Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park is the most remote national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo situated in the northern region of Congo. Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park stretches in through the dense lowland rain forest covering an area of 3921.61 square kilometers. This park is the best evident example for an intact forest ecological system and its trees have never been logged. Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park is part of the great Sangha River Tri-National Protected Area (STN) which is drained by Sangha River a tributary of the Congo River, and it contains a swampy dense tropical forest which is less explored and still inaccessible. The park lies within in the forest area of Congo which forms 11% of the country’s population. Some of the forest areas have been cleared like Bai and Yang and two seasonal zones which rare used as hunting for the nomadic hunting people and protected zones for conserving both nature and animals from poaching.
Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park receives conducive humid climatic conditions which accommodate both the vegetation growth and the wildlife. The park has two seasons that is rainy season in the months of August to November and dry season in the months of December to February. During the rainy season an average rainfall of 1,250 mm per annually is received.
Nouabalé-Ndoki National is a great forest ecosystem and a UNESCO world heritage site which hosts 1000 unique species of plants and tree. Nouabalé-Ndoki National mainly dominated by rainforest though it is home to 24 distinct vegetation types with Gilbertiodendron dewervei as the dominate vegetation in the upland region of the park.
Nouabalé-Ndoki National is famous for harboring the critically endangered western low land gorillas, the park also hosts
- primates like colobus monkeys (black-and-white colobus, red colobus), chimpanzees and Moustached guenon monkeys
- Mammals such as pigs, forest elephants, buffalo, dickers, leopard, bongo, horned antelopes.
- Amphibians such as and reptiles mainly the frogs such as Aubria Masako, Amietophrynus regularis, Cryptothylax greshoffii, Hyperolius Balfouri and crocodiles.
- Over 3000 bird species such as eagles, hawks, owls, scavenging vultures, and wading herons.
- The dangerous blood-sucking insects.
Within Nouabalé-Ndoki National park there is a specific area Mbelibai of 3 square kilometers which is heavily populated by western lowland gorillas of an estimated 180 individuals, this same area also hosts a population of density of 50 per 1 kilometer of monkey species which includes black-and-white and red colobus, mustached and crowned guenon, grey-cheeked mangabey and many more.
The initiative of establishing Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park began in 1991 as a transboundary collaborative project spearheaded by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Government of Congo with support from USAID. Interactions with the locals, regional and national authorities were involved in the initiative and in September 1993 the park was established covering an area of 969,070 acres stretching between the North-eastern Sangha Department and the north-western Likouala Department of Congo. Due to negative impacts imposed on the park by tree loggers, in 1999 Congolaise Industrielle du Bois a timber company and the local community made a coalition with the government of Congo with an intention of creating an entity to address the impacts. In 20001 the park’s boundaries were extended to Gouloago triangle where excessive logging took place, a German firm that was carrying out the logging operations surrendered its rights of over 100 square kilometers of Gouloago Triangle. Logging mainly targeted two species of African mahogany trees which produces high-grade timber.
In October 2014, a Cooperative Agreement was signed between WCS and Ministry for Forest Economy (MEF) resulting in the formation of the Nouabalé-Ndoki Foundation (NNF) a Public-Private Partnership majorly to ensure the long-term management and financing of the park and its ecological system. The creation of the foundation has professionally and successfully managed the park.
Challenges faced by Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park
Nouabalé-Ndoki National park is faced with a lot of challenges which has hindered its prosperity, and these challenges include:
Illegal Ivory Poaching and Trafficking: Extensive illegal poaching of elephants for ivory is carried out by poachers primarily due to the rising prices of ivory and the development of road network in the region. Poachers are mainly Congolese armed groups.
Commercial hunting: Some of the wildlife in Nouabalé-Ndoki National park such as antelopes, monkeys are being hunted for meat which is eaten as food, the more the population increases more animals are lost.
Development of road network in the region: Wildlife in Nouabalé-Ndoki National park was safer in its remote state but the construction of roads in this region has exposed the park, its ecological system, and wildlife to dangerous activities of poachers and illegal logging of trees for timbers. Due to roads animals come into frequent contact with people making animals be at a high risk of contracting the disease.
As a way of conserving the national park from destruction, many measures have been taken up, among the measures are numerous scientific project such as
Mbeli Bai Study: The Mbeli Bai study is so far the longest-running field site carrying out studies on western lowland gorilla. Mbeli Bai is a natural forest clearing of approximately 15 hectares offering groundbreaking insights into the social organization and population dynamics of gorillas in their natural wilderness. This center also offers an opportunity to observe gorillas. Naturally western lowland gorillas’ behavior are hard to study while in the wilderness but this was solved by the construction of an eight-meter high platform providing a bird’s view of the gorillas. Mbeli Bai is also frequently visited by forest elephants, Sitatunga, antelopes, buffaloes, necked otters, and black-and-white colobus monkeys.
Other conservation scientific projects include the Gouloago triangle ape project, the elephant listening project, and the Mondika gorilla project.
Activities in the Park
Nouabalé-Ndoki national park is a mesmerizing tourist attraction offering unforgettable safari activities such as
- Gorilla trekking: Lowland gorilla trekking in Nouabalé-Ndoki national park is a breath taking activity which involves looking at western lowland gorillas in their natural habitat. The park harbors a reasonable individual of gorillas which are seen in the forests mostly at Mbeli Bai stretch. To participate in this Congo safari you need to purchase a gorilla trekking permit which is costed at USD 400. On the same trekking other primates like black and white colobus monkey, grey checked mangabey, and mustached monkey are seen in the deep forests.
- Wildlife viewing: Nouabalé-Ndoki national park is home to numerous animals such as forest elephants, bongos, duikers, panthers, leopard, bush pigs and many more, these animals are seen in the national park while they are grazing in the deep forests.
- Batwa cultural experience: Though the Batwa pygmy people were evicted from the forests during the gazetting of Nouabalé-Ndoki national park they currently live on the outskirts of the park. These people still live in poor conditions practicing their primitive ways of life like hunting, local ways of making fire, constructing houses using local materials and these activities are witnessed by tourists on a Congo safari tour.
- Boat riding: Adventurous boat riding in Nouabalé-Ndoki national park takes place on in swamps using the local dugout canoes, the boat ride is breath taking as you get to enjoy the beautiful nature of the park.
- Bird watching: Nouabalé-Ndoki national park is a prominent bird haven hosting over 3000 bird species, these colorful birds such as African grey parrot, owls, scavenging vultures, eagles, wading herons are seen while on gorilla trekking, nature walks and boat rides.
A safari in Nouabalé-Ndoki national park the best experience is got during the dry months of December to February and while on this safari accommodation can be got from Doli lodge, sangha lodge, mondika camp and many more. Nouabalé-Ndoki national park can be reached using Kigali international airport or Goma international airport.