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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
VISA/PASSPORTA valid passport, visa, and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry for both US and Canadian citizens. Visa processing generally takes 7 working days along with a visa processing fee of $150.
Please note obtaining a visa is your responsibility. These requirements change often and therefore it is best that you check with the Embassy of Central African Republic for the most up to date visa information.
The Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the world’s least developed nations and has experienced several periods of political instability since independence from France in 1960. Despite an on-going peace process and the presence of a democratically-elected government in the capital, Bangui, rebels still control large portions of the country's northern provinces, and highway bandits prey on civilians and travelers in much of western CAR. HEALTHHealth insurance is essential. Medical facilities are poor quality. We recommend that you see a health-care provider who specializes in Travel Medicine. The doctor or health-care provider will determine what vaccinations and medication you will need, depending on factors such as your health and immunization history, areas of the country you will be visiting, and planned activities. For more information on travel requirements, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/central-african-republic.aspx COUNTRY INFOCapital: Bangui. Government: Republic. Language: The national language is Sango, but French is the official administrative language and is essential for business. Another 68 languages and dialects have been identified in addition to these. Religion: 25% Protestant, 25% Roman Catholic, Islamic 15%, indigenous beliefs 35%. Time: GMT + 1. Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Telephone:Country code: 236. Mobile Telephone: Roaming agreements exist with a few international mobile phone companies. Coverage is limited to the capital, Bangui. Internet: Available in some towns.
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