Dzanga-Sangha National Park

Hoots and laughter rattled through theforest, flashes of colour flitted in and out of the shade and then a pathetic,gurgled bleat indicated that the hunt had been a success and the BaAka, otherwise known as pygmies, would be eating Blue duiker (a type of forest antelope) that night. Just a few kilometres away, in Bai Dzanga, dozens anddozens of lumbering elephants frolic and played in the sunshine of this forestclearing and, moving shyly through the shadows, slinks a family of westernlowland gorillas.

Dzanga-Sangha National Park (www.dzanga-sangha.org) is even better than you dared hope Central Africa would be. This massive forest reserve, in the southwest corner of the Central African Republic, today sits at the heart of the newly created Unesco World Heritage–listed Dzanga Trinational reserve. Neighbouring parks in the Republic of Congoand Cameroonmake up the other two-thirds of this botanical hothouse, but of the three thiswould be the pick of the bunch. Sure the neighbouring parks might be a bit less disturbed by humans, but CAR’s Dzanga-Sangha has huge concentrations of elephants. And then there are the chimpanzees and gorillas; both of which are found in impressive numbers and some of the gorillas are habituated to humans meaning heart stopping close-up encounters. But a trip to Dzanga-Sangha isabout more than just megafauna. It’s about people as well and you can join theBaAka net hunting for forest antelopes or even spend days camping deep in the jungle with them.

This is the most organised and visitor friendlyof the three parks, and has the best array of accommodation. You won’t do much better than the South African-run Sangha Lodge (www.sanghalodge.com) where delicious food, a peaceful location and comfortable cottages will keep any jungle explorer happy. The park authorities can organise all activities, including hunting trips with the BaAka, but for a more intensive immersion contact Louis Sarno (akkaman11@yahoo.co.uk), an American and author of Song from the forest: My Life Among theBa-Benjelle Pygmies.