TRAVEL EXPERIENCE IN LOBEKE NATIONAL PARK
Lobeke National Park is situated on the extreme southeast region of Cameroon. It covers a surface area of 1,838.55 km2 (709.87 sq mi). Lobeke forms part of the trans-boundary conservation initiative, known as Sangha River Tri-National Park, a priority landscape that includes Dzangha-Ndoki National Park in Central African Republic, and Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in Congo-Brazzaville. This protected area of primary forest is the largest undestroyed tropical forest in Africa, and the best place to observe Western lowland gorillas, forest elephants, red forest buffaloes, leopards, chimpanzees, and the endangered bongo, a beautiful orange antelope with white stripes.
TRAVEL HIGHLIGHTS OF LOBEKE NATIONAL PARK
This protected area is predominantly a semi-evergreen forest, most of which has never been logged. It is a forest characterized by an enormous variety of plants, with more than 300 species of trees. Together with its floral richness Lobeke has 45 mammal species, excluding rodents, 305 bird species -3 of them new to science!-. Africa’s hugest grey parrot population is found in this park. 18 out of 30 species of reptiles found in the sub-region have been recorded in Lobeke, 16 amphibians, and about 215 butterfly species can be found there, 8 of them being endemic in Cameroon.
One of Lobeke’s most outstanding characteristics is its amazing network of swampy forest clearings. These large clearings, known as ‘bais’ by the Baka pygmy population, are rich in saltlicks and serve as a pool of attraction for wildlife. They are large grass fields with unique vegetations found deep inside the forest and are maintained by large mammals such as forest elephants, Western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, black colobus , red forest buffaloes, bongo antelopes and sitatungas. Six forest clearings are being monitored in Lobeke. They include Bolo, Djangui, Ndangaye, Ngoa, Djaloumbe, and Petite Savane. Observation towers (miradors) have been recently constructed near these bais. Miradors are wooden structures that can accommodate up to five people and serve as platform for observation of animals the visit the clearings. Apart from observing animals at the clearings, or trekking inside the tropical forest, night walks in the forest can be organised to observe galagos, pottos, hyrax, bats, nightjars, civets, genets, and the magic sound of the jungle at night.
The Baka pygmies have lied in this forest area since immemorial times. They continue to lead a traditional way of life, based in gathering and hunting. They respect Lobeke forest as their Goddess –Ejengi they call it- and they are the true protectors of this jungle. Since the very first day we visited the area we knew that the Baka would be our main collaborators, together with the park’s administration. We strongly believe that the Baka’s must be part of the process of projecting Lobeke as one of Africa’s next eco-touristic destinations. Ethno-tourism activities with the Baka and Bangando (local Bantu farming tribe) could include for example, one or two days trips into the forest with the Baka to hunt for duiker with nets or monkeys with crossbows. Additionally, tourists could accompany Baka or Bangando on gathering trips for medicinal plants, caterpillars, bush mangoes, and crayfish (seasonal) building materials, palm wine tapping and fishing trips.
In Middle-Africa we’ve known the area for quite a while and since the very beginning we have been supporting all government and local initiatives so that Lobeke National Park could be visited by tourist. In 2011 there are two lodging facilities in Lobeke: Djembe Camp (east side, near the Sangha River) and Kombo Camp (west side, near Mambele village). Both camps have twin rooms with internal toilets. Their capacity is of 16 people and bookings have to be made in advance.
ORGANISING YOUR TRIP TO LOBEKE NATIONAL PARK
Middle-Africa organises travel tours to Lobeke National Park all year around. We propose getting to Lobeke National Park by road with our 4x4 vehicles. Private airplanes can also be hired in Douala or Yaoundé. Despite the comfort of flying from your arrival airport to one of the 3 airstrips around Lobeke and owned by logging companies, we prefer driving there because you get the chance to visit Bantu villages, old German colonial towns (such as Abong Mbang, Doumé, and Molondou), pygmy camps, and a great feel of adventure! We propose reaching Mambele (the park’s main entrance) in 2 days. Yaoundé-Bertoua (341km-6h), Bertoua-Yokadouma (304km-7h), Yokadouma-Mambele (165km-5h). The climate of the area is relatively consistent with a long wet season (September to November are the worst months to travel to Lobeke) a short wet season (March to June) a long dry season ( December to February ), and a short dry season (July to August) . Please feel free to contact us at any time.