Created in 2006, the Lomaoko-Yokokala Reserve is a protected area with an area of 3,625 km² (slightly larger than Luxembourg) and is situated between the Lomako and Yokokala rivers in the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Lomako-Yokokala Reserve is home to about 1,000 bonobos. In this reserve in the middle of the Congolese forest, Antwerp ZOO Centre for Research and Conservation (ACRC) together with the Congolese Wildlife Authority have established a wildlife reserve and a scientific research centre, carrying out habituation work on some groups of bonobos.
Reaching the Lomako Reserve, Congo
One of the most inaccessible and remote reserves on the African continent. If entering from the south, it will take 5 days of sailing from the town of Mbandaka via the Congo, Lulonga, Maringa and Lomako rivers. These days of sailing are an experience in themselves, a real marvel. It is also possible to access from the north, specifically from the city of Lisala on the Congo River and to cross the Lomako reserve on foot for several days. We are delighted to have been the first travellers to make this extreme expedition in 2021. An odyssey of journeys by motorbike, boat and on foot of almost a week from Lisala.
Arriving by plane to Lomako
Unreliable weekly or occasional flights can take you to Basankuso or Boende, small towns in northern DR Congo from where two or three more days of travel by motorbike or canoe to the entrance of the Lomako Reserve await. Chartering a plane is an interesting option if you have the budget and want to save time.
Navigation of the Congo River and some tributaries
The stretch of the Congo River will be spectacular. Populations suspended over the water, huge barges and the sensation of travelling on one of the most mythical rivers on the planet.
The Lulonga River will take us to Basankuso, known as the “capital” of the bonobo. On the banks of the Lulonga you will see impressive Christian missions over 100 years old, built in colonial style by European missionaries, some of which we will stop at. The banks of the Lulonga are also home to some Balumbe pygmy groups, who lost their ancestral culture decades ago.
In Basankuso, after the serious events between the local population and Ekola Ya Bonobo that took place there in June 2023 and in which we were involved, we will not stop in or around this village. We will continue on to the Maringa River and then on to the breathtakingly beautiful Lomako River, meandering through the jungle.
Bonobos, the hippie primate of Congo
Known as the dwarf chimpanzees (not entirely true) or the “hippie” primate, wild bonobos are found only south of the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Bonobos share 98.7% of their genetic code with humans, making them, along with chimpanzees, our closest living relatives. Bonobos were the last great ape to be scientifically discovered.
In the behaviour of bonobos, priority is given to sexuality and friendly bonds (especially between females), in contrast to the dominance struggles (especially between males) and intergroup warfare of chimpanzees.
Bonobo tracking in Lomako, Congo
To participate in this trip in search of bonobos in the Congolese jungles, you need to be in good physical shape, as you will walk for 5 or 6 hours a day in the forest with the trackers. Bonobo tracking is not comparable to gorilla or chimpanzee tracking, as the tracking is more complicated and the observations are usually more fleeting.
Iyema science camp in the Lomako Reserve in search of bonobos
There are no hotels or lodges in Lomako, nor is there any tourist infrastructure. As a base for our stay we will use the scientific camp of Iyema, located in the middle of the jungle. From there we will set off every morning in search of bonobos accompanied by trackers.
Bonobo watching trips in Congo
You can write to us at email@example.com and ask about our next expeditions in the DRC. In June 2024 we offer an exclusive trip with a very small group to the Lomako Reserve.