Journey into the wilds of Odzala-Kokoua National Park for an unforgettable encounter with the western lowland gorillas of Africa

Creeping through the thick African jungle in the midst of gorillas in their natural habitat rates among the great bucket-list adventures of our time. To do so in the Republic of Congo, whose dense, pristine and largely untouched rainforest represents one of adventure travel’s final frontiers, is an opportunity not to be missed. After touching down in the capital, Brazzaville, travel to Odzala-Kokoua National Park to join expert trackers and take advantage of an astounding biodiversity and the world’s highest concentration of western lowland gorillas. With game drives, nature walks and river cruises on the agenda, this Republic of Congo Expedition reveals not only a diverse array of primates but also the colourful birdlife, exotic flora and iconic mammals – anything from elephant to hippo to buffalo to leopard – that makes this continent such a thrill to explore.


Start
Brazzaville, Congo (Brazzaville)
Finish
Brazzaville, Congo (Brazzaville)
Countries
Style
Original
Theme
Expedition
Code
FESC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 6, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • Not only is the Congo Basin the second largest tropical rainforest in the world after the Amazon Basin, it’s home to the largest group of western lowland gorillas in the world

  • With expert local trackers, a gorilla density of 12 per square kilometre, and multiple excursions for maximum gorilla time, there’s a high chance of several encounters with these mesmerising beasts

  • In addition to the star primates of the show, spot the likes of dongos, duikers, buffaloes, leopards, hyenas, monkeys, not to mention some of the 450 species of bird and 13,000 elephants that occupy this rainforest

  • Included night excursions show a whole different side to the Congolese wild, as nocturnal creatures such as bongos and hyenas come out to play

  • Cruise down the infamous Congo River, the deepest and most powerful stream in the world, with the twin capitals Kinshasa and Brazzaville as a backdrop

  • Take the safari to the next level with a journey deep into the park on a motorised pirogue (traditional flat-bottomed boat)

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip requires a good level of fitness. You’ll be getting out and about on several hikes (as noted in the itinerary) which range from four kilometres to 12 kilometres. They’re not necessary overly technical, but this is raw jungle, and the conditions will be testing.

  • A lot of research has gone into this trip, but that doesn’t guarantee it will run perfectly. It’s brand new, so a few bumps along the way are expected. This of course can make things more interesting, if you approach the adventure with flexibility and an open mind. If you’re concerned, however, we recommend waiting and joining the trip next year when the kinks have been ironed out.

  • The Republic of Congo is one of the most expensive regions to travel to in Africa. Almost everything is imported, which makes daily life quite pricey, so it’s important to budget accordingly.

  • Infrastructure (accommodation, roads, telecommunications, hospitals, water and electricity) is poor. Accommodation is relatively expensive and, outside bigger urban areas, non-existent. Roads outside major cities generally range from poor to very poor, so a little bit of patience will go a long way!

  • None of this exaggeration or metaphor. The trip will be one of the most serious adventures you have ever taken and is best experienced experienced if you can come prepared. Welcome to Africa’s Last Frontier.

Itinerary

Welcome to Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo (not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose capital, Kinshasa, sits on the opposite side of the Congo River). Once you have arrived and gone through visa formalities, you'll be met and transferred to the Saphir Hotel. Your driver will give you a small introduction to Brazzaville, a pleasant town of lively markets, strong local dining options, and beautiful modernist architecture such as the Basilique Sainte-Anne cathedral. After attending a welcome meeting at 6 pm, enjoy a free evening to relax and unwind. Dinner is available for purchase at the hotel restaurant.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive in time for today's welcome meeting, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand.
Today it's off to Etoumbi, your gateway to the lush green wilds of Odzala National Park. Embrace an early start, rising at around 5:30 am to meet your driver in the hotel courtyard. Climb aboard your private overland vehicle and settle in for the journey. It'll take all day, so get comfortable! It's best to bring a packed lunch; it may be possible for the hotel or guide to organise this for you before you leave. Dinner is available for purchase on arrival at Etoumbi lodge.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Today is an incredibly long travel day with close to 900km to cover so be prepared for some down time in the vehicle.
Early in the morning, take a transfer in a private cruiser to Mbomo Lodge. Here you'll be met by park rangers and researchers for an introduction to the park, followed by a morning drive to a salt lick and elephant bai. These bais are a major feature of Odzala-Kokoua National Park – nice open clearings in the forest, ranging from one to ten hectares in size. It's a place you can come to watch wildlife drink and bathe in their natural habitat. The animals tend to come in numbers here, seeking out swampy waters which are usually high in minerals and salt. At around midday, return to Mbomo lodge to relax. Later, head out on another game drive, travelling deep inside the park in search of large mammals; keep your eyes peeled for elephants, water buffalo, sitatungas, forest hogs, and civettes.
Included Activities
  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Afternoon Game Drive
  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Salt Lick and Bai visit
  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Ranger Talk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
It's time to take the adventure up a notch. Today we seek out the star of the show – the charismatic western lowland gorilla. An early morning drive focuses on tracking not only gorillas but other primates too, such as chimpanzees and monkeys. The skills of the local gorilla trackers is a beautiful thing to watch, and, even though little compares to your first encounter with one of these amazing creatures of the jungle, often half the fun is in the pursuit. After this morning's game drive, return to Mbomo Lodge midday to kick back and relax in your hammock. In the afternoon, head out and enjoy the second game drive of the day, returning to the site of habituation to enjoy the gorillas' company a second time, before returning to Mbomo Lodge for the evening.
Included Activities
  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Full day Boat Safari
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Gorilla tracking is dependent on the location of the gorillas, and for this reason, the morning drives on day 3 and day 4 can sometimes be switched. Gorilla groups are frequently on the move, so we keep our schedule flexible to maximise our chances of encountering them.
Set out on a day-long safari adventure down the Lekoli River. This is a chance to see many species of birds, aquatic life, ecosystems, dense canopies and more. we will bring a packed lunch along from the Lodge. Be sure to keep your eye out for wildlife along the riverbanks as you enjoy your lunch. Spend some time on a pirogue (local canoe), keeping an eye to the side of the river for some wildlife movement. You might see hippos, Nile monitors, dwarf forest crocodiles and even chevrotain (mouse-deer). Return to the lodge in the late afternoon.
Included Activities
  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Evening Wildlife Walk
  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Morning Wildlife Walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Take a morning stroll through the forest and experience some of the smaller wonders of the jungle – the canopy wildlife and the great variety of bird species found throughout the park. At midday, return to the lodge to relax and enjoy some lunch. As dusk approaches, join an expert for a night walk – this is your chance to see some nocturnal species. Cross your fingers for a bongo or, if you're lucky, a hyena sighting! After this final game walk, return to the lodge to retire for the evening.
Included Activities
  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Morning Gorilla Tracking
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Make the most of your final day in the park by visiting the gorillas one last time on a morning drive through the park. Often there are new paths that have opened or new viewing sites, with some areas seasonal and dependent on the time of your visit, and today may allow you to take advantage of any spots that were previously off limits. When it's all over, head back to Mbomo lodge for a bit of downtime and perhaps a bite of lunch. The return drive to Etoumbi begins in the afternoon.
Included Activities
  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Afternoon Gorilla Tracking & Game Drive
  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Morning Gorilla Tracking
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Wake up nice and early for the return journey to Brazzaville. With the adventure behind you and the wide open road ahead, sit back, review some of the photos you've no doubt snapped throughout the course of your explorations, and enjoy the great plains of Central Africa streaming by. On arrival in Brazzaville, you'll be transferred to the Saphir Hotel for your final evening.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
It's yet another long travel day with close to 900km to cover back to the city.

Transfer to the airport as the expedition comes to an end this morning.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 6 dinners

Transport

4x4 Safari Vehicle, Private van, motorised boat

Accommodation

Hotel (2 nights), Bungalow (6 nights)

Included activities

  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Afternoon Game Drive
  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Salt Lick and Bai visit
  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Ranger Talk
  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Full day Boat Safari
  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Evening Wildlife Walk
  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Morning Wildlife Walk
  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Morning Gorilla Tracking
  • Odzala-Kokoua National Park - Afternoon Gorilla Tracking & Game Drive

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. This is an expedition trip and requires a minimum of 6 people to depart. Please do not book any non-refundable flights or services before the departure is guaranteed to depart.
2. Expedition trips may not suit everyone. While a lot of research and planning goes into putting together an Expedition itinerary, they are pioneering and innovative by nature. If smooth, ripple-free travel is what you’re after, perhaps wait until they (possibly) become established trips. But for those with a yearning to veer off the beaten track and explore free of crowds and preconceptions, this is an adventure above all others.
3. The standard of health facilities in The Republic of Congo is limited and very basic to non-existent in outlying regions. Medicines are sometimes unavailable in rural areas and can be expensive. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation (at considerable expense) to a destination with appropriate facilities would be necessary.
4. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest information on travelling in ROC before your departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas of your itinerary. We have links to prominent government travel advisories and regular updates on issues affecting this trip on our Travel Alerts page - www.intrepidtravel.com/au/travel-alerts.
5. The trip price includes a compulsory on ground payment of 350USD in order to cover the cost of meals listed in the itinerary.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.