Republic of the Congo: Luxury & Private Safaris
The Republic of the Congo (the Congo, or Congo-Brazzaville) is a small country near the west coast of Africa. Rivers such as the Sangha, Mambili and the mighty Congo drain this basin and provide a means of exploration through dense forests and access to remote national parks such as Odzala-Kokoua. In these regions, more than any other, wilderness is a highlight and traditional cultures persist. Swamps, bais, and rivers characterize the heavily forested landscape, and make it prime western lowland gorilla habitat – and it’s the extraordinary wildlife interactions available here that make the Congo a growing tourist destination. Gorilla trekking is the highlight for travelers here and not to be missed.
A former French colony, Congo-Brazzaville has had a troubled past but is now considered calm, stable, and rapidly developing. Dubbed the ‘Little Paris of Africa’, its French history is most felt in the capital city of Brazzaville with its vibrant streets lined with art, fabric stalls, flower markets, cafés and the smell of freshly baked baguettes from one of its many boulangeries.
That said, tourism is still relatively new. Travelers should not expect five-star amenities in the cities, but because it has been off-the-radar for so long, its wilderness areas and wildlife encounters are truly unforgettable adventures. If you can stand to get your hands a little dirty, the Congo won’t disappoint.
Secrets and Tips from our Experts
- French is the official language, so we recommend a private guide in the capital
- Brazzaville’s arts scene is on the rise, making gallery visits a good way to explore the capital
- Odzala-Kokoua National Park is home to pioneering research of the Western Lowland Gorilla
Is Republic of the Congo the right destination for you?
- Republic of the Congo is best for adventurous travelers who prioritize unique and remote experiences over top-of-the-line luxury.
- It is ideal for escaping the usual tourist circuits, and exploring outside of the typical safari game drive.
- Experiences in the Congo are based primarily around walking, boating, and community interactions.
- The country is also a must for those who want to track Africa’s western lowland gorilla.
- For gorilla viewing, a medical requirements form must be completed by the guest’s doctor to confirm that they are free from measles, polio and tuberculosis, and in good health.
When to visit Republic of the Congo?
Being just north of the equator, the climate at Odzala is fairly consistent throughout the year, hot and humid. Generally, there are four seasons, which are alternating dry and rainy. The dry seasons include November to February and June to August. These are the coolest, driest months in Odzala National Park, which make it our preferred travel time. Just keep in mind that rainfall still occurs and can be quite variable during the dry season.
The rainy seasons are from March to May and September to October. Temperatures tend to be hotter, and humidity high, and tropical rainstorms contrast with sustained periods of clear blue skies – creating beautiful light for photographers.
How much should I budget for a trip to Republic of the Congo?
As a safari destination, Republic of the Congo offers exclusive luxury in remote areas. Naturally, this exclusivity and luxury comes at a premium.
By utilizing scheduled charters in and out of Brazzaville, you can plan a trip that is as short as 3 nights (although longer is recommended to really explore the area). Monthly special offers are sometimes available for solo travelers.
While the country itself is relatively cheap, to maximize experiences in hard-to-reach locations, such as gorilla trekking in Odzala, we recommend budgeting a minimum of $9,500 per person for a 7-night journey.
Our favorite areas
- Odzala-Kokoua National Park is the highlight of the country. This is where travelers can explore pristine and remote wilderness and track western lowland gorillas.
- We recommend adding an extension to the Central African Republic to stay at Sangha Lodge. Both areas are part of the Congo Conservation Company, and while accommodations vary between the two areas, you can continue the adventure connecting these spots with a boat trip down the Sangha River.
What else should I know before planning a safari to Republic of the Congo?
- Republic of the Congo: Luxury & Private Safaris: Travelers who need only 5* accommodation without the hiccups of a developing tourist industry would not like the Congo.
- Republic of the Congo: Active Travelers: Similarly, if you are not an active, hands-on traveler, or if you want the classic “Out of Africa” safari experience, the Congo will not be a good fit.
- Republic of the Congo: Prepare to Walk: Much of your experience will be active – trekking gorillas, exploring the bais, night walks, kayaking. Game drives are available, but the highlights are best accessed on foot!
Ways to experience Republic of the Congo
Our favorite way to experience the country is getting deep in the rainforest. Journey from camp to camp in Odzala National Park by vehicle, foot, or kayak and learn all about the area’s wealth of history and ecological information.
Your guides can take you hiking through jungle trails, tracking gorilla on foot, or cover more ground by motorized boat. However you explore here, it’s all about getting out of the car and moving.
Wildlife you will see
Western lowland gorillas are the highlight for most travelers in the Congo. With that in mind, you may also encounter other various primates including wild chimpanzee and the putty nose monkey. Forest elephants, bongo, forest buffalo, sitatunga, spotted hyena, red river hog, and even hippos can also be found.
Bird lovers will have the chance to spot the African grey parrot, the green pigeon, and other rare birds. The area also boasts over 400 species of butterflies!
If you decide to head to Sangha, you can trek mangabey, spend time with the onsite pangolin researchers, and possibly find the rare picathartes bird.