Salonga Congo National Park is home to Africa’s largest tropical rainforest and reserve located in the heart of the Congo River basin. The Park is just 100km south of Boende and between the cities of Kinshasa and Kisangani.
It was first established as a nature reserve in 1933 but later was declared a national park in November 1970. In 1984, it was listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site although in 1998, it became a Heritage Site in danger due to civil wars in the area and increase animal poaching.
The entire park covers am estimated 3, 600,000 ha on a lowland plateau crisscrossed by several rivers and dense rain forest gallery. There are two sections in the park with the north in the Equateur province and the south block located in the provinces of Equateur, Ksai and Bandudu. Much of the park is a tropical rain forest although a few parts especially the river beds and deep valleys have marsh swamps.
The Park‘s two sectors run along a series of parallel southeast-northwest trending river watersheds, covering three types of landscape: low swamp-forested plateaux, river terraces and high dry-forest plateaux, each with its distinct vegetation. In the northern block, between the Lomela and Loile rivers, valleys in the west are large and meandering with marshy banks. In the higher land in the east, the valleys are deeper and rivers may run below cliffs up to 80m high. The southern block lies between the Luilaka and Lula rivers. Soils are a thin humus layer over clayey sands with several lateritic flushes. In the lower western valleys up to half the soil cover is hydromorphic.
There are several species of wild animals in the park and the most importantly the dwarf chimpanzees also called bonobo. These primates are the endemic to the southern Congo River basin rainforests. The other species of mammals in Salonga National Park include long tailed pangolin, congo aquatic civet, pygmy buffalo, bushbuck, sitatunga, aquatic chevrotain, bush pig, yellow backed duiker, Angolan mongoose, golden cat, giant ground pangolin, tree pangolin, leopard, elephant, hippo, okapi, dwarf crocodile, bonobo, side stripped jackal, serval, red river hog and the cape buffalo among other species. Other primates; endemic black colobus monkey , West African red colobus, dryad monkey, golden bellied mangabey, red tailed monkey, potto, mona monkey, Allen’s swamp monkey, Thollon red colobus and the dwarf bush baby among others
Some of the birds in the park include the cattle egret, congo peacock, black stork, black-bellied bustard, grey parrot and the yellow billed stork among many others. More than 300 birds are recorded in the rain forest of Salonga National park while half of which are residents.
Salonga National Park lies in the equatorial region and thus receives nearly 1700mm of rainfall every year with flooded region for most of the days. The dry season is June to August and is the best time to visit the park.
There are airstrips at Mundja, Monkoto and Anga that receives charter and private flights to Salonga National Park for most part of the southern section. Some sections of the park are practically inaccessible except by boat.