Lomako-Yokokala Faunal Reserve Equateur Province
See bonobos running freely through Lomako-Yokokala Faunal Reserve in their carefully conserved natural habitat. After driving past the picturesque sights of the Congo River to arrive at the reserve, you can take a boat ride to observe these endangered primates swinging through well-preserved forests and vegetation. Experience a different way of living among the local communities, and enjoy the natural greenery all around.
This is one of the few places in the world where regular tourists can see Bonobos in the wild, in their natural environment. In addition to visiting the Bonobos, the extensive trip just to get to this park is worth it. The sights on and along the Congo River are unique and beautiful as you pass villages and locals going about their daily lives. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
How to get to Lomako-Yokokala faunal Reserve
Fly from Kinshasa to Mbandaka, a regional capital. From there, it is a 2-3 day trip up the Congo, Lulanga, Maringa, and Lomako Rivers River by open canoe (known locally as a pirogue Once you get to the last closest village to the park, it is about a 5-hour hike through the jungle to get to the ranger camp. The trail is mostly about 1 foot (30cms) wide, in some cases, you will need to walk through knee-high water. You will need to climb over fallen logs, roots, rocks, and other obstacles along the path. There are a lot of biting ants along the path, so tucking your pants into heavy socks is highly recommended. The return trip from Lomako to Kinshasa takes about the same time, the 5-hour hike, then 2-3 days to Mbandaka by canoe, then the 1-hour flight to Kinshasa.
Actual Encounter with the Bonobos
Visiting the Bonobos requires getting up around 3-4 am in order to hike through the jungle to the Bonobo nests before they wake up. The hike can take anywhere from 1-3 hours depending on where the Bonobos have made their nests. The rangers know where they are and will lead you there in the dark. Once you get close to the nests, you will wait in silence until the Bonobos wake up and the day begins to lighten. Once they have gotten accustomed to your presence, you will be allowed to follow the Bonobos as they move through the forest eating and socializing. Note that you may be following a group as small as 3-5 or as large as 15-20, and be aware that they do not always come down from the top of the trees in which case seeing them or taking pictures can be very challenging due to the density of the jungle. After 3-4 hours (depending on where the Bonobos go), you will return to the camp.
Where to stay while visiting Lomako-Yokokala faunal Reserve
The ranger camp is very rustic and isolated. There is no running water here, only bottled water brought up from the canoe for drinking/cooking and river water for bucket bathing. There are pit toilets. They do have solar panels for limited charging of camera batteries. There is no mobile phone service unless you have a satellite phone. Accommodations during the trip (except for Kinshasa) were spacious tents and air mattresses.
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