Lobeke National park-place to visit is adjacent to two other reserves in the Central African Republic and Republic of Congo.It is situated within the Moloundou Arrondissement of the East Province found in the Southeastern Cameroon. It is located in the Congo basin and bounded to the East by Sangha river which serves as Cameroon’s international border with the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo.
The Park was declared a National Park in 1999, the same year when the so called Yaounde Declaration was signed, forming a tri-national park agreement of co-orperation with Dzanga-Sangha Forest Reserve in the Central African Republic and the Nuobale-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo. This tri-park area is operated by the Central African Forest Commision (COMIFAC), and is overlooked and founded by the international Wildlife groups such as the World Wildlife Fund, the German Cooperation of Technical Collaboration and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Lobeke National Park has been on the list of suggestions for a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been on the proposal list as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2006
The park is famous for various Western lowland gorillas in Africa , whose habitat is in dense forest of Congo River basin in Southern Cameroon.The park is bordered by National Boumba National Park in the North east and Sangha River in East which separates Cameroon from Central Africa Republic and Congo.
Flora and Fauna
There are more than 300 tree species and the vegetation is predominantly, a semi-evergreen forest, most of which has never been logged, characterized by the vast variety of plant life, which include;Sterculiaceae, Ceiba Pentandra, and Terminalia Superba. The Under storey consists of Marantaceae-Zingiberaceae thicket or Ebenaceae, and Annonaceae trees. There are clusters of Gilbertiodendron dewevrei near the streams. The savannas are bordered by palm thickets and sedge.
The park has the highest densities of African Forest elephants and the Western lowland gorillas and also a home to other animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, leopards, as well as ten species of forest ungulates. 215 species of butterflies 134 fish species,18 species of reptiles and 16 species of amphibians are endemic to the forest.
The area is also considered as the best birding area, for the Ja River, specifically within the Cameroon and Gabon with over 300 bird species, according to the recent recordings such as; the Red-nosed green pigeon,rhinoceros,Chrysococcyx flavigularis, Otus icterorhynchus and the chestnut kingfisher can also be found in the park.
There exists aconcern of timber exploitation, safari hunting and poaching of exotic animals for bushmeat and ivory.Cases of illegal fishing and bird poaching is now a major problem whereby every thousands of gray –parrots are caught and exported illegally for traditional medicines and other ritual reasons and their ncreasing population is dependant upon local resources.
How to get there
Transpotation to this park is a bit troublesome in terms of public transportation, because it is a 2 long day drive from Yaounde in the dry season, whereas it may take more than two days on a wet season due to impassable roads, but the only best option is to rent a 4×4 wheel drive so as to save time for the scheduled safari activities. The tour operators will be able to make arrangements for a car from a host of small independent operators in Bayanga, or rent a car by yourself.
Most areas are land logged with bumpy and dusty road with less maintainance making access by land very difficult, therefore most regions including the project area could only be accessed by the major trans- Atlantic highways that runs from the capital city to the hinterlands and across the frontiers into the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo-Brazzaville. The main highway road is quite seasonal given due to the poor maintenance but all season access can only ensured using 4 x4 fleets, which passes through the villages of Abong Mbanga, Doume, and Moloundou.The route from Yaounda to Bertouua is 341km which is equivalent to 6 hours drive, from Yajadouma to berta takes 7 hours for 304km and another from Yakadouma to Mambele is 165km which takes 5 hours drive.
The numerous air trips constructed by logging companies that can accommodate small planes and 20 sitter carriers as beech crafts is the main reasons the South East forrest can be easily accessed.It coud also be assessed from several directions using airstrips of Kika, Libongo, Moloundou that are bordering the logging towns.
The park has 3 air strips that receives private flights and charters from Yaounda and Douala airports.
Time to visit
The Park is best visited during the rainy season which runs from December to February, when the roads are firmer and more sights of wild animals are guaranteed.The park has 2 rainy seasons with the long rains in September to November and the short rainy season March to June.
Several Rivers within the region are quite rich in Aquatic animal life with over 183 different fish species already recorded. Two species or probably more are at least new to the system and the area of the Nki between the Nki-falla and the chollet falls as well as the Yombi-river. Guided fishing tours can be conducted on the Sangha and Ngoko rivers not forgetting the very spactacular and scenic beauty that offers numerous fishing islands.
The most charming and interesting aspect of sport fishing is the traditional fishing methods of fencing that is always done by the Baka pygmies during the peak period.Another heartwarming activity is “shrimp fishing” by the shimp fishing group with overnights in the forest.
It is believed that over 330 birds species have so far been recorded within the region, hence bird watching tours inside the forest could be done using the wonderful existing nature trails or guided trips along the major rivers of sangha and Ngoko which also serve as international boundaries.
Sport hunting has now been going on for two decades, and its industry has been the most developed industry but also most economically viable commercial activity in southeast Cameroon. The activity is highly enjoyed by mostly the North Americans. Apart from the exciting and adventurous nature of sport hunting, the clients also have a chance to participate in photographic tourism in the forest area.
Encounter one of the most remarkable domain of the Baka pygmies especially in terms of Mark-man-ship. Traditional hunting is done using poisoned bows-and-arrows whose exciting and adventurous hunting methods combined with forest expeditions that it characterizes. This method is particularly carried out by medium aged and young people in small classified social groups. It selects usually medium and small sized duikers but notably diurnal primates. Besides using bow and arrow methods, the Baka pygmy also indulged in mimicking distress calls of several animal species that are being hunted in the process.
Expeditions to Nki falls
Enjoy your five hours on a jolly boat ride combined with bird watching and marvelous wildlife observation along your way .The Nki falls, also known for its endemism and rich fish fauna with some latest discoveries, constitutes a very beautiful tourist site in the sector given its natural scenic beauty and relatively untouched nature of its forest. The Nki falls could easily be reached by waters on River Ngoko from Molondou.
It is one of the rare sites in the Central African Sub-region where the forest remains relatively untouched.The numerous bais of the area with plentiful Wildlife makes it a very fascinating site for eco-tourism development.
Visitors can pay an extra cost so as to experience the everyday life and the activities of the indeginous population, that is the Baka pygmy and the Bagando. Some of these activities include; forest expeditions with the Baka pygmies for bush mangoes harvesting, hunting and fishing. Encountering aspects like tapping of raffia palm wine notably by Bagando could also be very captivating. On the other hand, others may participate in the renowned cultural festivals such as the Jengi, that is organized every year to introduce new members into this highly spiritual society. other folkloric dances include the famous Baka pygmies tortoise dance that greatly portrays some of the strong affiliations of these people to their environment.