Welcome to the latest Odzala Observer – the first in a series of three, looking in more detail at each of our Camps in and around Odzala-Kokoua National Park. We’ll take you behind the scenes at each of our Camps and show you that while they are all equally wonderful, each is unique and offers a different – and unmissable – experience.
The character or ‘flavour’ of each Camp is largely determined by the habitats which surround them, and the different ways you can explore these.
Mboko is the largest of the three Camps, and serves as our headquarters for Odzala. Concession managers Ricus Delport and Pietro Bosman oversee all our Odzala operations from here, which gives them a fantastic perspective on ecotourism in Odzala.
Mboko is two hours into the Park, passing through an ever-changing mosaic of savannah and forest blocks – in essence, the drive is a mini-transect of the Park and gives a taste of each of the ecosystems that are represented. En route, look out for chimpanzees, and clouds of butterflies as you cross crystal-clear streams.
Mboko, which is situated in a savannah clearing, has a very different feel to the dense rainforests of Ngaga. The Camp’s twelve rooms overlook the clear-running Lekeni River, which rushes and burbles by before joining the chocolate-brown Lekoli River just beyond the Camp.
The centrepiece of the Camp is the large, airy main deck with the restaurant and star deck – the perfect place to gather for sundowners. Mboko was carefully sited between Odzala’s iconic termite mounds to give expansive views out across the meadow-like grasslands. The warm glow of the lights can be seen from some distance away across the savannah at night – a beacon of wonderful hospitality.
Managed with enthusiasm and flair by Michael Dobbs, Mboko was the last of the three Camps to be opened, but the first to be 100% solar-powered, meaning that a hot shower there has not only the pleasure of luxury in a remote and wild place, but is also entirely guilt-free! The two family rooms mean that your children can share in the magic of Mboko, too.
Mboko takes its name from two tribes who settled in this to pursue the salt trade. The Mboshi and Kota people were drawn to Odzala’s bai areas and fragments of their distinctively-marked pottery can still be found in the Park, especially when the river levels are lower.
Along with the name of the Camp, their most significant legacy might just be the lime trees they planted along the river – but more on that later.
During 2015 we took the significant step of converting Lango Camp into one of Africa’s most eco-friendly safari accommodations. Lango bai, like all Odzala’s wetland habitats, is both essential to life in the Park and extremely fragile. We now operate Lango as a satellite Camp from Mboko which allows us to share the wonders of the bai and its wildlife with you, while minimising our footprint there.
Mboko boasts a formidable guiding team in the shape of Alon Cassidy, Teske Erasmus and Kerri-Lee du Preez. Alon is now the longest serving guide at CCC – the length of his time here rivalled only by that of his beard. Rumour has it that he won’t cut it until he leaves Odzala, so we’re happy to see it getting ever longer! Alon is practically a local in the forests of western Central Africa, having grown up at his parents’ lodge in the neighbouring Central African Republic. Kerri and Teske learned their trade in South Africa and brought not just their professional skills, but wonderfully infectious energy and curiosity with them to Odzala.
A real highlight of any stay at Mboko is the chance to explore the Lekoli River by boat or kayak. Kayaking is ‘Lekoli unplugged’ – nature at its most elemental, viewed and overheard as you drift silently along.
The wildlife which frequents the riverbanks is unfazed by the bright orange kayaks, letting you watch them go about their business. This can be a great way to spot monkeys in the trees that overhang the river.
Boating allows you to head further afield, peering into riverside clearings to spot sitatunga, forest elephant and even bongo. Towards the end of the day, fresh-picked limes from the riverside trees adds a unique taste to your sundowner gin and tonic…
Back on terra firma, the Mboko guides are always looking to add to our network of forest trails in their quest to reveal more of the magic of Odzala. Their inventiveness is matched only by that of the Mboko kitchen team, led by safari veteran chef Saju. If a hot shower after an Odzala walk is an unexpected luxury, then a chocolate samosa for dessert should be an impossibility – and yet they make it happen, and much more besides.
After dinner, fall asleep to the gentle sounds of forest elephants rustling by just metres from your room, or the ruminations of Ferdi, an old forest buffalo bull who seems to have adopted Mboko and regularly sleeps beneath the main deck.
If you will be attending this year’s ITB in Berlin, please look out for Stephanie Kern, our Sales and Marketing Director and Conrad Cooke, manager of Ngaga Camp, at our space on the ATTA stand. They will be delighted to provide you with any additional information you require about the wonders of Odzala Discovery Camps.
And watch this space for more info about our Odzala Discovery Camps stand at Indaba!