This heart of Odzala is accessed by kayak and on foot - first wading through streams then sinking into the squelchy mud and back into the streams. Occasionally we have to wait, be patient and then dodge forest buffalo, the guide asking politely if we could move quietly in a single continuously moving line across reed beds that separate us and them.
They watch our every move. Forest buffalo with their fringed ears are different to the Cape Buffalo, whilst they can be grumpy, they are not as ‘scary’ and bad tempered. Passing them in this challenging environment must still be handled correctly though, by experienced guides who understand the habitat.
Flocks of green pigeons fly over us and then a flock of African grey parrots – something I really want to see. A flash of red tail feathers in the sunlight and then a black sparrowhawk scares them off in a different direction.
My bird watching companions and I are transfixed when we see a great blue turaco on entering a bit of forest, and then we glimpse putty nosed monkeys and moustached monkeys cavorting. That is two more species ticked off on my list!
Emerging from the forest, straight across from the camp we cross the bai, all the mud washing away. You are mud free but soaked, having had the most tremendous adventure transfer between one camp and the next.
Lango is an intimate safari camp in prime wildernesses. Can this be any further from civilisation? Actually probably not, as it sits at the centre of this reserve, the remotest place in the Congo. The Camp is also luxurious.
Tired, exhilarated, completely exhausted, I cannot wait to go out walking again this afternoon, (after a little rest, a delicious lunch and some time to dry out!)
We dine on melt-in-the-mouth Karoo lamb, sweet potatoes and the most decadent dark chocolate mousse this side of a Parisian Michelin restaurant and refuelled and refreshed we head out for a much lighter afternoon stroll – this time in the semi-dry, partly flooded forest.
New species of trees await us, the objective now is to immerse you in unexplored forests, every walk is different and there is wildlife all around you. This forest is so different to the others we have visited on this journey – Capoc trees and others whose buttresses and knobbled trucks seemed like the inspiration for ‘Lord of the Rings land’ surround us.
The groundsel is low, pockets of open canopied forest and glades open up – the monkeys reappear and we see a bushbuck in the shadows.
Moving slowly and quietly – just as well – but not quiet enough – the bushes to our right suddenly explode, we quickly take refuge behind a tree as grunting giant forest hogs rushes by.
We have been warned they can be dangerous, up to 250kgs with razor sharp tusks. Pretty much nothing stops them either. The advice is - take cover, don’t take any chances and don’t mess with them.
With the adrenaline coursing strongly, we stand our ground, stop breathing, and fortunately they keep running past.
Nervous laughter and elation follows as we resume our walk, now every sense doubly working away.
There is no noise of a 4x4 engine, just the gentle step through undergrowth along animal made pathways. You certainly fall under a spell of this absorbing landscape.
The guide encourages us to walk as quietly as possible, listening and taking in the rich kaleidoscope of colours of the forest as well as textures, this is an exploration of discovery.
Odzala’s wildlife is not used to seeing tourists, but you can see shy bushbuck and sitatunga nibble on the new shoots on the open bai, and forest elephants moving lightly through the forest.
There is the clarity of a natural habitat enveloping you, you suddenly realize that you don’t want to hear any manmade engine, even your companions speaking, indeed we all fall under the spell and just listen, simply listen, observe and feel the forest around us.
As we make our way back to camp - feet and trainers again wet, the waiters wave in greeting from a wooden platform on the edge of the bai.
We realise that whilst we thought they had been waving a welcome to us, in fact they are waving away the midges! Well, they make us welcome anyway, handing us ice cold G&T’s with locally picked slices of limes – that’s another story! and a huge Congolese smile.
We dry off, indulge in yet another despicably gorgeous dinner whilst the chorus of frogs and insects are competing all around in the most outrageous fashion- all trying to outdo each other and be louder than their neighbour.
Tonight, I am quite exhausted, I fall into bed amazed by the fact that I have added twenty-four new mammal, tree and bird species to my list. Will I sleep with the cacophony of insects and din of the frogs? You bet I will!