Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of the Congo, is in the heart of the Congo Basin. This park covers an extensive 13,500 km², providing vital rainforest habitat to many species with limited pristine range remaining elsewhere.
Odzala-Kokoua is one of Africa's oldest parks, having been designated in 1935. The park has been badly affected the Congo Civil War from 1997–1999 and several ebola outbreaks. Conservation efforts were limited until recently, causing a decline in wildlife populations and tourism was all but non-existent. In 2010, African Parks entered into a partnership with Congo's government to take over management of the park. Law enforcement has been overhauled but poaching remains a threat to the park's wildlife. African Parks also works closely with the many thousands of people that live around the park to increase engagement and hopefully reduce poaching.
WWF considers the park a biodiversity hotspot and it forms part of one of their priority places, TRIDOM.
The southern part of Odzala is a savannah-forest mosaic and gallery forest ecosystem. The middle is dominated by marantaceae, and the north is covered by mature rainforest. Forest clearings, or baïs, are numerous and offer special opportunities to view wildlife. Elephants in particular take advantage of these areas to gather and get water.
Flora and fauna
Odzala is home to 114 mammal species, including 20%, or 22,000, of the global population of western lowland gorillas. A couple of gorilla communities are habituated by researchers, allowing tourists to spend time with this critically endangered gorilla subspecies. Chimpanzees are also in the park but are rare to see. Many species of monkey are present and often seen. Thousands of forest elephants are present in the park and a collaring project is underway to collar 50 by the end of the year (2019). This is to allow park management to closely monitor their movements and see how to better protect them. Spotted hyaenas are present in the park, one of the last places in the region to still find them in this type of ecosystem.
Three species of pangolin are found in Odzala – giant pangolin and both tree species.
More than 440 bird species have been observed in the park and Odzala has been recognised as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International. African grey parrots and African green pigeons often gather in the thousands, which is an amazing spectacle to observe.
Over 4,400 plant species have been recorded within the Congo Basin and a large portion of them exist within Odzala.
The park lies very close to the equator and the climate is tropical. There are two wet and two dry seasons. The wet seasons run from March to May and again from September to November with the dry seasons in between. Humidity is extremely high in the forested areas and temperatures remain steady throughout the year, ranging between 20 and 30°C on average.
Driving into the park is possible but not advised. The trip takes about 16 hours from Brazzaville on terrible roads. There is a bus available to guests for those wishing to experience the country outside of the park. Otherwise, there is a 2-hour charter flight from Brazzaville to the park twice a week.
Fees and permits
A visa is required for most visitors to the Republic of Congo. This visa costs about US$200 and must be obtained prior to your visit. The lodge can assist with obtaining this visa including supplying an invitation letter.
Walking and driving activities are offered by the lodges. You can also rent a 4x4 in Brazzaville and drive yourself into the park and around.
The Congo Conservation Company and Odzala Discovery Camps operates three lodges within Odzala-Kokoua as well as several 'journeys' including suggested itineraries to lodges within the park and region.
Ngaga Camp consists of 6 rooms and is located just outside the park in a concession and is the centre of gorilla viewing.
Lango Camp consists of 6 rooms and is nestled in dense gallery forest overlooking a baï and river.
Mboko Camp consists of 12 rooms and extends along the bank of a river tributary.