Republic of Congo (also known as Congo-Brazzaville) is a small former French colony that should not be confused with its much larger and less stable neighbour, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa, formerly Zaire).
Slightly smaller than the US state of Montana, Congo has a population of four million people, 70% of whom live in the south-western urban centres of Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. The rest of the country is sparsely populated and largely pristine, including northern rainforests in the heart of the Congo Basin: the world’s second largest expanse of tropical rainforest.
Rivers such as the Sangha, Mambili and the mighty Congo itself drain this Basin and provide a means of exploration through dense forests and access to remote national parks such as Odzala-Kokoua. This comprises almost 14,000 sq km of pristine rainforest and is an integral part of both the Congo Basin and the TRIDOM Transfrontier Park overlapping Gabon, Congo and the Central African Republic.
Covered in forests, rivers, marshes and swamps, the Park is drenched in some 1,500 mm of rain annually, feeding permanent rivers including the Lekoli and Kokoua that flow into the Park’s major channel, the Mambili, which in some places is up to 100 metres wide between densely forested banks. The north of the Park has thick forest covering many steep-sloped hills, while the southern part of the Park is characterised by pockets of savannah, bisected by the rivers and dotted with forest islands. A major feature here is the occurrence of “bais”: swampy, grassy clearings in the otherwise dense forest that wildlife visit on a regular basis in order to drink, feed on sedges and grasses, and obtain minerals and salts. These bais afford excellent viewing opportunities.
This vast and truly wild region, with its wide range of landscapes and habitat, is home to an incredible diversity of life. Forest Elephant, Forest Buffalo, Leopard, Bongo, Giant Forest Hog and Hippopotamus live alongside the greatest density of Western Lowland Gorilla in Africa, the highest numbers of Chimpanzee yet recorded for any central African forest block, and a further nine diurnal and five nocturnal primates. Clouds of spectacular butterflies are characteristic of the region, whilst close to 440 bird species have been recorded here.
The trees are also spectacular: ancient giants well over 50 metres tall emerge from the canopy, delicate orchids cling to the branches, and the forest floor is littered with an incredible array of pods, fruits, flowers and fungi.
The best time to visit Congo Brazzaville is during the dry season, which runs from mid-May to September. During these months, the weather is warm and sunny, with less rain and temperatures peaking in the early 30’s.
October to April is the rainy season which can be very heavy and very persistent.