Central African Republic
Situated on the banks of the great Sangha River in Central Africa, Doli Lodge is the perfect place from which you can explore the wild rainforest, and experience its extraordinary wildlife and traditional communities. You can witness Africa’s greatest concentration of forest elephant as they gather at the “grand central junction” of Dzanga bai—a natural clearing in the rainforest. Led by skilled BaAka trackers, you can follow the striking silverback Makumba, a good-looking gorilla with a tall crest and muscular form, and his habituated group of western lowland gorillas. Hike along elephant paths, through clouds of butterflies, and along bais inhabited by red forest buffalos, herds of busy red river hogs, rare situtunga and bongo antelopes, flocks of noisy African grey parrots, and specials such as Hartlaub’s forest ducks.
Join clans of BaAka, traditional hunter-gatherers of the rainforest, as they sing and yodel and search for edible leaves, medicinal bark and roots, and small game to bring back to their villages. Experience Bayanga village life, maybe catch a local game of basketball, and take traditional canoes called pirogues along the Sangha River to see the natural process that produces palm wine from the forest. Meet and learn from our partners and researchers at WWF and WCS, people in the field who are dedicated to conservation and sustainable travel in the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park. In short, this adventure is one of the world’s greatest and rarest experiences.
Welcome to Bangui! On arrival from your international flight, you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Early this morning you will be met at hotel reception by your private driver and vehicle, and depart for to Bayanga (approximate drive time 12 hours). Arrive at Doli Lodge in the evening, in time for a late dinner.
Early this morning, step into the rain forest of the Congo Basin and set off along elephant paths, through cool shallow sand streams and clouds of butterflies, until you reach the top of an observation platform that looks out over a natural salt lick. This type of clearing, called a “baai,” 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—a practice not unlike taking a multi-vitamin pill. Here you’ll meet field biologist Andrea Turkalo the world’s leading expert on forest elephants, who has lived in Dzanga Sangha 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 baai.
Early this morning after breakfast depart for Bai Hoku research camp (approximately 1 hour drive). On arrival at Bai Hoku depart with the tracking team that consists of a Ba’Aka pygmy tracker and WWF researcher. The team will depart camp with information on where the gorillas slept the previous night. 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 the western lowland gorillas follows elephant paths and narrow trails. The pursuit can be strenuous as gorillas can sometime cover significant distances before finding a fruit tree of choice. Tracking can take one to two hours before establishing contact with the western lowland gorillas, and an encounter cannot be guaranteed. Please Note: Gorilla trekking occurs twice daily. Each session, two groups of 3 guests are allowed to gorilla trek for a total of 12 guests per day. The morning trek ends back at Bai Hoku at noon and the afternoon trek will begin. A Gorilla Trekking Permit is required (included in cost).
In the afternoon, after a picnic lunch depart with the tracking team in search of the Agile managbeys. These monkeys are medium sized monkeys (males 7-12kg, females 5-7kg) which very much live up to their generic name by their vibrant nature. The group can be observed at leisure at distances of under 10m whilst their active hands rummage through leaf litter in search of insects, investigating and extracting all that is possibly edible from holes in trees, digging up mushrooms, storing seeds in their cheek pouches, and grooming their companions. The group followed at Bai Hokou is of an exceptional size, numbering more than 200 individuals, ranging in an area, and focused around the bai system. The habituation process allows this otherwise secretive and relatively unknown species to be easily observed in the dense vegetation.
After breakfast set off to get a glimpse of daily life in Bayanga on a visit to the village with one of our guides. People are more than happy to show you around in their small shops. There is also an opportunity to work on the Doli Lodge community craft project. The local bar has a nice view over the Sangha River and is a good place to get a taste of the Bayanga spirit. Return to Doli Lodge for lunch before embarking on the afternoon activities.
Dugout canoes (pirogues) are carved out directly from the trunks of trees. With a little chance, taking a trip in one of these canoes, you have the opportunity to catch sight of pretty kingfishers, eagles and other birds. Discovering Bayanga from the Sangha River allows you to experience a completely different aspect of life in the rain forest. The skill of the canoe-men (piroguiers), standing upright at the stern of the boat, steering you across frequently strong currents, is impressive. If you like, just bargain with fishermen over the price of a good fish or simply enjoy the tranquility.
Head out to learn about the extraction of palm wine. To witness the extraction of palm wine you have to board a dugout canoe that will take you to part of the Sangha River which meanders though a lush swampy area. It is here that is found the raffia palm trees. The extraction is carried out from standing palms and the sap flows for several hours into a container. A process of alcoholic fermentation takes place over 5 to 10 hours. The end product is a pleasant drink that is reminiscent of the musty taste of wine. In Bayanga, you can find "buvettes" (small bars) selling palm wine where you can taste the fermented juice. Palm wine rarely contains more than 4% alcohol and it contains supplementary calories - vitamins, calcium and other important nutritional elements - always welcome bearing in mind the physically exhausting work that village men sometimes have to accomplish.
The day begins with a visit to the Ba’Aka villages, where Ba’Aka people join you in your vehicles and accompany you into the heart of the forest. Along the way excitement grows and the Ba’Aka sing and chant with anticipation. Carrying hand woven nets and gathering baskets they head into this pristine environment searching for food—edible plants and roots, medicinal barks, and Africa’s smallest antelope called duiker. The Ba’Aka disperse, yodeling 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 all drive back to their villages, surrounded by harmonic singing and great green canopies.
After brunch set out for Bai Hoku research camp for another chance to spend the full day following elephant paths through the forest that lead to the wildlifes’ favored spots. Often these are clearings and salines, crossed by streams, and kept open by the elephants. Sometimes these can also be particular fruit trees. With a bit of luck you will not only see forest elephants and buffalos, but also sitatunga, bongos, monkeys and traces of other animals. The sounds, smells and the luminous green of the vegetation create a very unique atmosphere. This evening enjoy traditional Ba’Aka dance.
Today in the early morning you will begin the return drive to Bangui with your private vehicle and driver. On arrival in Bangui you will be transferred to your hotel.
Very early this morning you will be transferred to Bangui Airport in time for your international flight home.
At the JM Residence, a friendly staff is carefully trained and on-hand 24/7 to help ensure the comfort of guests at this quiet and pleasant hotel in Bangui.
Doli Lodge, located on the wooded banks of the Sangha River in Central Africa, contains wooden buildings, most raised above the ground on stilts. The living quarters have a terrace with view of the river and come equipped with fans and ensuite washrooms. Doli Lodge's good, clean accommodations, restaurant and bar offer you all of the necessary comforts after a day spent exploring the rainforest.
Ronald Jones ,
December 12, 2014
"I cannot express how fabulous our trip was!! I know it was made that way thanks to ALL the kind, knowledgable, and helpful people that you all placed in our path. Many went above and beyond to make our experience even more positive. From drivers, to guides, to hotel staff---we met some wonderful people that we can now call friends. Thank you Christine and Kensington tours for this once in a lifetime African adventure!"
December 09, 2014
"A truly wonderful trip......first class accommodations and service in each venue....the guides were knowledgable and went out of their way to insure that we could see and understand Africa. Capetown is a fascinating city, Sabi Sands an extraordinary private game preserve, and Zimbabwe with Victoria Falls and the Victoria Falls Hotel a once in a lifetime experience. For those who want to visit Africa we enthusiastically recommend Kensington Tours. And Jolene Plant stayed with us in every step during the planning of our trip and itinerary. We saw as much of Africa as much as anyone can during our two weeks vacation."
Belinda Skelton ,
December 12, 2014
"This was one of the most amazing trips that I have ever had. The custom tours and activities exceeded my expectations. I was traveling alone but felt safe and in good hands. The process of booking the trip with Lily Baffour was so easy and personal, especially with the constant communications from her up to my departure. Thank you Kensington Tours for an awesome experience. I will definitely use you for my next adventure!"
Nathan Nerland ,
December 15, 2014
"Kensington Tours is always our only guided company we use because every staff has been amazing along the way and they accommodate everything we request, and more."
December 12, 2014
"Our week-long tour in Morocco went without a hitch in the company of a great driver and knowledgeable guide who were always prompt, courteous, helpful, and very nice. Kensington Tours' picks for our overnight accommodations were excellent, as well as the excursions planned for us. We're grateful to our conscientious agent, Lily, who went out of her way to make us feel welcome in Morocco. We feel confident that we are in very capable hands whenever we travel with Kensington Tours. "
December 12, 2014
"Our trip was a perfect 10 - exceeding all expectations! Starting with Christine Willner's attentiveness to our wish list and balancing it to our budget, every leg and element of our journey took place without so much as a hiccup. We were blown away by the quality of our tours, accommodations and guides. Thank you for giving us a great experience and wonderful memories!"
Rebecca Warren ,
August 02, 2014
"My 26 year old daughter recently traveled alone to Madagascar using Kensington tours. I was a little concerned about her safety and wanted to make sure that she would be well taken care of. Kensington was great from start to finish. Our travel agent, Marc Sisson, put together the tour in very short order with very little notice, had no problem doing it for just one person, and gave me a sense of security that my daughter would be well cared for. She did the Anjajavy 5 Day Beach extension. The tour guide who picked her up at the airport in the capitol city was outstanding -- very knowledgeable and helpful. The Anjajavy hotel was extraordinary. Her pictures are breathtakingly beautiful. She kayaked, swam in the ocean and saw lemurs feeding. She got to practice her French with the outstanding hotel manager and otherwise was able to just relax and unwind. She described the experience as "visiting Eden." I highly recommend Kensington. I contacted a number of tour/travel agencies and none of them compared to Kensington. "
Shayna Maislin ,
April 21, 2014
"I would highly recommend the tour guide that we had in the Serengetti . He was extremely knowledgeable, very helpful and courteous. We all agree that Kensington has first class staff working for them in Africa. All the camps that we stayed at were absolutely beautiful except perhaps for the one in Lake Manyara. All in all it was a spectacular trip!"
Lucy Gilkes ,
April 21, 2014
"The whole trip was wonderful but the guides were what made it for us. They were knowledgeable and thoughtful a pleasure to spend time with."
Janine Chey ,
April 21, 2014
"Our trip to Masai Mara via Kensington ran very smoothly. We stayed at the Mara West Lodge. Beautiful location atop a ridge overlooking the Masai Mara plains. Our luxury tents were quite comfortable and the staff/service at the lodge were great. Meals were very nice especially the daily soups. Our guide, Steve, was also great...so knowledgeable and eager to show us many interesting things. He planned our daily game drives and took us on a nature hike one afternoon. He clearly knows and understands this ecosystem. He has an amazing eye, finding animals in fields of tall grasses. Our entire family had an amazing time, trip of a lifetime...would love to go back!"
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