000 in 2005 to 22 000 in 2012. The chimpanzee population is estimated at 2700, with no significant change in density between 2005 and 2012. Over 70% of all the great apes live in the south of the Park, which is the same pattern of distribution as in 2005.


"The decrease in gorilla numbers is the result of hunting pressure combined with the fatal effect of the Ebola epidemic which devastated the west of the park until at least 2005,” said Lamprecht. "Ebola may have removed many of the groups, leaving only solitary males alive and so reducing reproductive capacity, or it may have continued for a number of years after 2005. "We are confident however that our scaled up anti-poaching operations will reduce the hunting pressure on both gorillas and chimpanzees in the park.”

Gorilla numbers are around 7000 nowadays, and are slowly growing up after this ebola outbreak.


About lions:


Lions were still present in Gabon in the mid-90´s.

Lions were still present South of Ogoué Leketi new park in Congo at the same period (I was told by one of the CCC camp's manager that his father showed him a dead lion killed by a hunter just West of this park)

Lions were eradicated in Congo as a consequence as a political decision (Henschel, 2011).

During twenty years, lions were thought to be extinct in the wild in the region, after that a fully grown male was discovered by Max Planck scientist Ivon Kienast in 2015 (now she his leading the long term elephant study in Dzangha Baï, continuing the exceptional work of Andrea Turkalo), when she was leading a chimpanzee study in the region. This lion is nowadays still alive but very old, and an attempt to reintroduce two females from Botswana by the Panthera NGO was funded by the Lio Recovery Fund, but not yet implemented to this date.

Some people think that lions can still be present in Congo in the Bateke Kings sacred forests, where no people are allowed to enter except the kings. No one really knows... These forests are places where the king are buried.


I will quote what the ODZALA book says about:



Concerning the Lion, Pierre Caravatti killed two in 1978 and 1979 in the Hunting Domain. At that time he thought there were too many lions! He had seen up to 12 of them together in the Lango Baï, and regretted that he could only kill one in a hunting season, whereas according to his estimates four individuals: two adults and two youngsters. These last animals had become extremely discrete.


From November 1993 to April 1994, traces of Lions were observed regularly in the Mboko area. In May, and June 1994, two males, sometimes accompanied by a female, were seen in broad daylight along the airstrip. One of the lions even pursued a motorcycle, but nobody worried.

Then on the 30th of June, in the night, two workmen crossing the camp shortly before midnight were attacked by two lions. Thanks to the intervention of a watchman armed by his machette, one of the men could be saved, but the other was devoured. The camp was evacuated, and a hunting guide accompanied by an employe from ECOFAC, mounted a watchtower and killed a buffalo to serve as a bait. On the night of July 3 the two lions approached the watchtower and one of the two went up to the tower where the two men had fallen asleep. It was not the buffaloes that interested them but the hunters. The hunting guide woke up just in time to fire a shoot and mortally wound the lion. The second animal then charged the watchtower and was also killed. The lioness was still observed for a few weeks in the vicinity of Mboko and then disappeared.

Three months later on October 17, a male returned to the area. It was heard several times in October and November. In January 1995, two lions, one male and one female, were reported in the vicinity of some villages in the Mbendé-Etoumbi road. No incident was reported however, and the two lions returned their way in the Hunting Domain. Finally, on the night of 19 February 1995, a buffalo was killed 1500 meters from the camp. This was the last observation of the species in the region.



About Congo Conservation Company Camps:


Wilderness build 3 stunning, top-end camps located at Ngaga (outside the park), Mboko and Lango respetively. All were recently refurbished. We did not stay at Lango Camp, which was under complete renovation during our stay.


  • Ngaga Camp is great for gorillas, birding and macro photography in the forest. Pictures of gorillas were the most tricky as the marantacea vegetation is really dense. You can almost only take nice pictures of them when they feed in the fruit trees, when they go for root mining in the small clearings, or when they cross the dozens of kilometers of tracks built in the forest. But the experience is one of the most intense I ever had with wild gorillas! This camp is probably the most beautiful of all.



  • Lango Camp hast the best location. Imagine staying at the edge of a baï? You can see from your room buffaloes swallowing in the stream. You can hear the elephants bubbling to feed on minerals during the night, or watching them during early hours of the day. Seasonally, you can see great african parrots and green pigeon flocks feeding on mud. We did see some sitatunga, as well as red river hogs and black and white colobus too. Other monkey species are very common in the forest around the baï. Hyenas tracks are very present. Some visitors do see them around.



  • Mboko Camp is probably the best where to spot hyenas. We did see many of them but only during night hours. So I can't show you any picture of them. You will definitely hear them during the night, or if you try for a night safari. It's also the best place to try to see a serval on the tracks. Not guaranteed, but you have good chances. Be were not as lucky as the other visitors. You will definitely see buffaloes around, especially just grazing around the rooms, some elephants bulls are around, as well as hippos and bushbucks. It's the best place for boat safaris, which is the best way to spot elephants in the park.




Other things to do in the park?


New tourism developments by African Parks Network, the NGO appointed by the Congolese government to manage the park, focusing on a different tourism segment, will probably open shortly in the North Eastern Side of the park. They have built a lot of infrastructure in some baïs, where elephant, bongo, buffaloes and hyenas sightseeing opportunities seem to be very good from the watchtowers. They also developed a small hide in a Baï 2 hours away from Mbomo village in the South of the park, which was lately abandoned when we where there. It was great to spot some gorillas and chimpanzees groups not habituated. They are targeting products for a local, mid-range market. Some pictures can be seen on Instagram.

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Congo Conservation Company was created after the withdrawal of Wilderness from Odzala, as the camps were not profitable to say the less. Sabine Plattner, a philanthropist from Germany, who manages the Sabine Plattner African Charities, then decided to take these assets under her responsibility.



SPAC has basically 2 pillars in and around Odzala: first the tourism development in the park to sustain surrounding communities with job, development and economic growth, and second, the great apes research in the Ngaga forest, a long-term program directed by Magdalena Bermejo, one of the most famous primatologist figure in the world. She started to study the gorillas in the Lossi forest in the 90's, located Southwest of the park. However, the gorilla were impacted by a severe ebola outbreaks that wiped out all the gorilla families. Bermejo took the decision to stand and stay in the forest during the outbreak, while 99% of the people would have escaped far away in the same situation. She documented this event, but with no more gorillas remaining, she had nothing to do anymore after at the end of the outbreak (which also stuck hardly Odzala's gorilla population). 


Some local villagers then told her that some gorillas were still present very close to Mbomo, in the Ngaga forest. With a very hostile marantacea understorey, to discover gorillas there was even more challenging. They had to dig some tunnels in the marantaceas, make around a hundred of kilometers of tracks all around this forest. They discovered that some few gorillas in fact survived there - they got protected by the outbreak thanks to a marsh that did not allow any gorilla migration from West to East in the area - and started the long habituation process form zero. After a short decade in the Congo, all had to be started again from zero: making a new research camp, start the habituation process, and so on. 


She demonstrated a very strong commitment for the villagers of Mbomo who wished to continue to protect the gorillas, earn little profit from the incipient tourism industry, and from their salaries of the research project. She is a real hero in that sense.


Nowadays, tourists who stay in Ngaga track gorillas following very strict rules - that were upscaled during COVID for obvious reasons. Only 2 tourists can visit a gorilla family every day. You must wear a mask during all the hour with the apes (which proves very annoying to take any shot in this highly humid environment). Considering the sweat bees on your face during the experience, it could be quite unpleasant and frustrating for photographers. So my humble suggestion is to respect strictly all the rules for the benefit of the gorillas (remember you could also get infected by disease such as Ebola from them), follow all the instructions of the trackers, and enjoy the situation more than try to take the shots you have always been dreaming of. Ngaga is not Virunga or Bwindi, the forest is much denser and its way more humid than in the great lakes region. But the experience is in my opinion one of the best I have ever had with gorilas. Only two people with a tracker, your private guide from CCC, and the research assistant from Magdalena's team, that have to watch the gorillas in an absolute silence! You can watch the assistant taking notes of every relevant behavior of the gorillas (what do they do, what do they eat, etc), talk with him and Magdalena the day before the tracking to understand the challenges, the story behind and the outcomes of this research project. You can witness the tracker amazing skills - we leave very early during the darkness of the early morning to get the closest as posible where the tracker let the gorillas at their nests the day before - but the gorillas had already left from there. So we had to find the tracks, smell, listen, and find them. It is truly an art of tracking!


This unique combination of tourism and research from SPAC is a real plus that every ape lovers will surely appreciate in Odzala.


Paul Telfer, a former WCS scientists, run CCC during a while, then Elza Gillman took the leadership of that enterprise.

Sabine Plattener also invested in Dzangha Sangha Special Reserve, as she is a shareholder of Sangha Lodge, thus helping the unique and absolutely amazing project of Rod and Tamar Cassidy. This combination of both business partners allows to intrepid tourists like us to go on one of the most formidable packages and experience in Central Africa, with a program offering a journey combining the wonders of Odzala, with the experience of Dzangha Sangha and a boat ride on the Sangha river.


About Sangha package:


(for one reason I just can't find the 12 days program we did combining Odzala and Sangha)


More about Rod Cassidy:



New developments in Congo:

Congo Conservation Company is now investing in new developments in Nouabale-Ndoki national park at the border with Central African Republic in what is know as the Tri-Sangha Conservation Area, with the establishment of two new top-end lodges for apes and Mbali Baï experience. 


Please note that Congo Conservation Company and Sangha Lodge are properties from the Classic Portfolio, which gathers different unique camps generally out of the beaten tracks:


Edited by jeremie
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A little more about the key wildlife populations in Odzala...


To understand why Odzala (and Ngaga, and Lossi too) sustains one of the largest local densities of gorillas in Africa, we have to relate it with the vegetation of the park: Marantacea forests. It appears that the park, as well as Ngaga forest, is completly covered by this kind of degraded forest as you can see in this map from WCS (https://carpe.umd.edu/sites/default/files/publications/4030001_EC_OKNP_2005_Elephant_and_Ape_Surveys_Blake_2006.pdf)




On the left side the pink color represent the shrubs savanna of the park, located in the Southern side of the protected area. it basically corresponds to Mboko and Lango sectors, that were the former Hunting Domains where Carvatti was hunting elephants, buffaloes and lions. This small area which covers 10 to 15% of the park is the one that was surveys with a light aircraft by APN with a count of 1150 buffaloes. One can easily understand that an carreful extrapolation of these numbers considering the dozens of baïs of the park gives a safe number of 1500 to 2000 buffaloes. On the same left figure, North West of the park is located the famous escarpment, close to the border with Gabon. It is a natural barrier for many species such as elephants.


On the right side, the figure shows in the red color, the degraded forests. It also corresponds to marantacea forests. Why is that? It corresponds to the place where former villages were located. Traditionally bantu tribes leaving this area of Central Africa were using the slash and burn agriculture techniques. If they were resident, they had to clear some land to ensure that the soil remains very productive. From the air one can't see why these forests are degraded, as they are covered by tall mature trees. But the undergrowth of the forest is full of marantacea, which is the main sign that humans were once leaving in the forest.

So, what is the relation with gorilla densities? Marantacea undergrowth vegetation is really dense, and is also one of the gorilla favorite food. This kind of vegetation thus sustain very high gorilla densities, with one familial group of gorillas roaming from 2 to 4 km2 in this type of vegetation. Fully mature forests thus are home to lower gorilla densities, which demonstrates how gorillas have benefited from former human presence in the forest.


The very same phenomenon is present in Ngaga and Lossi areas. When one reach Ngaga Camp we can clearly watch areas of former settlements before villages were re-settle along the Etoumbi - Gabonese road. Ngaga Camp actually corresponds of one of the former degraded forest, with no need to cut any tree to build the camp, and with a massive marantacea undergrowth under the rooms.


I will share some pics taken with my phone of Ngaga to illustrate what I have just tried to explain, and to show the beauty of Ngaga camp!















A Study from 1994 demonstrated that the great apes nests density was higher in the marantacea forests, with the higherst western lowland gorillas densities ever recorded by then (https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/oryx/article/status-and-conservation-of-primates-in-odzala-national-park-republic-of-the-congo/9F3F8DCD1B9174378A9E554D2B443AE4):



Gorilla nests were most abundant in open-canopy Marantaceae forest (12.1 nests per km), while chimpanzee nests were mostly found in closed-canopy primary forest and Marantaceae forest (14 and 12 nests per km, respectively). Odzala has the highest recorded densities of western lowland gorilla (mean = 5.4 individuals per sq km) and chimpanzee (mean = 2.2 individuals per sq km) in Central Africa. The high densities of gorillas and chimpanzees may be a result of the high productivity of the forest and low poaching pressure.



On the other hand, as said before, the gorilla population was clearly influenced by another factor: the Ebola outbreak from the early 2000's in the region.

The following map shows how did the pandemia spread from West to East, that is to say roughly from Eastern Gabon to Odzala.




This outbreak clearly had a massive impact in Ngaga and Lossi forests, but fortunately, the impact was more limited in Odzala thanks to natural barriers such as rivers. But locally, some gorilla groups were impacted very strongly. For instance the long term study of the Lokoué Baï gorilla population demonstrated that the population was reduced in 90%, more or less the same than in Lossi forest (where Bermejo experienced a decline of 93% (221 of 238  known individuals killed) , with densities decrease from 5 gorillas / km2 to 0,5 gorilla / km2) post-pandemia.




The gorilla population visiting Lokoué forest clearing, Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Republic of the Congo, has been monitored before, two years after and six years after Ebola affected it in 2004. This allowed us to describe Ebola's short-term and long-term impacts on the structure of the population. The size of the population, which included around 380 gorillas before the Ebola outbreak, dropped to less than 40 individuals after the outbreak. It then remained stable for six years after the outbreak.


Bermejo studies conclusions were published, estimating that the area affected by Ebola were ranging very far away from Lossi, and killed an estimated 5000 gorillas in the Lossi region.



In Odzala, WCS estimations is htat more than 20.000 gorillas were killed by the outbreak: (https://www.africanparks.org/newsroom/press-releases/healthy-elephant-numbers-but-gorilla-decline-recorded-odzala-kokoua-national-park-congo)


The WCS survey confirmed that the gorilla population in Odzala has declined over the past decade, dropping from nearly 40 000 in 2005 to 22 000 in 2012.

However, the actual number is closer to 7000-8000 gorillas, so this 22 000 estimation from 2012 was probably a over-estimation, and it is likely that the initial number of 40 000 was also an overestimation, or that the outbreak killed more than 30 000 gorillas. Anyway, Ebola has the potential to make huge declines in gorilla populations...


Source: https://legacylandscapes.org/2023/01/highlights-from-the-ground-2022/


Odzala-Kokoua National Park harbors close to 7,600 Western lowland gorillas, the largest population in a national park in Africa, and almost over 7,300 forest elephants, which is roughly 7% of the total remaining population.


Unfortunately, not only gorillas and humans were affected, but also chimpanzees:


Chimpanzees were also heavily affected, with a mortality rate of 77%.





Edited by jeremie
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Let's finish with large carnivores.


APN lead a study to assess if lions could one day be reintroduced in OKNP. I do not have the answer, but CCC guides told me that the communities would like to see the lion back, that was always been their home. And this feeling is also driven by good measure taken by the park administration that erected an electrical fence all along the border with Mbomo village as an answer to the conflict with elephants. So villagers do really see real effect of the park management on their livelihoods, with protection of the crops.

The population of buffaloes and elephants could clearly sustain a small lion population, in the Southern savanna area, as well as the high densities of preys in the Baïs. But on the other hand, an opportunity was missed in 2001 when vast tract of savanna North of Etoumbi was let out of the park extension, which would have been a prime lion area. Nowadays, this area have very little preys, as hunting is allowed in the area (except for elephants).


For hyenas, Bohm did his PhD to assess the park's hyena population a decade ago, and estimated that the population in the Southern clans (in the Southern side of the park), as well as the Baï clans, would represent a population of 60 to 80 depending if considering youngsters or not.



Considering the current population size of 69 remaining animals, questions arise if the population can persist or if it is doomed to extinction. We recorded 11 reproductive females in the population. 






It is relevant to mention that some hyenas were later on detected in Gabon in the last years. One migrant individual was detected in the Bateke National Park, but only once.

Later on, hyenas were detected in Momba Baï several years in a raw, and the analysis of the pictures demonstrated that it was the same individual. So are there hyenas migrating in and out Odzala on a frequent manner? or are there hyenas resident deep inside the rainforest around Mwagna and Momba Baï in Eastern Gabon, neighboring Odzala? We just don't know.


I was reported by the Ivindo Park manager, as well as park rangers when I visited Kongou falls, that hyenas were reported in Langoué Baï. So first of all, hyenas can go far away in the rainforest and definitely know where to feed on (the forest clearings in this case), and second no more sitatunga were sighted after those reports. Some were killed by the hyenas. Others now avoid the baï where are are more vulnerable than in the forest.

I remember well that sitatunga are very present around Lango, but also avoid the stay inside the Baï, but roam a lot inside the marsh forests around (I did spot a female and calf in the Baï, but only once). Bongo are also present (I saw several tracks, and CCC camera traps found them around), but you would never see them in the baï as often in Lango Baï such as in Dzangha baï were they are resident during several months of the year. Maybe an effect of hyenas? We just don't know...


Here is a shot video from a camera trap of hyenas feeding on a dead elephant in a Baï:



Edited by jeremie
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Before starting the Trip Report with pictures and the story behind it, I would like to share further pictures taken with the phone of Lango Baï, Mboko and the Lekoli river. You can therefore understand how is the area behind the camera lens. It is just stunning!





























































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Let's start with the Trip Report.

We basically came from Uganda. But direct flights between countries in Africa are very limited, surely even less in April 2022 post-Covid.


So we had to take a flight in the opposite direction from Entebbe to Addis Abeba, and then to Brazzaville. We flex over the lakes of the rift in Ethiopia, the vas Turkana lake, before turning West all over Karamoja (that we had juste visited 10 days before), Lake Kyoga, Lake Albert. Just after the border with Congo, there was rainforest everywhere until reaching Brazzaville.

We stayed the afternoon in Brazzaville for a rest, and went for a short walk in the city.


However, we were contacted by the CCC manager to tell us that the charter aircraft had a mechanical issue. We could not fly the following morning as scheduled! But she had 2 solutions. First, try to contract any helicopter from Brazzaville, Kinshasa or Bangui. However, this option appeared to be imposible because President N'Guesso was receiving Rwandan President Kagama at Oyo (the former hometown of Sassou). The second option was to wait an extra day in Brazzaville until the aircraft would be repaired. A very hypothetical option, uncertain, that could ruin our journey in the Congo. We then decided to go for the third option: take a 4x4 ride throughout all Congo during 14 hours!


It actually appeared to be a really nice option as an introduction of the country. We travelled out of Brazzaville at 5:00 am, crossed all the Bateke plateau, crossed the Lefini river.








We then continued on the only road to the North until Oyo. It can be quite surprising to discover on the way that even if Congo is an oil exporter, there was absolutely no oil to find along the road. Our experienced driver had to call every one to find oil at a price four-fold the normal price... Welcome in Congo!


We then reached Oyo for a stop to eat a cake. Oyo... This is something... Imagine a small fisherman camp in the middle of nowhere. But this is where Sassou was born and raised. This is now a ghost town. Hundreds of pseudo-luxiurious houses empty and full of moss. These are the kind of crazy projects of Sassou... 

We found different industries and fabrics in Oyo:

A fabric of mineral water: Closed and never opened.

A fabric of beers: only operating as a beer storage form Brazzaville.

A fabric of solar pannel: all the equipment bought, never opened. By the way, who would have decided to open a fabric of solar panel in the middle of nowhere, with no market to sell the products? Welcome to Congo!

A pharmaceutical fabric: all the equipment bought, never opened. Welcome to Congo.........


One can look to this reality laughing or frustrated... Oyo was thought as a model city by Sassou, but the reality is that it was a huge mess and waste of money, until it could be considered as the shame of the country... Oyo is just full of security guards everywhere to protect Sassou's house and family. That's all.


Well I think you understood that this roadtrip through Congo was great to understand the reality of the country:

Villages concentrates along the only road of the country.

Towns concentrates in the South and on the coast.

Corruption is rampant.

Unrealistic and crazy projects are the best example of a poor governance of the country.

People from the South don't support the President (but wait until the good time to make the changes). People from the North support the President and receive some money from the government...


We then continued to Makoua where we crossed the equator.






We then continued to Etoumbi where the paved road comes to an end. We were very surprised by the newly paved road, which took newly a decade to be repaired, but was now in decent condition except the first 3 hours out of Brazzaville. Landscapes along the rroad between Makoua and Etoumbi changed. We are leaving the savannas landscapes. We are now crossing patches of forest... We are entering the mosaique landscape of savanna and forests... Some forests threat to close the road. It's gorgeous!


After Etoumbi, we are going very slowly on a very small road. It's actually a couple of tracks for the wheels with grass in between. Really slippery, full of mud. We are now in the heart of the Congo!!! We see our very first elephants dungs... Here we are! And the first small monkeys in the trees.


We then reached Mbomo, the gate of Odzala and the park headquarters, where we met our guide Dean, and went to have a quick look of the village, before heading for Ngaga camp.




End of the road. Very happy to arrive at destination, with a great welcoming of the Ngaga Team :)

After a great shower, short rest, it's time to dinner... And get a quick briefing by Dean about our first gorilla tracking very early the following morning.





Edited by jeremie
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Thanks for sharing an amazing trip report through Congo. Your background details plus detailed logistics, not to mention superb pictures are much appreciated. 

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an epic itinerary, an epic journey, epic shots, epic iconic animals, epic discoveries. The one shot that stood out for me was the green snake in the water. that was surely no boomslang perhaps?


Very much looking forward to the TR as it unfolds. Thanks Jeremie for all the work put in. 


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@jeremieyour photos are really superb.

The environment, the gorillas, the elephants, and the buffalo.

Really beautiful photos.

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Just wonderful Jeremie, thank you so much for sharing!

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15 hours ago, Kitsafari said:

an epic itinerary, an epic journey, epic shots, epic iconic animals, epic discoveries. The one shot that stood out for me was the green snake in the water. that was surely no boomslang perhaps?


Very much looking forward to the TR as it unfolds. Thanks Jeremie for all the work put in. 



Hi @Kitsafari

Hi checked with Tessa from the Sangha Pangolin Project a time ago. It's an Esmerald vine snake (Hapsidophrys smaragdinus).




We were really lucky to spot it. We were going down on the Sangha river from Banyanga to Bomassa (which is an epic journey in itself!), when we spot it crossing this large wild river.

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It really lives up to its name as Emerald Snake!


can't wait to hear your epic river journey too.

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Really phenomenal!  I'm glad the gorilla #s are increasing at last after the ebola outbreak.  I agree with @Kitsafariabout the snake.  But all of your shots have such a rich jungle atmosphere with standout wildlife.

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Day 1: First gorilla trekking at Ngaga.


Basically, the first day consists in getting up very early, take a quick coffee, before heading with our guide Dean, the research assistant and the gorilla tracker to find the Jupiter gorilla group. We then hike to find the gorillas, which can sometimes take a couple of hours, or only 30 minutes of forest walk in the darkness. Once meeting the gorillas, we have to spend a maximum of 1 hour with the group, before going back to Ngaga lodge with Dean, while the research team will spend the day with the gorillas to continue their research study.

Back at the lodge, it's time to take a good breakfast!


The rest of the day is basically a long rest. One can sleep a little more after breakfast, or spend time on the deck to watch birds or monkeys. It's way too hot to go for a walk before 4 PM. So we arranged to do a late afternoon forest walk to look for little things. Monkeys and birds are present, but it's tough to see them high in the canopy or in the thick undergrowth.


I do not have any extraordinary pictures of this first day. We found the gorillas with a very low light on the ground, in the middle of maranteceas undergrowth. We had to leave the track and to penetrate in the middle of this very dense jungle, very slowly, cutting every marantecea's stem one by one with a secator (trackers don't use machette, so that the gorillas understand that they are not poachers and do not represent any threat to them). I think we spent half an hour moving on in the middle of this jungle before seeing our first gorilla better than in the first dark light.




The trackers then continued to go on until reaching a place where the gorillas spend time in a tree feeding on fruits. _DSC8698.jpg.4b864b6f9df782a5b2210668bacbf179.jpg_DSC8860.jpg.15afdba848aa93eeb7b624595b71c3a4.jpg_DSC8929.jpg.81d27af9c38af985b307446a76d121c4.jpg


These pictures were taken with my D4S Nikon camera, which has ISO outstanding performance. ISO is somewhere between 4500 and 10.000, with velocity very low to get any workable picture. I would say that 95% of the pictures are blurry, out of focus or just useless due to bad lighting parameters.

No pictures when the apes were on the ground in the thick marantacea jungle.

Some pictures with white backlight are just useless due to the harsh contrast between the gorillas black color and the white sky.

Add to that the tricky humid conditions... Lenses got humid and blurry all the time. Don't even think changing any lens in this jungle! 

Add to that wearing masks makes a huge condensation on your camera's visor, so I was trying not to breathe while shooting at the gorillas as if I was in apnea!

That was only the beginning...

As the suns comes out, temperature is heating a lot. And the bugs arrive. Sweat bees love gorillas, and feed on the gorillas sweat. I am sure they got delighted to lick my own sweat after walking in the marantaceas... They just get everywhere... In your ears, in your mouth, on your face, inside your tee-shirt under your neck. And in your eyes! No way, I just couldn't take any more picture. I had to try the net that Dean offered us to put on our faces. 


Very short sighting of the group's silverback Jupiter. The best shots were these gorillas in the trees with green leaves background. Any sky background in this poor light conditions was just imposible to handle.


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