Running a lodge here should be impossible.
To tell you the truth, staying here means that you won’t get everything you thought you paid for. But you’re not in a country where things work. It’s one of the poorest countries in the world, and somehow they still make things work. Somehow. And even if things had worked, it’s quite a feat to run a place as far from traffic lights and fast food franchises as this.
First, you probably need to go to Paris.
From Paris you take a flight to Bangui with Air France (you don’t have a choice – you must go with Air France and there’s only one flight per week – on Thursdays), then you must spend 18 hours in a car first going on roads, then going on bad excuses for roads and finally the roads are not roads anymore. When you’re finally stumbling out of the car, you’re at the river bend where the Sangha river gently flows past the village of Bayanga.
NOTE: If you want to charter your own plane, there’s an semi-functional airstrip just outside the village of Bayanga, near the old sawmill (constructed in the 1970s and abandoned by the Chinese in 2004).
Dancy times at the Doli Lodge – BaAka Pygmies from the nearby village perform a dance to celebrate that hunting was recently successful. The songs of the Pygmies contain some the most intricate and complicated rhythmic and polyphonic patterns in the world.
You will most probably stay at the Doli Lodge.
The lodge was created for eco-tourism and is supported by WWF. The idea is to take tourists to the rainforest that is Dzanga Ndoki National Park. The WWF is conducting research on the lowland gorilla. Besides them you’ll probably meet African forest elephant and a flock of about 200 mangabey monkeys.
Travelers who expect a South African or Kenyan level of lodging will get disappointed. But the lodge brings good food, decent living in clean rooms despite the conditions. Hot water was on my wishlist, but that’s not really necessary as it’s reasonably safe to take a swim in the river, as long as the hippos congregate a few kilometers downstream. And few other lodges will offer you BaAka Pygmy dancing.
You will have no choice.
This is the only existing accommodation in this whole corner of the Central African Republic. But if you can only stand the fact that showers are cold, this is not a bad alternative. Have a seat on the veranda overlooking the river (pictured above), brag to your fellow travelers about today’s hardships in the rainforest, then ask the kind waiters for a huge bottle of Cameroon beer and watch the villagers glide past in their dug-out canoes. The music you hear will be the polyrythmic drumming and singing from the pygmy village… Then, if not before, you will realize that you are in the heart of Africa. The real Africa.
s/c Agence Tamboula
Projet Réserve Dzanga-Sangha
B.P. 1053 Bangui
Central African Republic