Registerd as a UNESCO world Heritage site in 1984, Salonga National park lies in the middle of the central basin of the Congo River. The park is Africa’s largest tropical rainforest reserve and second largest in the world covering an area of about 36,000Km². Salongo National Parkis shared by Bandundu, Equateur, Kasai occidental and Kasai oriental provinces.

With the headquarters at Monkoto, Équateur province,Salonga National Park is split into two blocks separated by about a 40 to 45 km wide corridor. The north block wholly lies in the Equateur province and covers more than 1,700Km; the south block lies partly in the Equatuer, Bandudu and Kasai Occidental provinces and covers more than 1900Km².The altitude in the park ranges from about 350m to 700 m, rising from the west to east.

Climate in salonga national park is typically equatorial characterized with hot and humid temperatures ranging from 20 to 30°C. The dry season is during the months of June to August and December to February. However, sometimes, the park is covered in fog. The Rainy season is on during the rest of the year with annual rainfall of about 1700mm in the south block and about 2,000mm in the north block.

Salonga national park was established in 1956 as the Tshuapa National park, and gained its present boundaries after a presidential decree of Mobutu SeseSeko in 1970.

However, during the second Congo war of 1998 to 2003, there were invasion in the park by militias who practiced heavy poaching for mainlybush meat and ivory. The invasion of militias resulted into development of communities in Salonga national park such as that of the Iyaelima. The group constructed camps where they would base while carrying out poaching and mining of minerals such as Gold. Other rebel groups invaded the park and forcefully turned the Iyaelima people into their own slaves. They made the Iyaelima to carry bush meat and Ivory out of the park.  Most of the Iyaelima people responded by abandoning their areas of residence.

The Iyaelima’s are a Bantu ethic group believed to be of the Mongo group origin. The tribe totals to about 2,500 individuals living in 8 settlements in the south block of Salonga National park. They are subsequent hunters and farmers. Some of the crops they cultivate include cassava, papaya, tobacco, corn, yams, sugar canes, yams etc. The men do the hunting while the women do the farming. They also keep goats which are prepared as source on ceremonies and chicken which is prepared for guests.Agriculture is generally conducted on individual basis. However, each village has a community garden where every family is meant to take part in all the agriculture activities. The garden is a backup when individual garden production is not sufficient

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Bonobo’s
The species is an endangered great ape and is one of the 2 species making up the genus Pan, Pan Paniscus. The other Pan is the Pan troglodytes commonly known as the chimpanzee. However, the bonobo’s are confused to be chimpanzees. The name bonobo came into existence in 1954 when Eduard Paul and Heinz Heck proposed it as a new and separate generic term for pygmy chimpanzees. However, the name is thought to be a misspelling of the town Bolobo on the Congo River.Bolobo was associated with the collection of Chimpanzees in the 1920’s. The word Bonobo in some Bantu languages means “ancestor”.
The bonobo has relatively long legs, pink lips, dark face and tail-tuft throughout adulthood. Bonobo’s are omnivorous species and diverge about 0.4 % from the common chimpanzee species. They are believed to be sharing 98% DNA with human beings and have a life expectance of up to 65 years.
Sexual activity generally plays a major role in bonobo society. It is used as a means of greeting, social bonding and conflict resolution. Bonobos are the only wildlife species to have been seen engaging in all of the sexual activities such as face to face genital sex, tongue kissing, and oral sex.
Bonobos do not have monogamous sexual partners, neither do they discriminate sexual behavior by sex or age. The only exception of sexual activity is between mothers and adult sons. When bonobos come upon a new food source or feeding ground, the excitement usually leads them into communal sexual activity, decreasing tension and encouraging peaceful feeding. The females start giving birth at the age of around 10 years.

Black and white colobus Monkeys
The primate species is an Old World Monkey of the Colobus genus which is native to Africa. The word colobus is derived from a greek word ‘Kolobos’ which means docked. They are named Colobusbecause theydon’t have a thumb. The species are herbivorous and have a ruminant kind of digestive system i.e. they feed on leaves, fruit, flowers and twigs.Black and white colobus monkeys are endemic in higher density logged forests. However, they also live in riverine forests and wood grassland.Being herbivorous, black and white colobus monkeys are of importance to their habitant because of seed dispersal; they have sloppy eating habits. The seeds germinate into plantations hence expanding the parks
The species live in social groups of up to 9 members with a dominant male, females and offspings. Newborns are completely white and are taken care of by only the mother.egetation.

Other Wildlife as an attraction in Salonga National Park.
Vegetation in the park is mainly composed of tall equatorial riverine rainforest that reaches up to about 45m high; displaying a magnificentcover of trees intercepted with a series of meandering rivers. Most of the area is a low-lying swampy ground comprising of Staudtiastipitata, Polyalthiasuavaeolens, Scorodophloeuszenkeri, Anonidiummannii and Parinariglaberrimum.
However, there is a drier forest in some areas, mainly on terraces and plateau with occasional grass cover. Grassland in the park is less, covering only about 0.5% on the parks total area. The grassland in the north block is locally known as botoka-djohu (elephant’s bath). Being a dense equatorial rainforest, it is the habitat to species such as;antelopes, the Zaire peafowl, forest elephant, the African slender snouted crocodile and others species. Other primate species include; western red colobus, golden bellied mangabey;
There are about 153 species of birds which include African grey parrot, yellow-billed stork, the endemic Congo peafowl Afropavocongensis and many more.

Hunting is done with the help of dogs. Villages such as Luapa have more than 300 dogs and other villages have around 100. The dogs make the hunting easy.However, the hunters carry with them spears, bow and arrow to kill the hunted.Each hunter goes out to hunt with around 15 dogs. Some of the species hunted include blue duiker, bay duiker, yello-backed duiker and others. Village hunting is called once every 1 to 2 weeks.
They don’t hunt or eat species such as the bonobo, African grey parrot, congo peafowl, Egyptian mongoose, black-headed heron and giant pangolin. They believe that the species are protected by their ancestors. During the rainy season, the men carry out fishing to supplement on their food stuffs.
The Iyaelima people believe in ancestral spirits. They believe in the spirit of water and the spirit of the forest. About 20Km from Luapa, there is a ‘magic’ lake known as Lake Nkantotsha. The lake and its surrounding forest are not tampered with by the Iyaelima people. They don’t fish in the lake neither hunt in its neighboring forest. They believe that their ancestral spirit that once lived in the lake protected the villages by killing the sorcerers who hurt others.

Bonobo Habituation as a tourist activity in Salonga National Park
The park habituates 40% of the world’s bonobos population. Out of a total of about 50,000 in the world, Salonga national park has over 15,000 individuals of the endemic bonobos, commonly known as the pygmy chimpanzees. Bonobos are closely related to Chimpanzees. The two species are geographically separated by the Congo-Lualaba River in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Bonobos are among the closest living relatives of humans. Like other great apes,they live in groups of several males and females. Contrary to other ape species, male bonobos are not more than female individuals.Bonobos can easily be seen in the southern sector of the park, south of the LokoroRiver, in Luikotale. There is a network of natural paths that stretch up to 150km. There is also a the Luikotale bonobo project in the area whose role is to conduct several anti-poaching patrols that are meant to discourage hunting of the species by humans who hunt them to get bush meat.
Other areas within the park where the species can be found include Lokofaand Iyaelimain the southern block; and lomela in the northern block

Birding as a tourist activity in Salonga National Park

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There are about 153 species of birds which include African grey parrot, yellow-billed stork, the endemic Congo peafowl Afropavocongensis and many more. The activity can be done along rivers and the forest of the park

Cultural Encounter of the Iyaelima as a tourist activity in Salonga National Park
TheIyaelima community is found at Luapa village, south of the southern block of the park. The activity involves learning about the Iyaelima people with a local Iyaelima guide.
 The encounter will involve a community walk. Different sites within the community are visited. The tour offers an unusual and unforgettable insight into the everyday life of the village.
 Learning about the interesting stories of how traditional medicine made by a local traditional healer cures local patients.
 Going out to the forest with the Iyaelima hunters, to see how the hunting is done with the dogs
 Learning how to cultivate crops the Iyaelima way. It will involve planting and harvesting of crops such as cassava, potatoes and other crops.

Boating as a tourist activity in Salonga National Park
Salonga national park has a series of Rivers that meander through the forest. Boating allows a magnificent view of vegetation and wildlife along the river banks. Wildlife includes bird species, primate specie such as bonobos, black and white colobus monkeys and many others. Boating can be done on the Luilakariver, southeast of Mbandaka from the congo river.

Fishing as a tourist activity in Salonga national Park
The swamps and rivers are a habitant to various fish species such as the cat fish, tilapia, elephant fish and many other fish species. Fishing on the rivers can be done; and there after roasting of the fish.

Salonga National Park can only be accessed by Water or air transport.

By water
The park can be accessed by boat on the Luilaka River; approaching it from southeast of Mbandaka, from the Congo River.