At a Glance
Dates: July 15th - August 1st, 2022
Extension: Due to the current security situation in Epulu, we are unable to offer an extension to search for okapi. Please contact us to express an interest in this extension, and we will update you should this change.
Prices: £5,995 pp sharing (with a £150 single supplement), excluding flights.
In a sentence: An expedition in every sense of the word, this trailblazing trip takes us to one of the remotest corners of Africa in search of the extraordinary Bonobos of the Congo.
Whilst to many the Democratic Republic of the Congo may conjure up thoughts on instability and inhospitability, to the extraordinary and endangered Bonobo the DRC is a safe haven. Shielded from the outside world by dense jungle and sheer remoteness, Lomako Faunal Reserve is home to a large population of well-studied, and therefore habituated, Bonobos. It is perhaps the best place on earth to spend time with these rarely-encountered animals - their antics will keep you fascinated for hours as they feed and interact with each other. There is plenty to see in Lomako other than Bonobos, with the primate diversity here being particularly exceptional. Allen's Swamp Monkey, Angolan Colobus, Dryas Monkey and much more can be glimpsed in the dense jungle of Lomako. For the particularly committed (and lucky), Lomako may even give up its Forest Buffalo, Bongo, Leopard or African Golden Cat as we explore. The birding in the area is also exceptional, with nearly 500 species recorded here, including the endemic and highly-prized Congo Peafowl.
A trip to Lomako is no small undertaking, and clients should be prepared to enjoy the adventure of getting to Lomako as much as Lomako itself! Five full days on the Congo, Lomako and Maringa rivers in a traditional canoe are required to reach the reserve, and four days when returning downstream. There is even an internal flight required before reaching the river. Whilst this is a full-on expedition-style itinerary, clients choosing to brave the interior of the Congo are sure to be richly rewarded with an experience very few will ever have.
On arrival into Kinshasa, you will be met by a Pictus Safaris representative and transferred to the Hotel Invest. For those who arrive early enough, we can arrange a tour of Kinshasa for an additional fee - there will be a day at the end of the itinerary with free time in Kinshasa, so don't fret if you can't fit in a tour today. Be sure to rest up this evening, as a taxing and exhilarating few weeks lie ahead.
This morning, it is an early start as we are transferred to Kinshasa Airport for our 8am flight to Mbandaka. The flight will last just over 90 minutes, affording us a view of the vast wilderness we will be exploring in the coming days. On arrival in Mbandaka, we will transfer to our basic hotel to relax for the remainder of the day.
Mbandaka has limited facilities and is primarily a stop on the trading route between Kinshasa and the Congolese interior. Points of interest include a diverse botanical garden, and the "equatorial stone", marking the point at which European explorers thought the Congo River crossed the equator.
Days Three to Seven
En Route to Lomako Faunal Reserve
The adventure well and truly begins! Each of these five days will begin with an early start, heading up the river by canoe. These canoes are relatively spacious, with room to seat four people with no moving around, but are certainly not luxurious. However, the opportunity to journey up these remote rivers is well worth a little discomfort. We will stop for lunch on the riverbank each day before continuing our journey upstream in the afternoon. Each night we will set up camp in local communities, with permission from village chiefs. By the end of the seventh day of the trip we should arrive in Lomako - although we must be flexible, as the shallow and complex channels of the Lomako River may delay our arrival.
Days Eight to Eleven
Lomako Faunal Reserve
Finally, we have made it to Lomako. The area we will be based in has housed a number of research projects in the past and we may be lucky enough to share the locality with researchers during our stay. As such, we will have insider knowledge of the fauna of Lomako, and how best to locate our quarry. We will set out from camp on foot very early each morning, usually when the forest is still enveloped in darkness - our aim will be to find the local families of Bonobo who spend their night high in the canopy. If successful, we'll be able to watch these fascinating primates descend to the ground and go about their daily business - feeding, playing and (famously) fornicating.
When not with Bonobos, we can explore the forest surrounding our camp to our heart's content (provided our ecoguards are content with this arrangement). The trails around camp are frequented by Buffalo, Leopard, African Golden Cat and many smaller mammal species. It's important to note that seeing these creatures can be difficult, due to the dense vegetation, but with patience and perservance, sightings of the rare and retiring wildlife found here are very much possible.
The birdlife around camp is also excellent. The legendary Congo Peafowl has been encountered here on numerous occasions and we can make a special effort to locate this species should the group wish to. The variety of birdlife will be sure to keep even the most seasoned birders entertained.
Our accommodation will be basic in Lomako, and it is important that clients come to Lomako with reasonable expectations. Our tents will be comfortable but very basic, as will the shared ablutions and cooking facilities. We will have cooks and porters, as well as local guides, with us at all times, but please do be aware that our accommodation is in keeping with the remoteness of the region.
Days Twelve to Fifteen
Return to Mbandaka
We now sadly have to bid farewell to Lomako and begin the odyssey downstream to Mbandaka. As on our outward journey, our days will be broken by stops for lunch and ended in local villages where we will overnight.
We have a full day to explore Mbandaka today. Many guests choose to recuperate, however, after a particularly taxing and enjoyable few days!
After a night in a local hotel, we will transfer to Mbandaka Airport for our brief flight back to Kinshasa. The rest of the day is at leisure, with a tour of the city included in the price of the tour. We will spend the night at the Hotel Invest.
Today we will be transferred to the airport for our flights home.
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run in July 2022, aiming to take advantage of the driest month of the year. This will make our stay under canvass in Lomako as pleasant as possible, whilst making travel upstream relatively straightforward. This tour dates for this itinerary are from July 15th to August 1st.
The cost of this trip is £5,995 per person excluding international flights, with a £150 single supplement. This includes all meals (excluding those in Kinshasa and Mbandaka), accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. Drinks other than water are not included. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £1,800 plus any single supplement must be paid.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Kinshasa at the end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost.
British nationals do require a visa to enter the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa. Details of the process for obtaining a tourist visa for the DRC are complex, and will be provided to you upon booking. The cost of a DRC entry visa for UK citizens is £80 - this must be obtained from your nearest DRC embassy, which for UK citizens will be in London. To acquire a tourist visa for the DRC you will require a valid passport, two passport photos, a completed application form, proof of your address, proof of Yellow Fever vaccination, a Letter of Invitation (provided by Pictus Safaris), a bank statement, and a copy of your itinerary.
Please also note that there is a departure tax of $50 plus 5000 Congolese Francs payable on your departure from Kinshasa Airport.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in July is mild and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 17 degrees Celsius.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing US Dollars.
Safety and Security
We understand that for some potential visitors, the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a concern. Pictus Safaris take the safety of clients extremely seriously and we are in constant communication with our ground operators to monitor the security situation in all of our destinations.
The security situation in the DRC is more stable than sometimes thought. The east and north-east of the country, particularly near to borders, are poorly governed and rebel activity is common, which is why we currently cannot offer extensions to Epulu or Garamba. However, the interior of the DRC is stable and unrest is extremely rare. The bulk of this tour is spent in highly remote areas, so we are confident that we will not encounter any security issues.
All Pictus Safaris clients must have travel insurance to travel with us. As travel to the DRC is advised against by national travel advisory bodies, most travel insurance policies will not be valid here. We recommend High Risk Voyager insurance as it covers medical evacuation from remote areas. Please note that coverage for the DRC is not included in annual multi-trip High Risk Voyager policies, so a single-trip policy may need to be taken out.
To secure a booking on this fantastic holiday, please fill out the details below.