On arrival in Bangui from your international flight, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Bangui is the capital of the Central African Republic and lies on the northern banks of the Ubangi River. The navigable Ubangi River turns sharply south below Bangui and connects to the Congo River just south of the Equator near Brazzaville as its chief northern tributary. The river marks the border between the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Congolese town of Zongo sits opposite the river from Bangui. Overnight at JM Residences or similar.
This morning you will be met at the hotel reception by your private driver and vehicle and depart for the Bangui Airport. On arrival at the airport board a private charter and depart for Bayanga Airstrip (approx. 1 hour flying time). Arrive at Doli Lodge for lunch. This afternoon meet the BaAka people in their villages, and learn about their forest life, and how they build leaf huts, and cook with BaAka women. Enjoy an evening sundowner with your fellow travelers.
Doli Lodge is constructed of wooden buildings and platforms raised above the ground. Each room has a terrace with views of the river, and each is equipped with en-suite bathrooms, twin beds, fans, and mosquito nets. The kitchen, serving the restaurant that overlooks the river, prepares European and African dishes.
Early this morning, drive for about an hour into the rain forest, then set off along elephant paths for a leisurely hike through cool shallow sand streams and clouds of butterflies, until you reach the top of an observation platform that looks out over a natural clearing in the forest. This type of clearing, called a ‘bai’, is frequented by scores of forest elephants who exhibit wonderful interactive behaviors: meeting and greeting each other, sniffing, trumpeting and challenging, and sinking their long trunks deep into water-logged holes in search of minerals.
These elephants have been studied by field biologist Andrea Turkalo. The world’s leading expert on forest elephants. Andrea has lived in Dzanga Shangha for 20 years, and works to decipher the elephants’ vocal communication as she compiles the world’s first “elephant dictionary” from her perch on the edge of the bai.
Early this morning depart for Bai Hoku or Mongambe research camps. On arrival depart with your Central African gorilla guides who work with the gorillas daily. The team will depart camp with information on where the gorillas slept the previous night. Begin the trek searching for the nest. As soon as the nest site is found, the team then follows the traces the gorillas have left while moving and feeding.
The search for these western lowland gorillas follows elephant paths and narrow trails. The pursuit can be extensive as gorillas can sometimes cover significant distances before finding their food of choice. Tracking can take 1 to 2 hours before establishing contact with them, and while encounters are always likely they cannot be guaranteed.
Mangabey tracking – before or after tracking gorillas, you will have the opportunity to track the agile mangabey monkeys. Departing from the research camps with the tracking team, search for these medium sized monkeys that are mostly ground-dwelling and feed on a diverse array of fruits, seeds, stems, eggs, insects and even certain mammals. The group followed at Bai Hokou is of an exceptional size, numbering more than 200 individuals whose range is focused around the bai system, and the habituation process allows this secretive and relatively unknown species to be easily observed in the dense vegetation. The group can be observed at distances of less than 30 feet while they rummage through leaf litter, store seeds in their cheek pouches, and groom their companions. These monkeys also have a vast vocal repertoire, with the males possessing a vocal sac to amplify their distinctive ‘whoops’ across the forest – allowing them to communicate to the rest of their group and other groups. With a bit of luck you will not only see mangabeys, forest elephants and buffalos, but also sitatunga, bongo antelopes. The sounds, smells and the luminous green of the vegetation also creates a very unique African landscape atmosphere.
After a leisurely breakfast, board a dugout canoe called a pirogue that will take you to a completely different landscape. Similar to paddy fields, part of the Sangha River meanders through a lush swampy area littered with raffia palm trees. The extraction is carried out from standing palms. As the sap flows for several hours into a container, it begins to naturally ferment, diminishing the sugar and forming a musty tasting wine. Continue by pirogue to Bayanga village, where “buvettes” (small bars) sell the palm wine which is low in alcohol and contains supplementary calories, vitamins, calcium and other important nutritional elements and an important food source produced by the forest. While in a village you may also witness a lively basketball game, visit vegetable gardens and small shops, and buy crafts from local artisans.
This morning begins with a visit to the BaAka villages, where the BaAka accompany you on a drive into the rainforest. Along the way excitement grows and the BaAka sing and chant with anticipation. Carrying hand woven nets and gathering baskets they head into this rich environment searching for food – edible plants and roots, medicinal barks, and Africa’s smallest antelope called duiker. The BaAka disperse, yodelling to each other as they efficiently orchestrate their centuries old tradition of hunting and gathering, striking their nets and pulling them down repeatedly. At the end of the hunt they come together and share their bounty according to tradition, before you drive back to their villages, surrounded by harmonic singing and great green canopies.
Today, you can choose to visit the Dzanga bai for a second view of this amazing forest clearing. Or you can choose to track gorillas for another visit with these impressive great apes. Gorilla trekking occurs twice daily allowing 3 guests per trek with one hour of viewing the group. This evening enjoy traditional BaAka dance and music.
Today, after a leisurely breakfast, return by private charter to Bangui. On arrival in Bangui you will be met and transferred to your hotel for a special farewell dinner. Overnight at JM Residences or similar.