Wild at Heart Journeys Lowland Gorilla Congo Mbomo Ngaga

The critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla. Image via Ngaga Camp.

For wild at heart adventurers and the ecologically minded, there is perhaps no more exciting African journey than our 7 night Western Lowland Gorillas itinerary in the Republic of the Congo* and Odzala-Kokoua National Park.

An undiscovered gem and one of Africa’s oldest national parks, Odzala-Kokoua is comprised of the vast Congo River Basin and the planet’s second-largest unspoiled tropical rainforest. With a pivotal role in storing and stabilizing greenhouse gasses, the Odzala rainforest is vital to the health of the global climate and is also the last refuge of the critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla.

*Of note: Geographically and governmentally, the nation of Republic of the Congo is separate and distinct from the neighboring country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo/DRC. The two are divided by the Congo River and this journey does not visit the DRC.

The Itinerary

The village of Mbomo is the starting point for this Lowland Gorilla journey, with a home base at Ngaga Camp overlooking a beautiful open glade within primary forest above a stream. The wood treehouse-style camp is situated within the overlapping home ranges of 20 groups of Western Lowland Gorillas and is truly “gorilla central.”

Wild at Heart Journeys Lowland Gorillas Congo Ngaga Camp

Treehouse-style accommodations in the forest at Ngaga Camp. Images via Ngaga Camp.

Ngaga Camp is home to researchers Dr. Magda Bermejo and German Illera, world-renowned primate authorities and the first humans to successfully habituate Western Lowland Gorillas. With highly skilled Mbeti trackers that are educated at Ngaga’s training academy, this itinerary includes two gorilla treks to observe the habituated groups: Neptuno, a group of 16 gorillas named for their enormous and intimidating silverback, and Jupiter, a group of 25, whose eponymous silverback is just as large yet curiously shy and retiring.

This rare and precious opportunity to observe the Western Lowland Gorilla is the undisputed highlight of the Congo. Vulnerable to human viruses such as Ebola, deforestation, and poaching, the species is under extreme threat; researchers believe that, in some areas, 90% of the population has died in the past 10 years. The current estimate of remaining Western Lowland Gorillas is 100,000, with up to 80% facing disappearance in the next three generations. Their survival largely depends on Ngaga’s pioneering approach to primate research, global awareness, and rainforest protection.

Wild at Heart Journeys Lowland Gorilla Congo Ngaga Adult Baby

An adult and juvenile Lowland Gorilla at Ngaga Camp. Image via Ngaga Camp.

During the stay at Ngaga Camp, guests will also have opportunities to meet with the research team to learn about their work in more detail. Other activities at Ngaga include a game drive and nocturnal forest walk. On day four, the road transfer through Mbomo provides an opportunity to learn more about village life, with its vibrant markets and street life.


Western Lowland Gorillas vs. Mountain Gorillas

Western Lowland Gorillas are different from their Mountain Gorilla relatives in habitat choice, size, and diet. Lowland Gorillas have shorter hair and are slightly smaller, with adult males reaching about 5’6.” Their diet is more fruit based and they rest in cover during daily midday naps.


In addition to dense rainforest, Odzala-Kokoua National Park includes numerous rivers, pockets of savannah, and “bais,” the swampy clearnings that wildlife visit to drink, feed on grasses, and obtain mineral salts. Beyond gorillas, the region supports an astonishing diversity of animal life, including Forest Elephant and Buffalo, Leopard, Bongo, Giant Forest Hog, Chimpanzee, Spotted Hyaena, and a variety of monkeys. Butterflies are characteristic of the area and over 400 species of birds, including great flocks of African Grey Parrots, inhabit the park.

Wild at HeartJourneys Lowland Gorillas Congo Mboko Forest Elephant Buffalo
Forest Buffalo and Elephant are frequent visitors to Mboko Camp. Images via Mboko Camp.

After the three night gorilla experience at Ngaga, this itinerary spends two days at Mboko Camp along a tributary of the Lekoli River. Here guests will take an afternoon river cruise and view many of the park’s animal species. Forest Elephant and Buffalo are frequent visitors and hundreds of towering termite mounds provide an otherworldly experience; visitors in Spring will also witness a profusion of butterflies and wildflowers. Stargazing to the sounds of the flowing Congo river is a guest favorite at this camp.

From Mboko, guests kayak to Lango Camp, a satellite camp with an intentionally minimal footprint. Floating wooden decks link the guest rooms, built in the style of local forest dwellers’ homes, to the main camp area, allowing for a bird’s eye of of the wildlife action on the bais. Guereza Colobus, Grey-Cheeked Mangabey, and Putty-Nosed Monkey are some of the notable inhabitants of this marshy environment, which can be explored both on foot and by boat/kayak. On humid days guests can take a refreshing dip in the bai.

Wild at Heart Journeys Lowland Gorillas Congo Lango Camp Bais

Exploring the rainforest bais around Lango Camp. Image via Lango Camp.

A full seven night itinerary, the Western Lowland Gorillas journey flies in and out of the Maya Maya airport in Brazzaville, with a short transfer to the Mbomo airstrip. Via Brazzaville, this journey be extended into our incredible 15 day Great Apes of Africa journey. The second week of this itinerary adds Mountain Gorilla trekking in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, as well as Chimpanzee trekking at the incomparable Greystroke Mahale in Tanzania.

Visiting by Season

Because the Congo lies along equatorial Africa, the area experiences two distinct seasons. The green season (March - May, September - November) offers clear air with high humidity. A scarcity of fruits results in smaller gorilla ranges and more elephant visits. Photographers will love the way passing electrical storms contrast with blue skies. In the dry season (December - February, June - Sept), skies are hazy but humidity is lower. An abundance of ripe fruits brings the gorillas up into the trees, offering easier sightings and more behavior on display.

Start Planning

An incredibly thrilling and thought-provoking experience, we love working with clients to make the dream of gorilla trekking in Africa a reality. To get started planning this or any other of our itineraries, call us at 1-844-945-7697 or get in touch by email. We can’t wait to create your wild at heart journey!

 
 
 

Robin Francis of WAHJ has been providing African travel services for over 10 years and travels frequently to the continent to meet with partners and experience their lodging, amenities, and activities first hand. Partners regard her as one of the most knowledgeable African travel consultants in the US, who has also invested in giving back to the communities she works with. Robin and WAHJ are available for complete travel booking throughout Africa or consulting on bookings made through other providers.