Gorilla spotting in the Republic of Congo
Parc National Conkouati-Douli
The Parc National Conkouati-Douli is an altogether different experience to the previous two reserves. This 5,049sqkm coastal area stretches from the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean where turtles clamber ashore at night to lay eggs, through a band of savannah and up into jungle-clad mountains where shy groups of gorillas, chimpanzees and elephants slink through the shadows. As with so many protected areas in Congo, the years of conflict meant that conservation was very low on the government’s list of priorities, and as such, this park, with its open terrain and easy access, suffered more than most from human encroachment and poaching.
Today, the day-to-day management of the park has been largely taken over by WCS, and the society has started training new guides and rangers, cracking down on poaching, establishing new accommodation for tourists, and setting up safari-related activities such as river boat trips in search of elephants or forest walks to look for shy and elusive gorillas. The park also contains a chimpanzee rehabilitation sanctuary where travellers can see young chimps, orphaned due to poaching, being reintroduced to life in the wild.
Since the animals here are not habituated to humans, sightings tend to be much more fleeting than in the northern forest parks. But as poaching levels drop, the wildlife are likely to become less fearful and encounters more frequent.
For many people, just the name Congo implies adventure, and getting to most national parks here is going to make you feel like an explorer. Wilderness Safaris offer packages to Odzala National Park, where everything including flights from Brazzaville is included. This is the recommended option for those who require comfort on their safari.
Safaris to Nouabalé-Ndoki and Conkouati-Douli are organised through the WCS and are better suited to those with more time and stamina. You will have to make long overland journeys by bus or private car from Brazzaville and be prepared to walk long distances through the forest, even wading through swamps and riding boats up-river.
No matter which park you choose to visit, you must inform either the WCS or Wilderness Safaris in advance so that they can prepare for your trip.