A soft-sided duffel or backpack is far better than a hard-sided case. Bring along a smaller duffel as well and pack only what you need for the four days at Mbeli and Mondika Camps in Nouabale-Ndoki National Park. This is because porters are required to carry food supplies as well as visitors’ bags and weight is always a concern. The larger bags are stored in a locked office at park headquarters. Visitors’ bags are placed in waterproof sacks or are covered with tarps if on the open pirogues.
Other essentials are lightweight, breathable, rain poncho and pants (although you can overheat in rubber pants), hiking boots, insect repellent, sun hat, book, flashlight, clothes line, and a lightweight jacket or fleece. After rain and at night, the forest can cool down considerably. Heavy mists can develop over the rivers. A lightweight but warm travel blanket is a good option to supplement the thin blankets provided in the science camps tents and huts during the cooler months of July through September. Rubber shoes such as Tevasor Keenesare are crucial since you will be walking through a flooded forest to get to Nouabale-Ndoki’sMondika Camp.
Getting a good shot of dark, moving subjects (gorillas) hiding behind foliage in low light conditions of a rainforest is not easy. A video camera is probably your best bet under these conditions. Bring plenty of batteries as you cannot always charge for the three/four nights that you are in the ROCs Nouabale-Ndoki National Parks walk-in camps. Re-charging is less of a problem in CARs Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, at least when the generator is operating at Sangha Lodge. Bring plenty of memory cards if you intend shooting RAW. At the observation towers overlooking the saline clearings, a 400 mm is the minimum lens length for decent shots of foraging wildlife. A 600 mm lens is ideal, but this is a big lens to carry. A monopod comes in handy and it is easily portable.
Food in both parks is currently very poor. This is not your East African safari circuit. In this case, I would recommend throwing some granola bars or easily carried snacks of your choice in your bag. I always pack small packets of instant breakfast oatmeal to supplement the daily offering of bread and chocolate spread, a local substitution for nutella.
Suggested Packing List
Medical kit, including pain reliever, antibiotic for upper respiratory ailments, antibiotic for intestinal problems, Imodium for diarrhea, sty ointment, antibiotic drops for eyes, Lanocane for insect bites, antihistamine for stings, band aids, antibiotic ointment, thermometer, antiseptic cream, antacid, cold medicine.
- Anti-malaria medication of choice. Carry in hand luggage.
- Personal medications. It is not possible to keep anything refrigerated. Carry in hand luggage also.
- Ear plugs
- Hand Sanitizer, where you can keep it handy.
- Saline solution for eyes.
- Lip balm.
- Insect Repellent. (Applied to exposed areas by five p.m.)
- A good sunscreen.
- Sun hat
- Sun glasses
- Spare prescription glasses. Carry in hand luggage.
- Pocket knife, with corkscrew, packed in check-in luggage.
- Personal stash of toilet paper, Kleenex and handy wipes.
- Water bottle holder for trekking, and for recognizing your own bottle in the boats and vehicles.
- Small soap powder for hand washes.
- Travel sewing kit with a few rubber bands and safety pins.
- Pens and paper for diary/notes.
- A good map.
- Book to read, in the event of delays.
- Film, batteries and memory cards for digital cameras.
- Plug adaptors for cameras. African outlets have three square pins or two round pins like those in Britain
- Electricity is 230 V.
- Camera lenses: see note above
- Excellent binoculars.
- A good flashlight and supply of batteries and spare bulbs.
- A pocket calculator for bargaining.
- Money pouch for waist or around neck.
- Duffel bag, see note above
- Several Ziploc plastic bags.
- A pair of long shorts (wear long pants for gorilla treks however.)
- Cargo pants
- Short sleeve shirts
- Quick drying socks
- Light weight fleece for cooler mornings (June through September especially)
- Quick-drying towel
- A bandana
- Small pillow (Central African pillows can be lumpy)
- Rubber shoes for around camp and for the camp site shower and for walking to Mondika.
- Sturdy runners or boots
- Copies of tickets, passport, and any credit cards that you carry. Leave another copy at home where someone has access to them; send another copy to your e-mail address.