DR Congo is mostly known for lowland and mountain gorilla tracking in Africa. Today let us look at Okapis in Congo. If you are looking for the best safari destinations that offer visitors with authentic African experiences then look no further than Okapi Wildlife Reserve. The reserve was established in 1992 and became a World Heritage Site in 1996. Its creation was largely to offer refuge to the rare okapi, plant species and other numerous wildlife species together with the lifestyle and culture of native people and others.
Okapi wildlife reserve extends up to 13700 square meters of the Ituri forest and it is credited for its intense plant and animal diversity in Africa. About 5000 out of the 30000 okapis thrive within the reserve and this represents approximately a sixth of the okapi population on earth today. The okapi feature as the only famous cousin of the giraffe with similar striped pattern on the hind and a deep purplish coat. The reserve also rewards visitors with its most spectacular sceneries especially from most of the waterfalls on the Ituri and Epulu Rivers. About one 5th of Ituri forest lies within okapi wildlife reserve with a Pleistocene largely covered by thick evergreen “Mbau” and humid semi rainforest, swamp forests that thrives along the shores and clearings locally called as “edos” and Inselbergs.
Okapi Wildlife Reserve is also proud of more than 101 mammal species, 17 apes some of which include the 13 diurnal and 4 nocturnals, 7500 chimpanzees and others. Approximately 1500 rare plant species are found within the reserve. Besides, Okapi Wildlife Reserve features as one of the Important Birding Areas in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and about 376 bird species call this protected area their home most of which include the endemic Congo Peafowl (Afropavo congensis), the golden napped weaver, yellow legged weaver, lyre tailed honey guide and black collared lovebird. The biggest number of forest ongulates thrive within the reserve with 14 species that include the six (6) types of Cephalophus and not to forget the intense number of forest elephants that count about 7500 individuals plus the bongo, the dwarf antelope (Neotragus batesi), Leopards, forest buffaloes, the giant forest hog, the water chevrotains (Hyemoschus aquaticus) and variety of indigenous species from the Congo River Basin.
When to visit the Okapi Wildlife Reserve
Okapi Wildlife Reserve can be visited at anytime of the year, but it can be best explored from June to August. These months are characterized by limited rainfall.
For visitors who intend to visit this reserve, remember to obtain visa for Republic of Congo, malaria and yellow fever vaccination certificate and these documents should be obtained a week or two weeks in advance. You may also require a trekking permit for the Okapi Wildlife Reserve and usually clients are encouraged to travel in groups.
How to reach to Okapi Wildlife Reserve
Okapi Wildlife Reserve lies 40 kilometers west of Mambasa along the route between Beni and Kisangani and its main headquarters is found about 300 meters from Epulu town. For visitors who are in Kinshasa, you can take a flight up to Bunia where you will continue up to Epulu where the okapi wildlife reserve can be easily reached. As well, flights can be arranged from Kisangani or you can opt to rent a 4 (four) by 4 (four) safari car take about 8 (eight) hours’ driving to Okapi wildlife reserve. Another option is available for visitors who are in Uganda, whereby they can take flights from Entebbe International Airport but visitors are encouraged to spend a night prior visiting the wildlife reserve.
Where to stay in Okapi Wildlife Reserve
Okapi Wildlife Reserve has no luxury accommodation facilities but visitors can spend a night in one the nearby budget, mid range and camping options at the headquarters. The best areas for your stay over include New Cosmos Hotel which is located around Bunia, Vukuke Guest House and Guest House Du Canon around Kisangani and others.
With above discussion, Congo has much more to offer than gorilla tracking. Okapi Wildlife Reserve is one of the few safari destinations in Africa that offer visitors with true African experiences given its untouched natural wonders. If you are interested in exploring more about the rare okapi and other rare bird species in the DRC then consider this reserve a must to include in your bucket list.