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Digital Subscriptions > Travel Africa > October-December 2018 (84) > The core of the confinent

The core of the confinent

Savannah, bushveld and desert? Yes, but Africa is also defined by its rainforest, which has some of the most diverse wildlife of anywhere else on the continent. Trekking through the remote forests of Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of Congo, Scott Ramsay finds another realm that remains largely unknown to outsiders
Planet of the apes: Ngaga Camp in Odzala-Kokoua National Park is engulfed by the lowland rainforest of the Congo Basin, Africa’s most biodiverse landscape and home to 60,000 lowland gorillas
SCOTT RAMSAY

In the middle of the Congo jungle, a family of gorillas looked down from their perches in the towering trees above us.

Thunder boomed across equatorial skies and soon it started raining, a deluge of heavy water that plummeted from dense clouds. At 3.7 million sq km — 16 times bigger than the UK — the immense Congo Basin drains the second largest river on the planet, and is the second largest rainforest system on the planet, after the Amazon (5.5 million sq km). Even today when most of the planet seems mapped and Googled, the vast rainforests of Central Africa are seemingly mythical in the finds of humans.

The huge forests are the continent’s least explored ecotype and span six countries: Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo.

The Congo Basin holds the greatest number of mammals, primates, birds, amphibians, fish and butterflies in Africa, making it the most naturally diverse terrestrial area on the continent. There are more than 10,000 species of plant (including 600 types of tree), 1000 birds, 700 sh and 400 mammals. This list is growing all the time.

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Special Wildlife Issue, celebrating Africa's fauna • Big Cat lovers • Understanding elephants • In praise of primates • Painted dogs • Snakes • Birds • The wildlife in forests, deserts and rivers... and much more!