Welcome to Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo (not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose capital, Kinshasa, sits on the opposite side of the Congo River). Once you have arrived and gone through visa formalities, you'll be met and transferred to the Saphir Hotel. Your driver will give you a small introduction to Brazzaville, a pleasant town of lively markets, strong local dining options, and beautiful modernist architecture such as the Basilique Sainte-Anne cathedral. After attending a welcome meeting at 6 pm, enjoy a free evening to relax and unwind. Dinner is available for purchase at the hotel restaurant.
Today it's off to Etoumbi, your gateway to the lush green wilds of Odzala National Park. Embrace an early start, rising at around 5:30 am to meet your driver in the hotel courtyard. Climb aboard your private overland vehicle and settle in for the journey. It'll take all day, so get comfortable! It's best to bring a packed lunch; it may be possible for the hotel or guide to organise this for you before you leave. Dinner is available for purchase on arrival at Etoumbi lodge.
Early in the morning, take a transfer in a private cruiser to Mbomo Lodge. Here you'll be met by park rangers and researchers for an introduction to the park, followed by a morning drive to a salt lick and elephant bai. These bais are a major feature of Odzala-Kokoua National Park – nice open clearings in the forest, ranging from one to ten hectares in size. It's a place you can come to watch wildlife drink and bathe in their natural habitat. The animals tend to come in numbers here, seeking out swampy waters which are usually high in minerals and salt. At around midday, return to Mbomo lodge to relax. Later, head out on another game drive, travelling deep inside the park in search of large mammals; keep your eyes peeled for elephants, water buffalo, sitatungas, forest hogs, and civettes.
It's time to take the adventure up a notch. Today we seek out the star of the show – the charismatic western lowland gorilla. An early morning drive focuses on tracking not only gorillas but other primates too, such as chimpanzees and monkeys. The skills of the local gorilla trackers is a beautiful thing to watch, and, even though little compares to your first encounter with one of these amazing creatures of the jungle, often half the fun is in the pursuit. After this morning's game drive, return to Mbomo Lodge midday to kick back and relax in your hammock. In the afternoon, head out and enjoy the second game drive of the day, returning to the site of habituation to enjoy the gorillas' company a second time, before returning to Mbomo Lodge for the evening.
Set out on a day-long safari adventure down the Lekoli River. This is a chance to see many species of birds, aquatic life, ecosystems, dense canopies and more. we will bring a packed lunch along from the Lodge. Be sure to keep your eye out for wildlife along the riverbanks as you enjoy your lunch. Spend some time on a pirogue (local canoe), keeping an eye to the side of the river for some wildlife movement. You might see hippos, Nile monitors, dwarf forest crocodiles and even chevrotain (mouse-deer). Return to the lodge in the late afternoon.
Take a morning stroll through the forest and experience some of the smaller wonders of the jungle – the canopy wildlife and the great variety of bird species found throughout the park. At midday, return to the lodge to relax and enjoy some lunch. As dusk approaches, join an expert for a night walk – this is your chance to see some nocturnal species. Cross your fingers for a bongo or, if you're lucky, a hyena sighting! After this final game walk, return to the lodge to retire for the evening.
Make the most of your final day in the park by visiting the gorillas one last time on a morning drive through the park. Often there are new paths that have opened or new viewing sites, with some areas seasonal and dependent on the time of your visit, and today may allow you to take advantage of any spots that were previously off limits. When it's all over, head back to Mbomo lodge for a bit of downtime and perhaps a bite of lunch. The return drive to Etoumbi begins in the afternoon.
Wake up nice and early for the return journey to Brazzaville. With the adventure behind you and the wide open road ahead, sit back, review some of the photos you've no doubt snapped throughout the course of your explorations, and enjoy the great plains of Central Africa streaming by. On arrival in Brazzaville, you'll be transferred to the Saphir Hotel for your final evening.
Transfer to the airport as the expedition comes to an end this morning.