Not to be outshone by its ‘Big Brother’ (Democratic Republic of the Congo – DRC), the best safari parks in the Congo have claimed a spot in the top echelons of safari experiences in Africa. For those seeking to discover an alluring wildlife wonderland, the rich biodiversity of the “Second Lung of the World” is enclosed in the national parks of with Odzala-Kokoua and Conkouati-Douli featuring most prominently.
The mighty Congo river glistens brightly across the country’s landscape. Originating in the highlands of the East African rift and crossing the equator twice, it snakes its way for more than 4,500 kilometres—making it the second-longest river in Africa and the ninth in the world—before ending in the Atlantic ocean.
Despite gorilla trekking being the most popular attraction when planning a safari to the Republic of the Congo, the country has a variety of other activities on offer. Other natural wonders to marvel at include the Diosso Gorge that offers expansive views of the countryside, as well as the Loufoulakari Falls, situated at the confluence of the Congo Loufoulakari River. Some of the biggest tiger fish in the world can be reeled in at the Tiger Fish Congo Camp.
Wild Safari Guide has narrowed the best safari parks in the Congo down to these two excellent choices.
The Odzala-Kokoua National Park covers an impressive 13 500 square kilometres of iridescent colour rainforest landscape in the Congo. The national park is at the epicentre of the Congo Basin and is an absolute sanctuary for wildlife, in particular the western lowland gorillas, chimpanzee and wild forest elephants.
Odzala-Kokoua National Park is one of Africa’s oldest national parks comprising a varied landscape making it one of the best safari parks in the Congo. The western lowland gorillas and chimpanzee are the main attractions in this national park. Big game such as forest elephants, buffalos, swamp mongoose, giant forest hogs, and sitatunga are the main forest dwellers in the area. The elusive leopard is also found in this region.
Birds often spotted in the Odzala-Kokoua National Park include the goliath heron, green pigeon, grey parrot, black dwarf hornbill, African fish-eagle and giant kingfisher. The scavenging palm nut vultures are also prominent in the area.
Guided gorilla and chimp trekking safaris are the major drawcards of this national park. There are guided night walks through the forests, and diurnal birdwatching strolls in the wetlands. Game drives happen in the park and are normally organised by the lodges. There are even options to mountain bike. Canoeing and boating take place on the Lekoli River that dissects the national park, creating the perfect opportunity to spot game while on the river.
The Conkouati-Douli National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the coast of the Congo and counts as one of the best safari parks in the Congo. Bordering the Congo and Gabon, this unbroken band of Equatorial coastal splendour is a meeting point of unique terrain—rainforest, the Noumbi river system, and Atlantic Ocean beaches.
This ancient lost world of wonder is renowned for its remarkable coastal scenery, quite unlike anywhere else in the world. This is the only protected marine park in the Congo that offers an unrivalled wilderness experience. The most impressive sight of all are scenes of nesting leatherback turtles covering the white beaches of the coast. Other interesting marine life to spot includes luminescent fish species, manatees, whales, and schools of humpback dolphins.
Primates such as the colourful mandrill, western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, and vervet monkeys are found in abundance. The rainforests of the Congo provide an ideal habitat for these primates. Commonly spotted mammals include the sitatunga and red river hogs. The number of buffalo and forest elephants in the area is increasing, and sightings are becoming more prominent. In previous years, the numbers dropped drastically.
Guided walks to try and find primates is one of the main activities in Conkouati-Douli National Park. Boat cruises in motorised pirogues on the Noumbi River introduce visitors to birdlife nesting in reed-lined shores, providing a unique way of seeing unusual terrain. There are also areas where tourists can fish.