Burrowed in the heart of the Congo River basin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is the expansive Salonga National Park. 36,000 square kilometres of vegetation that’s chiefly rainforest, provides the perfect ecosystem for high concentrations of bonobos and three species of pangolin. Salonga is the largest tropical rainforest reserve in Africa, earning it a UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
The park is dissected by curvy and broad rivers, that give rise to a network of tributaries and marshlands. The pristine terrain is an extensive region of waterlogged landscapes, only accessible via river or air. Boat trips along the Congo River into the national park offer an exciting and adventurous journey to this tropical utopia in Africa.
Because Salonga is so immaculate and untouched, the area is relatively inaccessible. The closest international airport is Kinshasa International Airport, which connects to Mankato airstrip.
The Salonga National Park is the largest tropical rainforest on the African continent and teems with a variety of flora species that thrive in these circumstances.
Safari-goers to the park will be able to spot the bonobo antelope as well as the long-tailed, giant pangolin and tree pangolin.
There are high densities of bonobos in the park, in particular in the southern regions. Primate populations are high in the rainforests and sightings of Thollon’s red colobus and Dryas monkeys are not uncommon. Uniquely enough, there are three species of pangolin found in the Salonga National Park, which include the long-tailed pangolin, giant pangolin, and tree pangolin. Other mammals to spot are genets, golden cats, hippo, forest buffalo, elephants and slender-snouted crocodiles.
Sitatunga, okapi, bushbuck, duiker and water chevrotain are a few of the antelopes within the national park. Birding in this area is also phenomenal. Cattle egrets, storks, Congo peacock, and black-bellied bustards are just a few of the species in the area. In total there are 51 mammals, 300 reptiles, 130 species of fish, and over 220 species of bird.
The best time to visit the park is during the dry season, which is from June to August. Most of the year it rains, and sometimes the park becomes inaccessible. The park is wet year-round, as are most tropical regions in central Africa.
Salonga is a beautiful and isolated national park, best explored in motorized riverboats and on foot. Riverboat cruises allow visitors to get up close and personal with the splendour of nature in its raw form. There’s nothing quite like cruising down the wide river trying to spot waders, birds of prey, and primates swinging in the canopy of trees.
River guides introduce visitors to the culture, history, and wildlife of the area. Guided walking safaris are yet another incredible way to experience the DRC on foot. Other water-based excursions include fishing safaris, which take place on the many tributaries and marshy areas of the park.
Accommodation options within the park are comfortable and vary from tented camps to budget bandas and luxurious bandas. Budget huts require visitors to be completely self-sufficient.