Best place to see bonobos
A quick introduction —I’m a friend of Tomer’s — we met by a freak coincidence after I met his friend randomly on a train and he mentioned that I might know this guy Tomer who studies at the same school as me, showed me his Facebook page, and the very top post was by Jon Hall, about Sangha Lodge. I had just gotten back from being literally the only guest in Sangha Lodge so was totally shocked that this completely random guy’s Facebook page would be referencing it. Since then I’ve gotten to know Tomer and have realized that I will never be as hardcore as him or most on this page, but still share the love for awesome wildlife adventures.
I have come up with the following five possible places to see bonobos in DRC and would like to go next summer, ideally around July-August. I have made initial contacts/done basic research on all of them, but there are not too many reports/pieces of information out there. Most important to me is that the price is reasonable and that the habituation level/odds of decent viewings/photos are high.
- Lomako: Trip originates and returns to Mbandaka, which is a 1 hour commercial flight from Kinshasa. Canoe fixed costs are $2500. Permits are $60 per person per day in the park. Canoe crew is $20 per day (all days). Park trackers are $5 per person per day in the park. Food is approximately $10 per day per person. Travel time is about 2 days into the park and 2 days return. Assuming 4 days in the park, we’d be looking at: group of 4 paying $1005 each, group of 2 paying $1670 each, and a solo (don’t make me do this!) paying $3000. This does not include the cost of the roundtrip domestic flight, which looks like it will be about $300.
- Lui Kotale: In Salonga NP, apparently it is quite expensive to access and normally requires a charter plane. For the larger sized plane, this is nearly $7000 one way. The smaller plane is $2600 one way, but can only take 200kg (which means I’d need to find someone very light to join!).
- Mbou Mon Tour: In same area as Lac Tumba, I’ve gotten a quote from tour operator GoCongo. The trip is depart Kinshasa and arrive on the 3rd day to the site then a few days with the bonobos, then 2 days return. With 2 days with the bonobos, this whole trip would cost 2500 euros per person, assuming a group of 4. Also includes 3 nights in Kinshasa total, all food during the bonobo trip, and all breakfast during the Kinshasa days. Includes boats, crew, etc. GoCongo is very reliable and trustworthy — I have met the owner and worked with him for some minor bookings.
- Kokolopori: I had a long phone conversation with the guy who runs Bonobo.org, which runs the Kokolopori reserve, but it’s been difficult to get actual logistical information. It does seem like it will be quite expensive unless a large group was gathered.
- Lac Tumba: Run by the WWF, told me that they do have facilities for visitors and that the habituation levels are quite good, but did not yet get back to me with logistical details.
4 people at Lomako: $1300/person for 8 day trip including 4 days with bonobos, all food, roundtrip flights from Kinshasa to Mbandaka, 4 days roundtrip motorized canoe ride, all guides/permits
4 people at Mbou Mon Tour: $2700/person for 9 day trip including 3 nights in Kinshasa, all food except lunch/dinner in Kinshasa, 4 days roundtrip motorized canoe ride, 2 days with bonobos (would need to extend this), all guides/permits
4 people LuiKotale: Apparently the flight alone would be $14000 total, so this is probably cost prohibitive, but I think the plane may be able to take 12 people, so may be realistic with a larger group
As of now, the Lomako trip seems like it would be the best because it is very reasonably priced and would be a really cool adventure too, given the 4 day roundtrip canoe journey into/out of the place. I am not clear on the habituation level there, though. I think perhaps if I could get a group together, the Kokolopori guys would be more willing to give some details and logistical plans. The Lui Kotale trip seems like it will be too expensive, unless we got a very solid group and determined that the park was significantly better than the alternatives.
- Does anyone have any insights into the best time to see bonobos in general? Based on my research, July/August seem decent, but it’s quite hard to get non conflicting info on this.
- Is anyone interested in going to see them around July/August of next year? It would be ideal to get a group of 4, or at least 2, to save on costs.
- Advice/thoughts on the bonobo visiting options would be great!