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Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Congo

Odzala-Kokoua National Park is situated in the north-west of the Republic of Congo. This is right in the heart of the second largest tropical rainforest in the world - only the Amazon is larger. Odzala-Kokoua National Park covers some 13,546 km2 of pristine wilderness and protected forest with a complex ecosystem and incredible biological diversity.

Courtesy African Parks Odzala-Kakoua National Park

The Park was established in 1935 and in 1977 was declared a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve. In 2008 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is recognised by Bird life International as an Important Bird Area. In 2010 African Parks assumed management in a partnership with the Congolese Government.

The region is varied with several types of habitat: savanna, rivers and forest. The boundary of North Central Congo is mainly savanna-forest with a high biodiversity of flourishing fauna and flora species which are endemic to this type of riverine/savanna/forest habitat. The north-west is densely forested but as you head south and east the forest opens up with flowering plants such as the Marantaceae or arrowroot family which carpets the ground. Marantaceae are sometimes known as the prayer plant. To the south the gallery forests, swamp and dry savanna. The extensive marsh forests along the Mambili floodplain don’t have the thick Marantaceae carpet of the drier areas but instead are dominated by Mitragyna ciliate.

The Frontier Forest

Odzala-Kokoua National Park maintains the forest ecosystems capable of supporting the large mammal populations which reside in the park. This area is probably one of the most important strongholds for forest elephant and western gorilla conservation remaining in Central Africa. The park has high densities of elephants with the apes with gorillas congregating in the open canopy Marantaceae forests and high density of chimps in the closed canopy Marantaceae forests. The salt rich soil of the clearings in the swampy forest provides a good source of food for the elephants, giant forest hog, sitatunga, buffalo and gorillas. The marsh forests and rivers are important for their density of hippo, sitatunga, chevrotain and dwarf forest crocodile.

The savanna areas are populated by bushbuck, Grimms’ duiker and spotted hyena. There are also larger troops of forest buffalo than you would expect to find (in the forest they have a tendency to live in smaller groups of a maximum of 12). Lions used to be pretty common in the park even up until the late 1990’s when they used to live in the savanna to the south of the region. This isn’t the case today.

The riverine forests are used by all eight monkey species which inhabit the park, four of these are never or rarely see: De Brazza’s monkey (Cercopithecus neglectus) Angolan talapoin (Miopithecus talapoin), mantled guereza (Colobus guereza), and the highly endangered Tana River mangabey (Cercocebus galeritus) species.

Odzala is unique

In that it has numerous elevated ‘bais’ or clearings which provide good observation points from which to observe with wildlife of the forest where the vegetation is dense.

Accessing the park… One of the parks few access points is by travelling along the Mambili River, if you can persevere the rewards can be high with 114 mammal species, over 400 bird species and 4,400 different plants species.

Where can I stay? … The Lango and Ngaga Lodges were opened during 2012 by the Congo Conservation Company with an aim of providing upmarket camps in an aim to promote Odzala as a prime tourist destination. Take a look at this typical safari into Odzala.

Fact… Odzala-Kokoua National Park covers an area of 13500 km2 and has been an African Parks project since 2010.

Odzala-Kakoua National Park, Congo

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