Friday, October 5, 2012

The Congo Jungle

10-day journey through the Congo River Basin jungle - rafting on the Luhoho River, tracking chimpanzees, gorillas, okapi and many more rare endemic species - includes Air charters, permit fees, accommodation, expert guide, porters, cook, supplies, safari vehicle and Driver 


Day 1: Arrive at Kigali Airport, Rwanda. Transfer (3 hrs) by safari vehicle to Gisenyi, on the tranquil shores of Lake Kivu.  Surrounded by majestic mountains, the lake bed sits upon a rift valley that is slowly being pulled apart, causing regular volcanic activity in the area, and making it particularly deep, at 480 m. Overnight at Lake Kivu Serena Hotel.

Day 2: Transfer (1 ½ hrs, incl. border crossing) by safari vehicle into the Democratic Republic of Congo. Situated right next to Gisenyi, on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, Goma is a town whose mood befits its location: under the volcano. In January 2002, Mt Nyiragongo, located just behind the town, erupted, sending a stream of lava a kilometer wide and 2 m deep through the center of the city as far as the lake shore. Visit to the lava beds north of the city, and stop by the Gorilla Organization’s Goma Resource Centre for a briefing on the state of conservation in the Congo Basin. Overnight at Stella Hotel, Goma.

Day 3: Transfer (2 hrs) by chartered aircraft to Walikale. This is our first glimpse of the real jungle, and it goes on forever: billions and billions of trees woven into an impervious canopy, and built to a cryptic design, over hundreds of millions of years, by trillions of nameless wood-masons. After arriving at the airport (which doubles as the main road), transfer (30 min) by car to Walikale Town. The Kisangani Highway is among only a handful of roads through this vast jungle. When the Belgians ruled the Congo, there were more than 100,000 miles of paved road. Today, less than 1000 km remain. This unexpected 50 km stretch, from nowhere to nowhere, holds back a wall of ravenous vegetation ready to reclaim it in an instant.  Overnight at the Walikale Guest House.

Day 4: Transfer (1 hr) by car up the Kisangani Highway, then continue on foot into Osokari. By now we are sequestered in an uncharted part of the Congo River Basin. Here you can find some of the largest undisturbed stands of tropical rainforest on the planet, in addition to large wetlands. The shrill resonance of it is unrelenting and it stinks of rot and decay, but there’s no where else like it on the planet.  As we go we will seek permission in villages to pitch our tents in their locality, and camp for the night, as well as barter for chickens and goats (all other supplies will be brought with us from Goma). Overnight in Osokari village.

Day 5: Transfer (7 hrs) by pirogue down the Luhoho River, to Matenda, for a unique view of the jungle. This tropical stream meanders along the fringes of Gorillaland, through a series of primordial ecosystems. Seven million years ago, this was the edge of the known Universe. Overnight in Matenda village.

Day 6: Transfer (3 hrs) by inflatable raft to Amasunga, where the river drops 22 meters over 60 kilometers, for a spot of white water rafting on the Luhuho. The thrills and spills of half a dozen cataracts, in such a remote wilderness, will make this a river journey to remember.  Overnight in Amasunga village.

Day 7: Transfer (4 hrs) on foot, to the village of Bikule, then (2 hrs) by car to Lobutu, a crossroads in the jungle. This is your chance to connect with the primordial forests. Over millions of years, dry and wet periods have alternated in the Congo River Basin, leading to the containment of several species in very specific habitats with distinct climates. The basin contains a major share of Africa’s biodiversity, and some of the world’s most spectacular and endangered wildlife. The high number of plant species found nowhere else on Earth makes these forests vital repositories of biodiversity. 11,000 forest plant species have been described in the Congo Basin, of which over 1,100 of these are found nowhere else, and about 69 species are threatened.  Overnight in Lobutu town.

Day 8: Transfer (3 hrs) by motorcycle up Axe Maiko, leading north to Maiko National Park, for gorilla and chimpanzee trekking in this vast park. This is one of the most remote forest areas of the Congo, covering 10,900 sq km and spanning the Oso and Lindi rivers. Dense equatorial forest characterizes the park, and 3 of the country's spectacular endemic animals occur here: the Eastern Lowland Gorilla, the Okapi, and the Congo Peacock. We will trek for 4 hours. Transfer (3 hrs) by motorcycle down Axe Maiko to Lobutu. Overnight in Lobutu town.

Day 9: Transfer (2 hrs) by chartered aircraft from Lobutu back to Goma, then (1 ½ hrs, incl. border crossing) by safari vehicle to Gisenyi, Rwanda. Relax by the lake, and enjoy a beachfront barbeque with sundowners, as you reflect upon your once-in-a-lifetime experience in the Congo Basin. Overnight at Lake Kivu Serena Hotel.

Day 10:  Transfer (3 hrs) by safari vehicle to Kigali Airport, and head for home, with the timeless memories of your safari of a lifetime.



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