Very rarely does one come across a place that is completely away from it all. As in completely. Not a lot of people have heard of Central African Republic, never mind actually going there. Well, we did in April! Logistically really difficult to get to (via Nairobi) and infrastructure nightmares, it is not a destination for the faint hearted! But oh, my goodness me, once you get through the difficulties, one emerges on the other side at a small slice of heaven: Sangha Lodge. Rod and Tamara Cassidy have made the CAR their home for the last twelve years, and have started something really special. The Dzangha-Sangha National Park complex is a World Heritage Site shared by the CAR, Cameroon and Congo-Brazzaville, and protects a large piece of the Congo basin rainforest.
There is only the one small lodge in the whole area, and that is the simple Sangha Lodge on a rather marvelous bend of the Sangha river, which eventually flows into the Congo. The activities there, the animal interactions and viewing and the hosting, are all sublime. Two highlights come to mind. One is the natural Dzangha Bai – a ‘salt lick’, a naturally occurring clearing in the forest. A hide allows one to quietly sit all day and watch incredibly shy, reclusive and secretive animals, which one never sees normally, to come out of the forest and enjoy the salty waters. It is an all-day procession of Forest Elephant (different species from their savanna cousins, with pink ivory), forest buffalo, red-river hogs, giant forest hogs and bongo. And flocks and flocks of African Grey Parrots in the wild! An extraordinary sight! The second, and this is pertinent to Conrad and Starry Starry Nights, is that the couple run a community-outreach project for Pangolin conservation.
After twenty years of guiding, Conrad eventually found a Pangolin! It was a rescue, admittedly, but it was one of the rarest of all the Pangolin species – the Black-bellied. We did send you, dear friends, a breaking story a couple months back, but just to be sure that you appreciated the event, here is another picture of Conrad and his Pangolin! In celebrating this event, (noting that our logo is a Pangolin’s scales which become the stars), we will be launching our refreshed logo in the coming months, as a celebration of eventually seeing a Pangolin. Through Natural Selection and ourselves, we will be launching an annual safari to this amazing and hugely important conservation area, away from the world.