Described as one of Central Africa’s most important strongholds for forest elephant and gorilla conservation, Odzala–Kokoua National Park is well worth visiting if you have a keen interest in gorilla tracking! There’s a lot of other wildlife to see here too.
The park is situated in the Republic of the Congo’s Cuvette-Ouest Department, which lies in the country’s remote north-west. It is usually accessed via a 2-hour charter flight from the Congo’s international airport Maya-Maya, which is in Brazzaville, the country’s capital city. However, bus transfer is also available – please see our Odzala–Kokoua N.P. accommodation pages for further details!
Odzala–Kokoua is one of the oldest national parks in Africa, having been founded in 1935. It is also among the largest – at 13,600 square kilometres, it’s some 600 sq. km bigger than Tanzania’s Ruaha! The boundary of the park was extended in 1996, such that it came to reside entirely within the catchment area of the Mambili river, a tributary of the mighty River Congo.
The park contains a number of different types of habitat, featuring savanna, forest, and rivers. Moreover, the forest category comprises two subtypes as two distinct soils are present, namely hydromorphic and terra firma. The former are essentially marsh forests, while the latter are characterised by a dense carpet of plants such as giant herbs and a relatively modest amount of trees. In fact, the spacing of the trees within terra firma forests has been compared with the layout of a London park!
The savannas of Odzala–Kokoua attract grazers including buffalo, bushbuck, and Grimms’ duiker. Buffalo are also found in the park’s forests, as are forest elephant, giant forest hog, and gorilla. The marshy forests are home to an array of primates – De Brazza’s monkey, Angolan talapoin, mantled guereza, and Tana River mangabey. And the park’s rivers contain hippo, dwarf forest crocodile, and slender-snouted crocodile.
Yearly Odzala-Kokoua receives approximately 1,500 millimetres of rain, so its rivers are a permanent feature. Other interesting parts of the park include steep hills, a 350-metre escarpment, and occasional clearings within the forest termed ‘bais’. The bais are shallow and often swampy depressions full of herbs and sedges, and they are very popular with wildlife!
Gorilla tracking is the most exciting activity here. This experience involves hiking through the forest in the hopes of encountering at least one of the park’s two habituated family groups. But you are sure to see a lot of other species along the way! As well as the mammals and reptiles mentioned above, there’s some brilliant birdlife. Odzala–Kokoua boasts over 430 types of feathery friend, with some spectacular highlights. Congo serpent eagle, white crested tiger-heron, black dwarf hornbill, chestnut wattle-eye, lyre-tailed honeyguide… certainly the park holds plenty of intrigue for keen birders. Don’t forget to pack your binocs!
Other activities available in Odzala–Kokoua include nature trails, boat trips, stream swimming, and village visits. If you like the sound of a safari in this large and perfectly formed N.P., please take a look at our reports on the park’s properties and contact a member of our team!