A call from the wild
We’ve all dreamt of going on an adventure. Young or old, fascinated by exploration or just to escape a monotonous lifestyle. But where to go? Well away from the big polluted cities, the sound of horns, car fumes and exhilarating buildings as far as the eye can see, there’s a place waiting for you in the heart of Africa’s equatorial forest, at the centre of one of the richest regions on our planet: the Parc Nouabale Ndoki.
Where is the Nouabale Ndoki Park located?
The Nouabale Ndoki National Park (NNNP) is a protected area, listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, devoid of any human contact or exploitation, preserving unspoilt, pristine nature. It is located in the north of the Republic of Congo, in the Sangha department. Proud of its tropical forests and verdant clearings, it is undoubtedly one of the best examples of ecosystem protection in the Congo Basin, and indeed in Africa. No roads or buildings have been erected by man, and no home other than that of the animals has tamed this unique area of the world.
Covering an area of 4,000km2, it forms the Sangha Tri National, alongside the Lobéké Park in Cameroon and the Dzanga-Sangha complex of protected areas in the Central African Republic.
Together, these three protected areas cover more than 7,500 km2, offering a unique natural space teeming with rich, wild flora and fauna.
Hippos, gorillas, buffalo, elephants, chimpanzees, and hundreds of other species live here in perfect harmony. The density of these areas has allowed an exceptional flora to develop. Nature reigns supreme here.
When and why was it created?
The site was created in 1993 in response to the challenge of preserving natural areas in Africa, but also to combat the disappearance of species and the serious decline in forest areas as a result of the development of human society. Many of the species present on the site are already listed as endangered or could become so in the next few years.
The Sangha Trinational breaks down established borders and forces joint management of the area. But the fight to preserve these ecosystems goes far beyond the borders of the countries that host them. This area has been maintained, protected and safeguarded for almost 30 years thanks to close collaboration between the Congolese authorities and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
These areas have also benefited the economies of the countries that are responsible for them through the development of tourism. In the Parc Nouabale Ndoki, tourists can observe gorillas, elephants, buffalo and thousands of birds.
But the remarkable professionalisation of the Park has also enabled the protection of these natural areas to be promoted to a higher level. Numerous laws have been passed to combat poaching, and the number of forest rangers has increased tenfold. The stakes are therefore also political. The Nouabale Ndoki Park presents itself as a spokesperson for animal causes on a global scale.
How do I get around the Nouabale Ndoki Park?
In keeping with the principles of eco-responsibility and conservation, most of the Park is visited on foot, accompanied by experienced trackers. These visits also allow visitors to immerse themselves in nature and observe the animals that live there as closely as possible.
In the swampy clearing of Mbéli Bai, for example, you can meet many primates such as gorillas, as well as more majestic animals such as forest elephants, buffalo and sitatungas.
Last but not least, some sections of the Park can also be explored on pirogues, boats that will take you to the heart of the habitat of numerous marine animals such as crocodiles or the astonishing articulated freshwater turtles.
What can you see inside?
The list of animals present inside the site is far too long to list in full, but here is a brief overview.
The park is home to a number of majestic animals, including gorillas, elephants, crocodiles and hippos.
The Nouabale-Ndoki forest is home to a multitude of insects, colourful Euphaedra butterflies, dozens of species of birds such as the bright red Cassin’s Malimbe, frogs and monkeys of various breeds.
The unique flora found in the Parc Noubalé Ndoki is one of its most important features. The Park is home to 244 species belonging to 45 different families. There are emblematic species such as the strangler fig, recognisable by its aerial roots, and the mukulungu (Autranella Congolensis), which is found in equatorial Africa and can reach heights of up to 50 metres.
While this flora plays an active role in the survival of the animal species that live in the Park, offering a certain shelter and abundance of food thanks to its density and richness, it has also benefited the local tribal populations. Honey, leaves and mushrooms represent the wide range of products that this area produces, a key point in the development of these people, providing them with an almost infinite source of goods.
But far removed from local traditions and survival, other people have also found in the Parc Nouabale Ndoki a consuming passion. Every year, dozens of groups of scientists visit the Congo Basin to record its plant species, which are often threatened with extinction.
The Nouabale Ndoki Park and indigenous peoples?
While the Nouabale Ndoki site provides a safe haven for animals, it has also served to highlight the indigenous ways of life in the area.
Hunting, fishing, crafts and the way of life of the indigenous peoples are often neglected in favour of city life, which is simpler at first sight.
It is therefore a real challenge to enhance and safeguard these ways of life close to nature so that all the knowledge that goes with it does not disappear. The Nouabale Ndoki Park and the river tourist cruises provide an opportunity to discover these ecosystems and help to promote the knowledge of the indigenous peoples. The encounters you will have in the Park with the pygmy peoples, most of whom are trackers, will enable you to meet men and women whose way of life is far removed from that of modern civilisation.
Is it possible to observe gorillas in the Park?
Some “habituated” gorillas have been monitored for almost 20 years by scientists. Habituation is a long process involving several stages. Each research assistant is given a group of gorillas (between 6 and 15 individuals) to spend 8 hours a day with, until the day when his presence at a distance of around ten metres no longer disturbs the silverback. The habituation process can take between 5 and 10 years. This habituation work has made it possible to document the species and monitor groups over several decades. Today, the Park has three groups of habituated gorillas that can be observed at less than ten metres. Tracking begins not far from the scientists’ camp at Mondika, a two-hour walk and 45-minute drive from Bomassa, the Park’s entrance point.