Odzala-Kokoua National Park
Odzala-Kokoua is one of Africa’s oldest national parks, having been proclaimed by the French administration in 1935. It covers some 13600 square kilometres (1.360 million hectares) of pristine rain forest and is an integral part of both the Congo Basin and the TRIDOM Transfrontier Park overlapping Gabon, Congo and Central African Republic.
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It holds globally significant populations of Western Lowland Gorilla and Forest Elephant as well as a plethora of other species: 430 bird species and more than 100 mammal species of which around 50 are classified as medium- or largesized. Odzala has the highest number (11) of diurnal primates for any forest block in central Africa, as well as Africa’s highest density of Western Lowland Gorillas and central Africa’s highest density of Chimpanzees. Bais Bais, or salines, are swampy, grassy areas that are dotted across the rainforest and which offer a rare chance to catch a glimpse beyond the ‘green curtain’ into the lives of the forest dwellers.
Various mammal species come to the bais on a regular basis in order to access various elements from minerals and salts, to sedges and water loving grasses to water. These bais range in size from less than a hectare to more than 10 hectares and represent the best chance of seeing forest wildlife. Viewing at the bais takes place from raised platform hides, or miradors, and requires patience. The bais we visit in Odzala-Kokoua are relatively small and as a result offer the opportunity for close up viewing of various species.
Forests of Central Africa: Nature and Man - Jean Pierre Vande Weghe
(Protea Book House, 2010) ISBN-13: 9781869190736
An excellent hard cover book that is an excellent introduction to the whole African equatorial region from west to east.
It covers mammals, vegetation, people and many other subjects. Odzala is frequently covered.
Congo Journey – Redmond O’Hanlan
(Penguin Books, 1997) ISBN: 0140121390
“O’Hanlon sets off on a journey into the Congo in search of a dinosaur in a lost prehistoric lake. He describes the hundreds of rare and little-known birds and animals which he encounters on his travels, combining the acute observation of a nineteenth century missionary with the wit and humour of a Monty Python extra.”
Bradt Travel Guide: Congo
(Bradt Travel Guides, 2008 – 2012 edition due out soon) ISBN-13: 9781841622330
This guidebook to both Congo (Brazzaville), where Odzala is situated, and the neighbouring democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is currently in evision and will feature Odzala when it is reprinted. The book covers the major cities and national parks of the two countries as well as their cultures. Well worth reading for a comprehensive overview of the region.
Birds of Africa: South of the Sahara - Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan
(Struik, 2011) ISBN-13: 9781770076235
This is THE guide to African birds and is superbly illustrated as well as still being handy enough to use as a field guide despite the fact that it covers such a broad area. It is the only book to describe and illustrate all the birds found in Africa south of the Sahara Desert (the Afrotropic Region), including the islands in the Gulf of Guinea (Sao Tome, Principe and Bioko) just off the coast of Gabon and Cameroon.
The Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals - Jonathan Kingdon
(Christopher Helm, 2004) ISBN: 0713669810
This is the best field guide to the mammals of Africa and is compact, concise, well-illustrated and very easy to use. It is a must in terms of the vast array of primates, squirrels, forest duiker, pangolins and other exciting species found in Odzala.
National Geographic has produced two DVDs on Odzala, while a third DVD covers western lowland gorillas in Nouabale-Ndoki National Park further north in the country. Each one is well worth watching to get to grips with the unique features of the rainforest and bais of the Congo Basin.
Living with Gorillas (National Geographic, 2008)
This DVD covers the lives of Dr Magda Bermejo and her partner German Illera as they track and study the western lowland gorillas of Odzala.
Mystery Gorilla (National Geographic, 2010)
Great footage of the gorillas of Nouabale-Ndoki and the work done here by the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The BBC Natural History Unit has also focused on Odzala and featured this phenomenal national park in the 2001 three-part TV series, ‘Congo’: i) The River that Swallows All Rivers, ii) Spirits of the Forest, iii) Footprints in the Forest. Odzala also featured prominently in a 2002 BBC Wildlife Special called ‘Gorillas: On the Trail of King Kong.