No two Kamba Adventures are alike — each is tailored to your goals and adjusted for weather and other factors. That said, these few scenes sketch out a typical experience with us.
Welcome to the Jungle
You’re flying high above a thick green carpet of densely packed trees, broken up here and there by pale green flatlands. No towns, no roads, no farms are visible through the airplane window. You are heading into the jungle. Deep into the jungle.
How quickly your environment has changed. Last night you sat on the riverfront terrace of a restaurant in Brazzaville, eating grilled fish and fried plantains, looking across the Congo.
Brazzaville was a soft landing after your international flight, fascinating and welcoming, all grand government buildings, colorful storefronts, palm trees, and green-and-white taxicabs. But all that seems — is — a world away from the place you’re flying over now in Kamba’s 12-seat turboprop.
That place is the Congo Basin, wellspring of myths, prize for Livingstone and Stanley, inspiration for Conrad and Kingsolver. A vast sponge that absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and a habitat for gorillas, elephants, bongos, and butterflies. Dense forest, marshy clearings, rivers with strange-sounding names or no names at all — each one leading to the mighty Congo itself.
Soon, the pilot announces your descent in his cheerful Afrikaans accent. Before you even get out your phone to take a video, the green earth is rising toward you, the treetops become more distinct and more varied, and you make out fat-looking creatures soaking in waterholes. Finally you’re bumping along a grass runway as a few people in safari vehicles wave in welcome. You step off the plane into the cool but humid air. A flock of gray parrots swoops overhead. Welcome to the rainforest.
Gorillas in the Mist
You set out from Ngaga Lodge before dawn, headlamps piercing the darkness as you walk single-file through the dense foliage — just four of you, plus the guide and tracker. “We call this salad surfing,” chuckles the guide, slicing through the marantaceae leaves. The silence is broken only by the chirping of insects and the crunching of boots. After 30 minutes or so, Zepherin, the Ba’aka tracker, stops, cocks his head, and points up: There, on a high branch, a grayish figure emerges from the shadows: The silverback!
There are seven gorillas, in fact, spread across a single tree, 15 meters from where you stand. Their silhouettes appear dark against the morning mist, becoming more distinct as the sun brightens and your eyes adjust. You’re mesmerized. You put your camera down. You watch.
The apes are surprisingly agile, leaping from bough to bough in search of the tastiest fruit. Neptuno, the silverback, takes a seat, lifting his chin in profile. “Is he posing for us?” you wonder. These gorillas are habituated to the presence of humans — and at their most affecting when they meet your gaze, puzzled, curious, bemused.
After around 20 minutes, the “show” is over: Neptuno slides down the trunk and disappears into the undergrowth, followed by a pregnant female, a lanky adolescent, a wooly baby, and the rest of the family, one by one.
A Walk in the Forest
The camp manager hands you a refreshing iced tea and passes a platter of freshly baked cookies, the perfect fuel for your afternoon walk in the forest. You’re exploring just a tiny portion of the 80-km spider’s web of trails that surround Ngaga Lodge — the creation of the gorilla researchers and trackers based here.
The rich life of the forest makes itself known everywhere around you. A strangler fig spirals up a tree like a python. The loud, insistent call of a Great Blue Turaco sounds like something out of Jurassic Park. The guide points out a termite’s nest covering a tree trunk like shingles, nicknaming it “gorilla pizza” because the apes love to break off a piece and eat the insects inside. A thrashing overhead reveals a family of putty-nosed monkeys leaping among the treetops; the guide points out their chirps, yowls, and squawks — a lexicon of warnings about potential predators (like you!).
After a couple of entrancing hours, you round a bend in the trail and spy a blissful water pool at the bottom of a hollow — and then spot a semicircle of chairs set up in the shallows. A smile spreads across your face as you realize the lodge team has set up this charming little spot for sundowners.
Now, with a glass of wine in your hand, toes dangling in the cool stream, you feel as comfortable in these woods as if in your own backyard. As strange and wonderful as this place is, right now it feels like yours to enjoy.
A Glimpse of Local Life
You and a few other guests are bouncing down the track in a Land Cruiser, traveling from Ngaga Lodge to the tiny village of Ombu. It’s small and simple, not much more than a cluster of thatch-roofed houses flanking the road. You gather in a gazebo, the locals looking bashful but intrigued as you ask questions of the village leader.
Where do the children go to school? (At Mbomo, a larger village up the road, where they spend the week before walking back here.) What does everyone do for work? (Many work for Kamba; some grow vegetables to sell to the lodges.) Where do they get water? (The women walk to a local stream, fill up tanks, and carry them home on their backs.)
Wildlife is what brought you to the Congo, but you realize that this is also a home for many thousands of people, and it needs to be protected as much for them as for the gorillas. You’re happy to learn how SPAC, Kamba’s charitable sibling, is supporting schools, nurseries, and access to clean water across the area. And it registers that your very presence here is providing these people with economic opportunity.
The guide produces a soccer ball from the vehicle, a gift from Kamba to the kids, and suddenly everyone is playing, kicking the ball in the dust, shouting, laughing, enjoying this opportunity to share a moment of fun. Photography is generally not allowed on these village visits, but everyone agrees to pose together for a picture, the girls draped in colorful printed fabrics, the boys wearing graphic t-shirts, everyone smiling.
All Kamba Experiences
Gorilla TrackingGorilla TrackingObserve the families of Western Lowland Gorilla that live in the forest surrounding Ngaga Lodge as they climb trees to feast on ripened fruit, swing from branches, and communicate with hoots and howls. Each encounter with these primates so like ourselves is fascinating and life-changing.
KayakingKayakingDip your paddle into the pristine waterways of the Congo Basin and explore the wilderness from a new angle. As you drift along, keep your eyes open for cavorting monkeys, colorful birds, and elephants grazing on the banks. The tranquil beauty of your surroundings will soothe your soul.
Nature WalksNature WalksOur intimate guided walks reveal the splendor of the Congolese rainforest, fostering a deeper understanding of this precious ecosystem and the flora and fauna it shelters. Hear the sounds of the forest, smell the dewy humidity, and feel connected to something greater than yourself.
River CruiseRiver CruiseEvery bend in the river brings the potential of another discovery: an elephant and her young grazing along the banks, a family of mangabey monkeys swinging in the trees, a flock of spine-tail swifts diving madly for insects. One constant: the magnificent beauty of a wilderness untouched by human hands.
Night Drives & Night WalksNight Drives & Night WalksStep into the mysteries of the forest after dark. On foot, listen for insects and watch the flickering light of fireflies. In a vehicle, look for the reflection of shining eyes in the treetops. Notice how alive the forest is, no matter the time of day.
Village VisitsVillage VisitsMeet the community. Mbomo and Ombo villages, both located near Ngaga Lodge, provide an opportunity to meet some of the people who have lived in the Congo Basin for generations. Learn about the challenges and rewards of life in the forest and share your own experience in the outside world.
BrazzavilleBrazzavilleColorful Brazzaville is an endearing introduction to Congolese culture and cuisine. The capital is safe, welcoming, and easy to navigate, and it’s worth discovering its Modernist architecture, energetic markets, lovely riverfront restaurants, and fashionable Sapeur subculture.
Sangha Lodge ExcursionSangha Lodge ExcursionA place of raw authenticity and utterly inspiring wildlife experiences, Sangha Lodge is a pilgrimage site for nature lovers and adventure travelers in the remote Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve in the Central African Republic. It is available as a special add-on excursion for Kamba guests.