11 Reasons Why You'll Love a Safari to the Congo

A safari in the Republic of Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville or simply the Congo, gives travelers the best of two wildly different worlds: a remote, jungle paradise filled with gorillas and a buzzing, fashion-forward cultural experience in the capital city.

From the far corners for Odzala-Kokoua National Park to the elegant, strutting Sapeurs of Brazzaville, the Congo is sure to dazzle and delight any traveler with an adventurous, go-anywhere spirit. Read on to learn more about this incredible destination!

a guide and three travelers wade through thigh-high water in the lush forests of Odzala
Adventure walking between camps © Scott Ramsay

Our Top 11 Reasons to Say Yes to the Congo

1. Odzala is thrillingly remote

The Congo Basin, of which Odzala-Kokoua National Park is a part, contains 25% of the world’s forests. It’s second in size only to the Amazon and contains the greatest number of mammals, primates, birds, amphibians, fish and swallowtail butterflies in Africa. It’s also home to 10,000 plant species, of which 3,000 are endemic.

Odzala is one of the oldest national parks in Africa, covering 1,360 million hectares of pristine rainforest. Lango and Mboko are the only camps in Odzala, and Ngaga is just outside the park boundary in a primate research hotspot.

Have you had all you can take of over-touristed travel destinations? Good news: while staying in Odzala, you probably won’t see another soul outside your group (unless you count the villagers you pass by between camps).

If you’re looking for the ultimate in off-the-beaten-track experiences in Africa, this is it.

two trucks park alongside a forest behind a large, hand-painted, carved wooden sign for Dzanga-Sangha National Park
Arriving at Dzanga-Sangha © Scott Ramsay

2. It’s a perfect destination for fans of slow travel

We recommend making Odzala the centerpiece of your safari to the Congo. While the three camps there are very remote, they’re also easily accessible to one another.

A safari to Odzala can be combined with an extension to Dzanga-Sangha, a protected area in the Central African Republic on the northern edge of the Congo Basin forest. We love Sangha Lodge’s well-appointed bungalows, each with its own ensuite bathroom, hot and cold running water, and flush toilets.

Together, these two biodiverse regions make for a great, full two-week trip where you really get your feet wet and dive into the experience.

a sprawling wooden deck with a bar and stools, lounge chairs, and a thatched roof overlooks a river and jungle at sunset
Sangha Lodge © Jacha Potgeiter

3. The Gorilla trekking in Odzala is world-class

Home to a dozen primate species, Odzala is a haven for conservation and wildlife lovers. While there, you can take advantage of the opportunity to meet with gorilla researchers like Dr. Magda Beremejo, widely regarded as the Jane Goodall of western lowland gorillas.

Whether or not you’ve gone gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda to see mountain gorillas, an up-close encounter with the Congo’s western lowland gorillas is not to be missed.

profile of a young gorilla climbing a tree, lit from behind by the bright sun and surrounded by forest foliage
Gorilla at Odzala © Stuart Lewis

Gorilla trekking in Odzala offers three fantastic benefits you should know about:

  1. In Odzala, you’ll be with a maximum of just four guests, your guide, and your tracker. Compare that to Rwanda and Uganda where you’d likely be in a group of eight guests, a head guide, and several trackers!
  2. At $400 per person, gorilla trekking permits in Odzala are significantly more affordable than in Rwanda ($1,500 per person) and Uganda ($700 per person). Plus the cost of your permit is already included in your trip to Odzala!
  3. You’ll have access to the gorillas over two days, not just one.

If you dream of gorilla trekking on safari, Odzala does not disappoint!

4. There’s more to Odzala than gorillas

Odzala, and the larger Congo Basin, is home to an astonishing array of wildlife. While western lowland gorillas are certainly a highlight, don’t be surprised if you also come across your fair share of

  • Forest elephants
  • Forest buffalo
  • Dwarf crocodiles
  • Forest ducks
  • Kingfishers
  • Hippos
  • 450 species of birds
  • Resident putty-nosed monkeys that live in the forests in front of Mboko Camp
  • 12 primate species including globally-significant populations of western lowland gorilla
Two adult elephants and a baby drink and play in the muddy banks of a body of water in Odzala
Elephants at Odzala © Stuart Lewis

5. You’re not limited to your game drive vehicle

In addition to treks to see gorillas, you can also explore Odzala through boating and kayaking, savannah game drives (look out for hyenas and aardvarks!), immersive walks in the jungle, and ample birding opportunities. We also love the 700m nature boardwalk through the semi-flooded forest near Mboko.

travelers in three orange kayaks paddle up a narrow river through the lush forests of Odzala
Kayaking in Odzala © Extraordinary Journeys

6. The community of staff at Odzala is passionate and devoted

Unlike some other properties across Africa, you won’t see a lot of locals working at Odzala, given its remote location.

“The people working at the camps in Odzala truly do want to be there. They’ve chosen to be stationed at a camp that’s a charter flight away from the main city. It's not like being stationed in other parts of Africa and driving a couple hours back to your family at night. These are people who believe in Odzala National Park and want to sustain it. They’re passionate about conservation.”

—Jenny Salentine, Safari Specialist

with pruning shears, a guide in a surgical face mask clips foliage in the forests of Odzala to clear a path for trekking
Making a path through the forest © Stuart Lewis

7. The camps are incredibly flexible and accommodating

Whatever your preferences may be, the camps in Odzala deliver! They can arrange for longer or shorter walks to suit individual guests’ needs, even within a group. There’s no set, rigid schedule—how your day unfolds is up to you!

The three camps, Lango, Mboko, and Ngaga are very accessible to one another, and they all work together to give you the ideal safari experience. If you fall in love with one camp and want to extend your stay there by a night or two, the staff can usually accommodate that on a dime.

the rustic, thatched-wall interior of an open-air suite at Ngaga Camp features a canopied bed and warm, wooden decor
Ngaga Camp © Scott Ramsay

8. The food is absolutely spectacular

“The food is phenomenal. It’s the best food I have had on safari. The chef there is ridiculous. He kept bringing out different flavors of refreshing beverages. We'd come back to so many delicious snacks—there’s no way I could even try everything! The food is just so amazingly prepared, even though he's working in the middle of nowhere—and in the heat with no air conditioning! You're definitely going to be well taken care of when you're there. You will not eat better. Seriously.”

—Jenny Salentine, Safari Specialist

Need we say more?

a chef in a white coat smiles behind a table lined with three varieties of fresh, colorful cocktails for travelers to enjoy
The chef and his incredible cocktail creations © Jenny Salentine, Extraordinary Journeys

9. Brazzaville’s Sapeurs defy all preconceived notions of “local African culture”

While we adore Odzala and everything the park has to offer, we’d be remiss not to highlight the incredible culture in the Congo’s capital city, Brazzaville.

It’s home to an astonishingly well-dressed set of residents, known as Sapeurs, who’ve carried on a rich tradition of moving about their world in a dazzling display of color, elegance, and flair—a stark contrast to the hardship and poverty that surrounds them.

In Kenya, you get a glimpse at the lives of the Maasai. In Namibia, the San and Himba tribes.

The Sapeurs of Brazzaville have built their own unique and vibrant African culture, entirely unlike anything you might ever have expected from a visit to the Congo.

Read more about the Sapeurs here!

10. The Congo is as safe and peaceful as it is beautiful

Whatever you may have heard about the Congo (or its troubled neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo), we have nothing but the best things to say about this warm, beautiful country of diverse peoples and landscapes.

“The Congo is probably a place that people aren't familiar with, so they automatically think it’s unsafe. And that couldn't be further from the truth. It's a very peaceful country. Lots of expats live in Brazzaville, and it's actually very clean and welcoming. I felt extremely comfortable walking around downtown—maybe even more so there than other places in Africa. Just because it's unknown doesn't mean it's not safe or not a good idea to visit.”

— Jenny Salentine, Safari Specialist

A recent concern for many travelers has been Ebola. But with ongoing medical advancements and an Ebola vaccine, we’re confident the Congo is as safe a destination as any other we send our clients to.

two men stand silhouetted, rowing a small, narrow boat across still waters; the sun sets behind the jungle in the distance
Perfect tranquility © Scott Ramsay

11. Travel here is an integral part of conservation

Odzala offers the perfect mix of an amazing travel experience and genuine sustainability. If you sleep in a jungle treehouse and feel like you’re a kid again and support camps that put a priority on conservation, look no further.

In particular, the gorilla research and conservation programs here are world-class. The in-house research team were the first to habituate western lowland gorillas, thanks to the pioneering efforts of Dr. Magda Beremejo and German Illera.

Your stay in Odzala contributes much needed revenue not only to programs like this but to the park and local communities overall.

3 Reasons Odzala May Not be the Right Fit for You

As with every one of our safaris, a journey to Odzala is not a one-size-fits-all experience. While it may be perfectly suited to some travelers, it’s not the ideal choice for every one of them. Here are a few reasons why we might suggest a different destination for your safari:

1. You want to see the Big Five

The Congo is astonishing, and it’s a wonderful change of scenery for travelers returning to Africa after their first or second visit. However, it may not be the best choice for a first safari, especially if you’re eager to see the Big Five.

A journey to Odzala is not the typical Out of Africa safari experience. If a more traditional safari—with an emphasis on game drives, five-star accommodations, and sundowners on the savannah—is what you seek, there are plenty of other destinations we’d recommend!

2. You have travelers in your group under age 16

Gorilla trekking is an experience essential to any visit to Odzala, and the minimum age for permits is 16.

3. You want to combine several different destinations on your safari

If you're up for an adventure and another long flight, you can get to other areas of Africa. We love combining a visit to Odzala with a stay at Sangha Lodge if you have the time to devote to a longer trip.

Ready for the Congo?

Whether you’re returning to Africa in search of something completely unique and unexpected or visiting for the first time, the Congo might be the perfect safari destination for you. All you need is a sense of adventure, an energetic spirit, and a willingness to get your boots a little dirty.

We can’t wait to show you one of our favorite corners of Africa!

Cameras ready, Jenny and two men trek in shin-deep water along the grassy banks of a river in the forests of Odzala
EJ Safari Specialist Jenny on a trek at Odzala © Extraordinary Journeys

Inspiration for Your Itinerary

If you’re inspired to plan a wild, remote, once-in-a-lifetime adventure to the Republic of the Congo, we can design a journey similar to this one, according to your specific tastes. Remember, all our journeys are custom-tailored to you; no two Extraordinary Journeys trips are ever the same.

Plan Your Safari Today!

Ready to start planning your own incredible jungle adventure to the Congo and Odzala? We make the process stress-free and enjoyable. Call or email us today to explore your best options for a safari holiday you’ll never forget!

Then, start packing that suitcase because we’ve got all the details covered.

CONNECT with your personal travel expert.

Have you started planning your safari on your own? Are you totally overwhelmed with all the information out there? Let us help you cut through all the conflicting information online and start planning a safari that is completely tailored to you. Get in touch with us and we can discuss your travel passions and help you begin the planning process for your dream safari.

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Kim Green