The Congo: Secrets of the Jungle

 

The M’beli camp is set up near a “bai”, a natural swampy clearing in the jungle, where researchers monitor the behaviour of the large mammals who visit it. Primarily a research station, M’beli seldom receives visitors.

It is a very basic camp with no electricity or running water. We live in huts built on stilts (forest elephants and buffalos wander through the camp at night) and are the only visitors there during our stay. Water carried from the river, candles to light our huts and long drop loos are our only comforts.

Being so deep and remote in the jungle is a magical experience. We hike an hour every day to reach the bai’s observation platform where we spend several hours. The bai is a secret stage, open only to initiates. The animals make an appearance, perform, and then disappear behind the thick curtain of the jungle. There we get to see our first Western Lowland Gorillas, distant cousins of the Mountain Gorillas we met in Rwanda.

Our walks through the jungle take on a fairy tale-like quality. In the late afternoon, the gloom and darkness of the forest is interrupted by sun rays which find their way through gaps in the canopy and create patches of liquid gold on the forest floor. In the evening, as we walk back to our huts we are surrounded by the flickering lights of fire flies, like lights flashing around a giant, shapeless Christmas tree.

At night, the temperature suddenly drops as the heat accummulated during the day evaporates. The disphonic night concert of the forest begins and we feel like we have been transported to another world, far away from tropical Congo.

deep in the jungle

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getting ready for bed at the camp

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the “bai”

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chatting with the researchers at the observation platform

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