Salonga National Park is Africa’s largest tropical rainforest reserve situated at the heart of the central basin of the Congo river in the provinces of Kasai Occidental, Kasai Oriental, Equateur and Bandundu. The park is very isolated and is primarily accessible by water and air only, and it comprises of two separate land blocks of roughly equal size that are divided by a 40km corridor.
The park covers over 36,000 square km (14,000 square miles) and located midway between Kinshasa, the national capital, and Kisangani, 1,160 km to the northeast. The administrative headquarters at Monkoto (Équateur province), on the Luilaka River southeast of Mbandaka, is accessible only by boat from the Congo River, making it hard for people to occupy this region.
Salonga national park was established in 1970 and has two separate sections, one north and one south of Monkoto with a dense equatorial forest provides habitats for parrots, elephants, antelope, and a variety of monkeys and apes plus the pygmy chimpanzees which are found in this part of the world.
The park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, and in 1999 it was unfortunately included on the list of world heritage sites that are in danger by poachers and civil wars in the eastern part of Congo. However, the park has regained popularity as it got divided into 6 sections with each one having a ranger station for easy management by armed park rangers to stop and eliminated poaching activities in this park. The is believed to even virgin areas that have never been occupied by humans.
Activities done in Salonga national park
The park has a variety of animals that can be seen on a wildlife tour inside the park. The mammals in the park include the leopards, elephants, hippopotamus, forest buffalos, bush pigs, the African golden cats, long-tailed pangolin, giant pangolin, tree pangolin, Dryas monkey, Angolan slender mongoose, Thollon’s red colobus, aquatic genet, yellow-backed duiker, sitatunga, okapi, bushbuck, water chevrotain and among many others.
Salonga national park is also home to a variety of bird species approximately 153 that are currently recorded, and these bird species include the endemic Congo peafowl, yellow-billed stork, black-bellied bustard, African grey parrot, cattle egret, migrant black stork and many more. These can be seen as you travel for your birding experience in the forests of birding spots with the help of a guide and binoculars
Nature walks in Salonga national park
This is yet another activity engaged in while in the national park, where you get to have go through the park on foot as you visit the swamps, forests, birds and gentle wildlife animals all with a ranger guide leading you to these beautiful places. You get to exercise your body as you walk through all this for hours. You will also get to see some animals feeding and visiting them in their habitants during the nature walk.
There are local populations living around the national park and these contribute a lot to the cultural tourism activities to the visitors who come to Salonga national park. A group of people living around in the outskirts of the park called the Lyalima, they welcome the visitors and engage the in activities like preparation of local food and tasting different prepared dishes, leaning the local dances and music plus making handy craft materials that they back home with as gifts and in remembrance for their visit to the Salonga national park.
This is yet another activity done by visitors in the park and for one to enjoy more and engage with the wildlife is through taking on a hunting trip with an armed ranger guide. This is always opposed by conservationists but still takes place in various national parks as a way of raising support funds, regulating animal population and creating more fun in the park. The visitor enjoys this through shooting down small animals in specific selected areas that are allowed by the park management, and the animals that are mostly hunted are those that have very big populations and this is one of the ways of regulating their numbers.
This is another activity done in the park were visitors get on boats with ranger guide to go fishing in selected water bodies within the national park. The park has a variety of water bodies including Lula, Luilaka, Lomela among others which are suitable for fishing as an activity.
Accommodation in the park
Being located in a very remote area, there few accommodation facilities and one has to make booking earlier when travelling to the park. There are luxurious Bandas, mid-range Bandas and budget tents for visitors.
How to get to Salonga National Park
You can use both road air transfers heading to the park, and it is reachable using domestic charter flights from Monkoto, Mundja and Anga airstrips. The park is about 100 kilometers south of Boende in between Kisangani and Kinshasa.
When to visit the park
The best time to visit is during the dry from June to August since the park is always wet throughout the year. During those months, there are no floods and vegetation is not very thick hence clearer views of wildlife and other activities. The park receives rainfall amount of about 1700 mm each year.
You can always contact a safari company or a tour operator to organize a safari to Salonga national park for this amazing experience.
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