It’s The Moment You have All Been Waiting For (Just Kidding): Planning Dzangha-Sangha

Hi again everyone,

So I’m starting to try to put it together, and I am clearly open to suggestions regarding:
Dates
Duration
Itinerary

I think so far, the people who have expressed any degree of interest are:
Tomer
Max
Morten
Luc
Femi
Jon
Venkat
Matthias
Joanna
Vladimir
[Jason&James – I’m excluding you because I think we concluded that you guys want to do a much longer trip with a group who joins the entire itinerary 🙂 ]

Whoever is still interested, please let me know, and are there any new people interested?
I mean, it’s best to go in groups of 4.. But first we’ll see how many people can agree on the same dates..  If we’re too many, maybe we can form sub-groups (which would probably be great for Rod) 🙂

Also, just to kind of get an idea of “target” species for this trip, I was thinking:
White-bellied & Black-bellied pangolin
Lowland Gorillas
Forest Elephants (of course)
Bongos
Sitatunga
Forest Buffalo
Forest Hogs
River Hogs
Duikers
Potto
Galagos
African Palm Civet
Guereza Colobus
Putty-nosed Monkey
Moustached Monkey
Crowned Guenon
Agile Mangabey
Grey-cheeked Mangabey
De Brazza’s
Anomalure
Clawless Otter
Mongoose species
Tree Hyrax
Servaline Genet
Golden Cat (I wish)

So I’ve been trying to reach Rod, and he’s definitely a tough one to reach (I’ve talked to him before, but it’s been a while). In the meanwhile, does anyone know the approximate/tentative dates when they’d be able to go? I’m thinking February and March are the middle of the dry season and are best for Bongos/Hogs/Pangolins… Does this sound right? How long should we go for? I was thinking 10-12 days on the ground (not including travel of course). How many visits to Sangha Bai? Bai Hoku? Should we annex a visit to Mbeli Bai? or visit another section of the greater Ndoki-Sangha area?

Any and every suggestion that will get us to start planning duration and itinerary would be great. Thanks in advance, and I’m looking forward to start planning this awesome excursion.

Cheers!
Tomer

17 Comments
  1. Femi 1 year ago

    Finally! I’ve been waiting for this! However, I’ve got a different trip (Tanzania) now tugging at me for the same time frame, so I’ll defer to the rest of the group.
    For what it’s worth, 10 days on the ground in mid February would suit me fine.
    Thanks!
    Femi

  2. Martin Singfield 1 year ago

    Having travelled to both Dzangha and Mbeli in 2006, I would highly recommend spending a few days in Mbeli. You will have a good chance of multiple gorilla sighting in the Bai, as well as combined gorilla and elephant sightings. The boat ride into Mbeli is also magical.
    In Dzangha try and spend some time with the ba’ka and Louise Sarno, who has lived in the forest with them for many years.
    Rod is fantastic, by the way!
    Martin

  3. Profile photo of sjefo
    sjefo 1 year ago

    Hi Tomer,

    I would love to go back to Dzanga so I would like to be kept in the loop. Depends on the actual travel dates whether I/we would be able to join, but let’s see. We are talking Feb-March 2017, right?

    Cheers,

    Sjef

  4. Profile photo of tomeslice Author
    tomeslice 1 year ago

    Hi everyone and thanks for your expressed interest and suggestions!

    Yes, I think I’m definitely leaning towards including Mbeli Bai and of course the Ba’aka who will find us my first pangolin 🙂
    (that is, if I don’t miraculously see a Tremminck’s one in SA this fall)

    After a very informative discussing with Venkat, for which I’m very grateful, I’m thinking end-ish of March is better for bongos, pangolins, hogs, otters, duikers and primates if we find a fruiting tree.. Does this sound legitimate? Would this work for whoever is interested?
    I don’t currently have actual dates in mind, so if someone starts throwing dates around, it would be a starting point 🙂

    I also talked to Rod. He will send me a more lengthy email tomorrow and we will start from there.

    Cheers, and let’s continue discussing the details!

    • Profile photo of sjefo
      sjefo 1 year ago

      Mbeli is fabulous for all the reasons Martin mentions and it is a nicer, more serene and more scenic place than Dzanga bai in my opinion, but if you go 10-12 days in total I am not sure if it should be included in the schedule, because it requires quite some effort and money to get there. From Rod’s lodge it takes two travel days one way to get to Mbeli. Mbeli is fantastic for gorilla (and monkeys if lucky), but very poor for bongo and unreliable for both hogs (more so than the Dzanga area). I am sure that the guides will know other bais but not sure if they (are allowed to) take tourists there. I would investigate a bit more before including Mbeli if the focus is on finding the more difficult species.
      Sjef

      • tomeslice 1 year ago

        That is a valid point as well!
        Let’s start talking logistics:
        What is the safest and most cost-effective way to get to sangha lodge? Cameroon–>car–>boat? Congo–>car–>boat?
        How long is the net travel time just to reach sangha lodge from the moment we touch ground at the airport?
        If we end up flying out of Congo on the way out, would it be possible to do Mbeli after Sangha, and before heaing home?
        Like I said – I’m completely open to any itinerary suggestions, such as “including” or “excluding” Mbeli bai. Or including Mbeli Bai instead of Bai Hoku (though I’m not sure if that’s a good idea.. any thoughts?) or just completely concentrating on Dzanga-Sangha and leaving the equally-awesome-sounding Nouable-Ndoki for another visit.
        Maybe we can also start zoning in on dates. Are there flights to Cameroon/Congo daily? I’ll probably be getting there via Addis Ababa (I’m guessing, since I’m flying from Israel)

        Or maybe it’s better to first put together a list of participants, and then start coordinating the details via group emails?
        Sjef – what dates would be good for you? Would you have time for 10-12 days on the ground? Femi – would end of March work for you?

        Cheers!
        Tomer

  5. Profile photo of Jon Hall
    Jon Hall 1 year ago

    Hi Tomer, I am still interested (my girlfriend too). For us, then the second half of March works pretty well. And a 2 week trip is also good. I would prefer to visit another site too (a week at Sangha is enough for me) … I don’t know what we could see at Mbeli that we couldn’t see in Sangha…? Cheryl’s report of Odzala made that place sound pretty cool with a bunch of different species (also supposed to be good for Red River Hogs which are one of my priorities this time around) http://mammalwatching.com/Afrotropical/other%20reports/CA%20Congo%202013.pdf Could you ask Rod about the logistics of getting there from Bayanga?

    A good thing about organising a biggish group to travel is that we could charter a plane to get in I assume … Bayanga airstrip is very close to Sangha Lodge. In 2011 most visitors came by plane from Bangui (though I drove in from Bangui). I know things have changed after the war but Rod again will know the latest. Once in camp we could travel in smaller groups to the different sites.

    In practice most of the time is going to be spent either near the gorillas (walking through the forest around where the habituated group are), or sitting on the platform at Sangha Bai waiting for Bongos and maybe hogs. Rod can also take a boat up the river too looking for stuff. Perhaps there are other areas too that he is taking people too now.

    cheers

    • Profile photo of vnsankar
      vnsankar 1 year ago

      I don’t think you’d gain too much at Mbeli. The other group I met at Sangha Lodge went up from NNNP through Mbeli; the main things you’d add there are Red-cheeked Rope Squirrel if you’re lucky Spotted-necked Otter and De Brazza’s Monkey.

      I did a fair bit of research on Odzala as I was initially planning on going there as I wasn’t aware that CAR was an option until later in the planning stage. Odzala does have a number of different species from Sangha Lodge but many of them are tough to see. I agree that Red River Hog seems easier to see; De Brazza’s Monkey and Hammer Bat are easier too and Servaline Genet, Emin’s Giant Rat, and Yellow-backed Duiker seem easier too (they run night drives in Odzala). Cheryl was quite lucky with the Northern Talapoin. Water Chevrotain used to be reliable (at least as of last summer) around one of the camps as they had a habituated individual; not sure if it’s still around. As a whole, wildlife is tougher to come around in Odzala than Dzanga Sangha. Rod’s son Alon guides at Odzala so it’d be worth talking to him.

      The best way to get to Sangha is to fly in from Yaounde on one of the missionary planes (I think SIL is the organization that runs the flights). It’s very expensive with only one group but if you can get multiple people together, it’s somewhat reasonable. Avoid the 3-day drive from Yaounde at all costs!!

  6. Femi 1 year ago

    Sorry, looks like it’ll be Tanzania for me so I think I’ll have to pass on this. I’ll still be eavesdropping though just in case my other plans don’t work out. Thanks,

  7. Profile photo of sjefo
    sjefo 1 year ago

    Tomer,
    Did you hear anything from Rod?
    Cheers,
    sjef

    • Profile photo of tomeslice Author
      tomeslice 1 year ago

      I did!
      He just wrote me back again yesterday, saying that there are now bongos in the Bai almost all the time, whereas last month there were hardly any – which strengthens our decision to go there in March.
      I think we should just put an itinerary together ourselves and send it to Rod for approval, as opposed to having him build one for us, because he seems busy. What do you think?

      • Profile photo of Jon Hall
        Jon Hall 1 year ago

        Tomer, I think we need Rod’s advice on how to get to DS and how we could travel on to Odzala or Mbeli (time, logistics plus $s)… that would be helpful to our planning. It shouldn’t be too difficult for him. Not sure we need much more of an itinerary than that at the moment do we?

  8. Profile photo of kittykat23uk
    kittykat23uk 1 year ago

    Hiya, I am definitely still interested in this trip. But it will really depend on the cost. I am usually flexible with dates but it would be good to avoid Easter if possible. Happy for someone more knowledgeable to take the lead in planning the itinerary. 🙂

    Jo

  9. Profile photo of vdinets
    vdinets 1 year ago

    I have no idea where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing next year, but I’ll certainly do my best to make the trip.

    Note that there is a long list of small mammals either known only from DS area or known from there and a bunch of even less accessible places, so a few extra days there wouldn’t hurt, and might be more effective than spending time moving to a second site. Also, going in for longer would allow us to set up bait stations in the forest.

    Forest buffalo and red river hog are very easy at (easily accessible) Lekedi Park in Gabon. It’s an excellent place – I’ll write a trip report when I have time.

    Would it be possible to use Sherman traps, pitfall traps and mistnets at DS?

    • Profile photo of vdinets
      vdinets 1 year ago

      Don’t get me wrong: I’m not arguing against any particular trip plan at this stage. It’s just that my last trip to Central Africa was basically a failure because there wasn’t enough time and money, so now I’m a bit concerned about the forest time : travel time ratio.

    • Profile photo of Jon Hall
      Jon Hall 1 year ago

      Yes, there should be no problem trapping in DS I suspect

  10. Profile photo of tomeslice Author
    tomeslice 1 year ago

    Hi again everyone,
    Joanna and Vladimir – that’s great. I’ll keep you guys in the loop.
    I asked Rod to suggest an itinerary, so I’m waiting for that. He seems busy, and only writes short, one-line emails, but then again, this trip is a year away, so no reason to panic.
    I’ll let him know that we’re interested in spending 7-8 days at least in SD and a few additional days in Odzala/Mbeli.
    We’ll see what we can come up with.

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