Odzala represents one of the last truly pristine and remote ecosystems in Africa. In the 80 years since it was established, it has gained a near-mythical status due to the fact that very few people have ever been there, and the incredible stories that those few intrepid explorers brought back.
Few other protected areas can compare to Odzala when it comes to habitat and wildlife diversity. From the air, what appears at first to be an unbroken forest canopy stretching to the horizon, is revealed on closer inspection to be an incredible patchwork of forest blocks, moist savannah, sinuous rivers and glittering bais.
The bais – marshy clearings rich in mineral salts – are key to understanding and experiencing Odzala. It’s here that the greatest concentrations of bird and animal life are found, from swirling flocks of grey parrots and green pigeons, to small herds of forest elephant – the legendary ghosts of the forest.
Vehicles and boats permit access to the park’s different ecosystems, but it is on foot that you will gain the greatest appreciation of Odzala – following flooded elephant paths to penetrate forest blocks in search of shy antelope, or tracking western lowland gorillas through dense marantaceae vegetation.
Pottery fragments hint at the human history of this region, but in more recent times, our primate cousins have had free rein in Odzala. Like much of the Congo Basin, however, Odzala is increasingly threatened by loggers and ivory poachers.
Far-sighted conservation and tourism policies offer a viable, sustainable alternative. By visiting Odzala you’ll not only be discovering a unique place, but you’ll be helping the people of northern Congo find a better way to live in harmony with the forests that have traditionally provided them with food, shelter and medicine.
Spending time in Odzala also gives you the opportunity to visit local communities and learn more about their sustainable forest lifestyles.