Visiting Okapi Wildlife Reserve in Congo: The Okapi Wildlife Reserve is a renowned UNESCO World Heritage site and one of DRC’s greatest wildlife protection sites. It is located in the north-eastern section of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, along the borders with Uganda and South Sudan. The reserve is just 13,700 square kilometers in size, accounting for one-fifth of the vast Ituri forest. Mount Mbiya and rivers like Ituri, Epulu, and Nepoko are among the park’s most notable features.
Okapi Wildlife Reserve in Congo was first established in 1992 to safeguard the endangered Okapi. It is the only park where visitors may witness Okapi in their native habitat. Aside from the Okapi, the reserve is home to 13 primates, 101 mammals, and 377 bird species. There are 2,000 leopards, forest buffaloes, 8,000 forest elephants, birds, butterflies, and other insects among them. The Ituri forest is home to the world’s last real forest people, the Efe and Mbuti pygmies.
About Okapi Wildlife
Rare species found in Congo include the Okapi, bonobos, mountain and eastern lowland gorillas. The okapi, also known as the woodland giraffe or Okapia Johnston, is a strange-looking species with zebra-like stripes on the lake. The Okapi is astonishing since they are more closely related to giraffes and were first found in 1901 at the Virunga National Park. It can only be found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, namely in the Ituri forest and the Virunga National Park. The Okapi Wildlife Reserve alone is home to an estimated 5,000. The majority of them may be found in Ituri forest, with a few in Virunga National Park.
The Okapi has been classed and designated as endangered by the Institute in Congo for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) since its initial protection in 1933. This new categorization is due to their decline in population during the previous 20 years. The Okapi has been designated as a national symbol of wildlife protection by the Congolese government, and it appears on several national symbols.
Large and deep woods are required for the Okapi and other wildlife in the reserve to survive. Forest encroachment by migration from overpopulated areas of Eastern Congo, poaching for bush meat, illegal logging, illegal gold and Coltan mining are the most serious threats to the Okapi and the reserve. Protecting the Okapi and the reserve is difficult due to the unpredictable security scenario and lack of political stability in the eastern portion of Congo. The Mai-Mai militia attacked the Epulu park headquarters in 2012, killing six persons and 13 Okapi.
In 2015, the guard station in Zunguluka was assaulted and burned. The majority of these attacks are carried out by militias in revenge for the good work done by government troops and the Okapi Conservation Project in combating poachers and illegal miners in the Reserve.
The most serious threat to the Okapi Wildlife Reserve is the on-going movement of people from other regions of the country into the reserve area. While pygmy cultures have learned to live in peace with nature by taking just what is necessary, newcomers are to blame for deforestation and excessive hunting.
Why Okapi Wildlife Reserve in Congo was created?
Okapi Wildlife Reserve was established in conjunction with the Congolese government by the Okapi Conservation Project. The Okapi Conservation Project, now led by John Lukas, aids and continues the work of the ICCN to conserve, safeguard, and administer the majority of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve’s affairs. The initiative was established in 1987, earlier than the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, to safeguard indigenous pygmies and endangered Okapi at the reserve.
Although the Okapi is the major focus of the project, other species such as chimps and forest elephants have benefited from the reserve’s conservation efforts. The Epulu Conservation and Study Centre was established as a research and breeding site with around 14 Okapis.
The Okapi Conservation Project’s work is based on outreach initiatives, wildlife educational programmes, and community support. The initiative also assists in educating people both inside and beyond the reserve about the value of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. The initiative has invested in increasing the ability of its local employees, Guards, and communities living outside the reserve to support its objective.
Activities in Okapi Wildlife Reserve in Congo.
As previously stated, Okapi Wildlife Reserve is not just concerned with Okapis. It also boasts a variety of different animals, making for extremely intriguing wildlife encounters for those who are fortunate enough to come. Among the various species found in the reserve are Chimpanzees, leopards, huge forest pigs, elephants, water chevrotain, forest buffaloes, gigantic pangolins, golden cats, pygmy antelopes, forest genet, Anubis baboons, many other antelope species, and African dwarf crocodiles.
Visiting the distant sections of Congo, particularly the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, is for people who are daring and want to do something out of the usual. Something absolutely distinctive that they may tell your friends who are more familiar with the more popular African safari spots. Camping at the Okapi Wildlife Reserve will provide you with the unique opportunity to experience authentic African wildness. The nicest camping spots are along the Epulu River.
The Wildlife Reserve is one of the greatest places in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to go bird watching. There are 370 species documented in the reserve. Vultures and herons are the most visible species.
Guided Nature Walks
Nature hikes with a guide may be arranged to some of the nicest spots in the forest. Okapi Wildlife Reserve, like many of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s national parks, is still blessed with unspoiled wilderness that has yet to be found or visited by many.
The distance and inadequate road networks have kept several of Congo’s reserves and national parks isolated and therefore well protected. You may climb Mount Mbeya or see the magnificent rivers of Nepoko while staying in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. Some of the most spectacular waterfalls you will ever see may be found in the Ituri forest.
Community Cultural Tours
If you can’t fathom an African safari without seeing one of the continent’s indigenous tribes, the Okapi Wildlife Reserve will not disappoint. Mbuti pygmies are shorter in stature than their Bantu neighbors who live outside the reserve.
They are primitive people whose lifestyles have not been significantly disrupted by contemporary civilization. The Mbuti and Efe pygmies, like the Batwa pygmies in Uganda, have lived in the Ituri forest for thousands of years as forest hunters and gatherers. When they are not hunting, pygmies collect honey, insects, seeds, fungus, and plants. They are experts in identifying medicinal plants in the wild.
Best Time to visit Okapi Wildlife Reserve.
The Okapi Wildlife Reserve is theoretically available all year, although the dry season between June and August is ideal for visiting. Before visiting the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, you should exercise caution and get an update on the security situation from the Okapi Conservation Project or your tour operator.
Where to stay during your visit to Okapi Wildlife Reserve.
You would be responsible for arranging your own lodging when visiting the reserve. The reserve headquarters in Epulu is the greatest spot to stay. They have their own lodging, although there are only a few rooms available at various times of the year. Other nearby hotels are Plaza Hotel, Immo Baje, Hotel Kisangani, Vuvuke Guest House, and Plaza Hotel.