Dzanga National Park, CAR
The best birding is in the months of lowest rainfall, December to March.
Manovo-Gounda-St Floris National Park is a World Heritage site. Some 320 species have been identified with at least 25 species of raptor including Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus and African Fish Eagle Haliaaetus vocifer. There are large seasonal populations of Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus, Pink-backed Pelican P. rufescens and Marabou Stork Leptoptilos crumeniferus, and the park may be fairly important for both waterbirds and shorebirds, particularly the flood plains to the north. Ostrich Struthio camelus seem fairly common on the plains, moving to woodland areas to lay their eggs. Several species of bee-eater and kingfisher are present along the rivers. The best way to reach the parks is by chartered plane from Bangui, as driving the 800 km north-east from Bangui usually takes a day and a half in good weather, and that will be on rough roads where you won't be assured of finding petrol.
Dzanga-Sangha Dense Forest Reserve is the newest of Central African Republic's parks and is in the far south-west corner of the country. It is also possibly the most interesting park as it contains the last remnants of Central African Republic's virgin rainforests, and has some of the highest densities of lowland gorillas and forest elephants anywhere in Africa.
In the dry season, this reserve can be reached overland in two days from Yaounde in Cameroon (overnight accommodation is available in Bertoua or Batouri [note spelling]), then to Yakadouma, where it is a three hour drive in the dry season - or 5 hours in the wet season - to the logging village of Libongo on the Sangha River. By prior arrangement with Sangha Lodge you can be transferred up river by boat, for an exciting three hour ride.
There is also a good dry season road to the reserve along the fourth parallel from Bangui - driveable in a day with a 4x4.
Camping and simple hotel facilities are available at Bayanga, and in the past the reserve visitor centre has been able to arrange local guides. The main attraction is a big, flooded, forest clearing, where an elevated viewing hide allows good views of the forest elephants which come to the clearing for minerals, and the many other birds and animals which come to drink.
Two lodges are available in Bayanga - Doli Lodge and Sangha Lodge.
The Sangha Lodge is owned and operated by Rod Cassidy, a well known and respected African birder who spends a lot of his time exploring the area and opening up new birding sites. He has recently discovered a new site for Grey-necked Picathartes Picathartes oreas.
Update from Rod Cassidy October 2010. "The latest site I have found for Picathartes is really sublime with 5 active nests and the birds are always in attendance. Tto top that, it is at the most beautiful of settings you could hope to find; a fantastic waterfall; 2 days ago looking down the falls from the top I watched 4 picathartes bathing in the stream in bright sunlight.... extraordinary.."
Sangha Lodge is a good base to visit the Forest Resreve and we have received a report of a visit in January 2010. The forests can be explored from the lodge by boat and vehicle. Birding can be difficult in dense forests but there is access to savanna grasslands and a good range of species to be seen. These include Spot-breasted Ibis Bostrychia rara, Bat Hawk Macheiramphus alcinus, Plumed Guineafowl Guttera plumifera, Egyptian Plover Pluvianus aegyptius, Grey Pratincole Glareola cinerea, Black-collared Lovebird Agapornis swindernianus, White-throated Greenbul Phyllestraphus albigularis, Violet-backed Hyliota Hyliota violacea, Little Grey Flycatcher Muscicapa infuscata, Verreaux's Batis Batis minima, Grey-necked Picathartes Picathartes oreas, Violet-tailed Sunbird Anthreptes aurantium, Chestnut-winged Starling Onychognathus fulgidus, Cassins Malimbus cassini, Red-crowned M. coronatus, Crested M. malimbicus, Blue-billed M. nitens and Red-headed Malimbe M. rubricollis.
Apart from birding, most tourists visit this area to spend time with the Baaka Pygmies, visit the stunning Dzanga Bai for Forest Elephant, Forest buffalo, Sitatunga and possibly Bongo, and go tracking Western Lowland Gorillas, (the reserve has two groups of habituated Lowland Gorillas).
Bangui area The capital, Bangui, is situated on the right bank of the Oubangui river and at the dividing line between the Sudan-Guinea savanna zone in the north and the Guinea-Congo rainforest in the south-west and it is possible to see a good variety of species from both habitat types on day trips from the city, as well as a good selection of waterbirds on the river itself. For savanna species, take RN1 north-west from Bangui - the Boali Falls about 50 km from the capital is a good place to head for. For forest species, go south-west towards Mbaiki on RN6 and for waterbirds try renting a dug-out pirogue on the river at Bangui itself .