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Congo Basin

“Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest.” Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Flying over the mist-shrouded green expanse of the Congo Basin our pilot dogged billowing storm clouds. “It’s so green down there because it rains a lot,” he quipped. For us the flight re-enforced the fact that we were entering a kind of dream realm. Descending towards the dense textured forest of Odzala-Kokoua National Park (where gorillas hide), I experienced the kind of travel jitters I have not felt for decades, the jungle is after all so much more mysterious than the African savanna.

The Congo Basin is the richest area in Africa for animal diversity; it has 409 mammal species and 1,000 bird species. The forest receives up to 1.5 metres of rainfall a year and plays host to about 10,000 varieties of plants. There are four seasons: long wet, short dry, short wet and long dry. The area can become oppressively humid in the wet seasons and as one writer rather aptly put it “Hiking through this claustrophobic hothouse is like being passed through the guts of the forest and being slowly digested.”

Taken from African Icons: Text by David Bristow and photographs of the Congo Basin by Roger and Pat de la Harpe

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