A luxury Congo safari will take you to see the gorilla of Odzala-Kokoua National Park.

Luxury safaris in Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Republic of Congo

A luxury Congo safari takes you off the beaten safari path, and is all the more wonderful for it. Start, or end, your trip in the capital of Brazzaville, from which the Republic of Congo gets its Congo-Brazzaville nickname, then focus on Odzala-Kokoua National Park, and the many wonders it contains.

To avoid confusion with the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo – on the other side of the mighty Congo River – the Republic of Congo is sometimes called Congo-Brazzaville, after its capital city. The country’s roots as part of the colony of French Congo are still evident in Brazzaville, and in many ways a visit here offers the sensation of entering a time capsule.

Stroll along La Corniche embankment, taking in the views of Kinshasa, across the river, or enjoy a cold beer at Site Touristique Les Rapides, from which you can see the the river’s rapids. There are several great markets to explore too, selling everything from fabric to food.

Congo’s undisputed highlight, however, is the fecund biodiversity to be encountered when you explore Odzala-Kokoua National Park. One of the oldest protected areas in Africa, Odzala conceals many gems behind the green veil of its pristine rainforest. An unexpected patchwork quilt of habitats, including savannah, rivers and swampy clearings known as bais, offer sanctuary to an incredible range of flora and fauna.

Western lowland gorilla (habituated groups of which can be tracked through the undergrowth on foot) top the charisma stakes, but megafauna including forest elephant, forest buffalo and bongo provide a fine supporting cast, with cameos from species you may never have heard of, and certainly never seen.

Butterflies and birds abound, including many that are rarely seen elsewhere. Activities and experiences in Odzala have an authentic feel of exploration and adventure, from boating excursions to bai walks and night-time strolls in search of nocturnal creatures.

Whether you’re looking to shorten your bucket list or get passport-stamp bragging rights, the Republic of Congo offers very different experiences to East or Southern Africa. Small eco lodges that seem to blend into the forest, dwarf crocodile, towering trees and patisseries – a luxury Congo safari will surprise and delight you, and confound your expectations.

When to Go

Congo’s tropical, equatorial climate features two wet and two dry seasons each year – a long and short version of each. The dry seasons are the best time to visit, with less rain and reduced humidity. January and February are both great times to visit Odzala, although temperatures and rainfall probability rise towards the end of the short dry season. The longer dry season, beginning in June, sees cooler days and long intervals between rain showers, although the skies can remain overcast. Daytime temperatures reach 24°C, dropping to the high teens at night.

March sees temperatures climb as the short rainy season begins, reaching a peak of around 34°C. Impressive downpours (variable in April; more consistent in May) take the sting out of the heat but can make navigating Odzala trickier with forest roads becoming very muddy. The rains return towards the end of October, with humidity rising in November and December (as the rainstorms begin to abate). Congo’s storms can be spectacular, and tend to be interspersed with periods of wonderfully lucid light and blue skies – a real plus for photographers.

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