Encounter the okapie and the pygmies

Day 1: Arrive at Kinshasa airport.

Kinshasa, the capital of the DR Congo, was known as "Kin La Belle " – meaning "Beautiful Kinshasa". Many years of turmoil have rocked its image but slowly and surely, Kinshasa is regaining its splendor. Some of its sights include the fabulous "Grand Marché", the tomb of former President Laurent Kabila, the highly-acclaimed "Academy des Beaux Arts" (for those who like African art), the rapids of Kinsuka just downstream from the city and the Bonobo Reserve, a sanctuary for orphaned Bonobo Monkeys, one of the five Great Apes. It’s also one of the continent’s top cities for African music.

Spend the entire afternoon exploring Kinshasa, learning about the major historical, cultural and natural highlights the city has to offer including the Bonobo Reserve, a sanctuary for orphaned Bonobo Monkeys.
Night at Fontana Inn

Day 2: Transfer by Flight to Kisangani.

Kisangani

Kisangani was founded by Sir Henry Morton Stanley in January 1877.
Memorable sites include the Tshopo River Falls and the Wagenia Fisheries, set up in the midst of the river rapids. Fishing is carried out by means of a complex structure set among the rocks: lianas attached to cross poles act as stretchers for the nets submerged in the foaming water. The fishermen use pirogues (traditional dugout canoes), twisting between rapids and rocks. Their agility and daredevil attitudes are a constant source of amazement. Over night at Palma Beach Hotel in Kisangani.

Day 3: Enjoy a full day cruising on the River Congo in a motorized wooden boat.

River Congo

We’ll wind past pockets of lush green secondary forest, semi-deciduous secondary rainforest, climax forests with Brachystegia laurentii flora and marshland forest, inhabitated by colourful birdlife and animals. You’ll also have the chance to meet indigenous people who live in the area, some of whom are totally at one with nature and have never seen cars in their life. Bring sunscreen or a hat. We’ll head back in the evening and overnight at the Palme Hotel. Over night in Kisangani at Palme Hotel

Day 4: Transfer to Epulu (9 hours’ drive)

Today we drive to Epulu via the Nia Nia Road, passing several villages occupied, no doubt, by waving local children!

Epulu is home to many okapis and other animals. Found only in the Congo, the okapi is a shy and reclusive forest dweller and is the only living relative of the giraffe. It has an unusual coloration and distinctive markings, including zebra-style stripes that provide camouflage in the dense rainforest and protect it from its many predators. Overnight at ICCN lodge.

Day 5: Okapi and Pygmies

After breakfast we’ll visit Okapi. After a laid-back lunch we’ll begin trekking in the tropical forest and spend the night in tents within a pygmy village.

Pygmees

The Bambuti pygmies live in villages that are known as ‘bands’. Each hut houses a family unit. At the start of the dry season, they leave their villages for the forest, where they set up a series of camps. This allows the Bambuti to utilize more land area for maximum foraging.
These villages are solitary and separated from other groups of people. Their houses are small, circular and temporary. The walls of the structures are held in place with poles that are placed in the ground. Vines tie the poles in place at the top. Large leaves are also used in the construction of the huts. The Bambuti pygmies are primarily hunter-gatherers, foraging for food in the forest. They have a vast knowledge of the forest and the foods it yields. The Bambuti use large nets, traps, and bows and arrows to hunt game. Women and children sometimes help out by trying to drive the animals into the nets. Both sexes gather and forage. Each band has its own hunting ground, although deep in the forest boundaries can be hard to establish.
We will be permitted to follow such a group into the forest and where, possible, take our tents and set up camp near to their bands.
We’ll be invited to spend the night around the camp fire, listening to their endless hunting stories while they smoke their cannabis water pipes under a beautiful blanket of African stars.

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