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Lowland Gorillas, Forest Elephant and People of the Forest

DZANGHA SANGHA NATIONAL PARK –

Central African Republic

Eight Day Scheduled Expedition

 

 Situated in the Northern part of the Congo basin, the DzangaSangha Protected Areas are internationally known for their beautiful rainforests, host to a remarkable diversity of wildlife, such as western lowland gorillas, forest elephants, bongo antelopes, forest buffalos (pictured right) and a multitude of bird species. Furthermore, a rich local culture, including the Sangha fishermen as well as hunting and gathering BaAka, are present in the area. Apart from conservation and local development efforts, DzangaSangha operates as an eco-tourism and research centre.

Sharing borders with Cameroon and Congo, the DzangaSangha Protected Areas are part of the TrinationalSangha (TNS) complex, currently in the process to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

ITINERARY

 

DAY 01: SUNDAY

Arrive at Bayanga Airstrip on a charter flight from Bangui. Flight times and aircraft used to be advised, but are planned to link with the scheduled Kenya Airways flights from Nairobi to Bangui.

You are met on arrival and transferred to Sangha Lodge in time for lunch.

Situated on the banks of the Sangha River in the Dzanga-Sangha special reserve, Sangha Lodge is the ideal tranquil spot from which to set off on activities within the Dzanga-Sangha National Park, and the perfect most relaxing spot to return to after a long day in the field. The lodge consists of 5 well-appointed bungalows, each with their own en suite bathroom, with hot and cold running water, and flush toilets, and 2 with a shared shower and toilet, giving a total of 7 bungalows.

There is a well stocked bar with cold beer and drinks, ice is made with Bottled water and is safe to add to your drinks. A small kitchen produces simple yet tasty Western and African foods.

If time permits you venture out in the afternoon to visit the only habituated Black bellied pangolin in the world, followed by a short afternoon sundowner cruise on the Sangha River.

You spend eight days / seven nights at Sangha Lodge – all meals included.

Your program will remain flexible as the logistics often dictate but should run closely along these lines:

 

DAY 02: MONDAY Lowland Gorillas.

Today you head down to Bai Hokou (+- 90 min drive) where you spend time tracking a group of Western Lowland Gorillas. Dzanga Sangha and its neighbors in Congo Nouabale-Ndoki National Park and Odzala are the only places in the world where you can find habituated Lowland Gorillas.

There are now two places to view gorillas, and they only take 3 persons at a time – e.g. 6 per location per day so one group will be about an hour “behind“ the other group of three. OR three persons visit the mangabeys, starting in early morning, then trek gorillas, whilst the others trek gorillas then mangabeys.

Several international researchers as well as other team members are living permanently in the camp of BaiHokou and they are responsible for locating and following the gorillas each day. Early in the morning, at sunrise, a team leaves the camp with information on the location where the gorillas slept the previous night. As soon as the nest site is found, the team then follows the traces the gorillas have left while moving and feeding. This task could not be achieved without the help of pygmy trackers whose senses are perfectly in tune with the forest. The tracking experience alone, searching for the gorillas by following their almost imperceptible signs on the forest floor, leaves you with an unforgettable memory.

 

To do this, one takes elephant paths and narrow trails, sometimes crossing copses. The pursuit can be strenuous as gorillas can sometimes cover significant distances before finding a fruit tree of choice. Sometimes one or two hours pass before establishing contact with the gorillas. At noon the tracking team is replaced. Its position is communicated to the camp by radio so the relief team can leave in the right direction. Encountering the gorillas cannot be guaranteed, but nearly 90% of the tourists taking part in this activity have seen gorillas in close proximity.

The role of the dominant male gorilla, the silverback, is to defend his family, preventing the group from dispersing and other males from leaving with resident females. This role partly explains the mock charges against the pursuing humans. If this occurs, one must wait in a knelt position with the head declined. Charges can be up to only a few meters away. Most of the time, researchers and tourists are within 15 or 20 meters of the animals.

 

DAY 03: TUESDAY Visit to Dzanga Bai

It is a +- 90 mins by vehicle then an hours walk to the viewing platform in Dzanga Bai, a large mineral rich clearing extending 500×250 meters, in the middle of the rainforest. It is here where Forest Elephants gather in large numbers – averaging 40-100 at any given time – to indulge in drinking the mineral rich waters that bubble up in places in this Bai. This interactions between so many different groups of Forest Elephants ensure that no one ever gets bored at this place, while the possibility of some of the other normally shy forest creature like Bongo, Giant Forest Hog, Red River Hog, Sitatunga and Forest Buffalos visiting the Bai keep you alert. To be able to observe the timid Forest Elephant in the wild is an experience usually reserved to a limited circle of researchers. The high density of wildlife is due to the soil that is rich in minerals and clay. Animals find these minerals in the water stagnating at the surface as well as digging into the ground.

 

DAY 04: WEDNESDAY  Join Ba’aka net hunters

Today you head out with a group of Ba’aka net hunters as they go about their daily hunter-gatherer lifestyle. It is fascinating and a joy in itself to see how well adapted and comfortable the Ba’aka are in the forest while you may find it overwhelming and almost intimidating. Accompany the BaAka pygmies hunting and help with the carving up of the game. Let the BaAka women show you the medicinal plants and other plants of use, taste a typical dish of liana leaves with a sauce made from forest nuts. Watch how, in no time at all, they construct a protective hut in the forest against the rain. Getting to know this secret culture is something few have experienced.

Net hunting mobilizes large groups of BaAka pygmy men and women, who leave together for the forest. Normally each family brings with them their long nets made from strips of liana bark (locally known as “kusa”). Women transport their things in traditional baskets made from fibres of the Raphia palm or from “ikwa”. Young children are carried, tied to the waist with a piece of cloth. The men carry the nets and spears. Depending on the actual season, the net hunt can take place daily in the vicinity of the villages, but can also sometimes be far away from the villages, from temporary forest camps

This activity is not staged – the hunters are there to catch their food so please be aware that some animals may be killed during this time.

 

DAY 05: THURSDAY River activities and trekking.

Heading upriver by boat you hike to a series of waterfalls in the area. These will take you through the best examples of prime rainforest that you could ever see. Apart from the amazingly beautiful waterfalls, there are some of the most spectacular trees imaginable. Climbing to the top of the falls gives vistas over the canopy of the forest while the possibility of seeing the extremely rare and endangered Grey-necked Rockfowl / picathartes will excite any birders. Rod Cassidy and Barry Watkins recently discovered a previously unknown population of the extremely rare birds, breeding in a small colony of 3 birds less than 5 km from the lodge. Further exploration, a week later by Rod Cassidy turned up another 3 nests over a 500 meter stretch of cliff face. Even if you’re not a birder, this hike up the river will show you some huge forest trees, primates, waterfalls and other bird species, and an amazing view over the rainforest canopy. Agility and fitness are required.

In the evening you may do a night walk near the lodge with the hope of finding some of the more elusive nocturnal animals such as Potto, Thomas’s Galago, Tree Pangolin, African Palm Civet, Frazer’s Eagle Owl, Vermiculated Fishing Owl and several more. A deep, untouched rainforest, where elephants and wild gorillas are often heard and sometimes seen, this is unique experience not to be missed.

 

DAY 06: FRIDAY Bai Hokou – agile mangabeys

Back into the park today with picnic lunches and you walk around a series of clearings in the forest. The chances are good of finding buffalos, elephants and several monkey species on this trek. You also visit a group of habituated monkeys called Agile Mangabey and spend some time watching / photographing their interesting antics.

This group of habituated monkeys has over 150 members and their fascinating behavior is part of a long-term study in the region.

In 2004, the PHP diversified its activities and began habituating a large group of agile mangabeys (Cercocebusagilis) which have since been followed daily. Agile managbeys are medium sized monkeys (males 7-12 kg, females 5-7 kg) which very much live up to their generic name by their vibrant nature. They are mostly ground-dwelling, and feed on a diverse array of fruits, seeds, stems, mushrooms, eggs, insects, crustaceans, and even certain mammals.

The group can be observed at leisure at distances of under 10m whilst their active hands rummage through leaf litter in search of insects, investigating and extracting all that is possibly edible from holes in trees, digging up mushrooms, storing seeds in their cheek pouches, and grooming their companions. Agile mangabeys also have a vast vocal repertoire, with the males possessing a vocal sac to amplify their distinctive ‘whoops’ across the forest – allowing them to communicate to the rest of their group and other groups.

The group followed at Bai Hokou is of an exceptional size, numbering more than 200 individuals, ranging in an area covering many square kilometers, and focused around the bai system. The habituation process allows this otherwise secretive and relatively unknown species to be easily observed in the dense vegetation.

From the first months, the PHP were able to make exceptional observations such as opportunistic hunting of young antelopes (duikers) by the males, and a mid-year birthing season. However, with the potential to form such large groups, the social organization of agile mangabeys is evidently complex, and much is still to be learnt.

 

DAY 07: SATURDAY

Today is for leisure, to enjoy walking on the several hikes laid out in the forest around the lodge ot to participate in optional activities of your choice, including Gorilla tracking, or visiting the Dzanga Bai, Please note all optional activities are at an extra cost.

 

DAY 08: SUNDAY

Transfer to Bayanga Airstrip for your chartered flight to Bangui. Timings are to be advised but will connect with the Kenya Airways flight to Nairobi. Please note that the CAR airport departure tax of 10,000.00 CFA (about US$18-20) must be paid direct in cash (CFA) upon departure.

 

 

Included: ( sequence of activities may vary)

7 nights accommodation at Sangha Lodge on full board basis.

 Park fees

 All vehicle hire and landed costs while at Sangha Lodge.

 1 gorilla tracking permit per person

 1 Mangabey tracking permit

 1 Bai walk

 1 Visit to Dzanga Bai

 1 day’s net hunting and pygmy activities

 1 Boat trip to the waterfall /Picathartes site

 1 night walk

 Charter flights to and from Bangui

 Meet and Greet and Airport assistance

 

Excluded:

 International flights and taxes

 Accommodation and transfers in Bangui if needed 

 Park activities not stated above

 Meals not stated

 Drinks except bottled water

 Tips, laundry, items not specified and services not specified

 Visas, travel insurance and health requirements etc.

 

 

Guaranteed departure with minimum 4, maximum 8 persons.

 

N.B Re Gorilla Trekking:-

All participants have to take responsibility for any risk to themselves.

The Park administration has fixed a minimum age of 16.

Visitors are informed of the rules of conduct at the camp.

No one with diarrhea, a cold or other transmittable diseases will be allowed to participate, in order not to endanger the gorillas’ health.

 

ACCESS

These trips have been set up to work with the Kenya Airways flights from Nairobi to Bangui return, and currently allow for seamless connections. They also include meet and greet in Bangui off this flight and assistance to and from the charter. If arriving in C.A.R. on other flights, you may require overnights in Bangui on the way in and out – these can be included but at an extra cost.

Note – road access is limited, hard, and long (12 – 18 hours from Bangui / 2 -3 days from Cameroon). This can arrange this for private groups, if required, but this is NOT recommended

 

 

Please contact Africa On Safari for scheduled 2017 /18 departure dates and price.

Please note: Prices and dates are subject to change at any time. Please call (647) 231-0067 or email us (info@africaonsafari.com) for current pricing.