Garamba National Park

In a vast undulating plateau of papyrus marshes, gallery forest, and stream-laced grasslands, some so high only tall Congo giraffes can see over them, is the last wild population of northern white rhinoceros in Garamba National Park and World Heritage Site. Surrounded on three sides of its 1,968 square miles (5,097 km2) by hunting reserves totaling more than 6,250 square miles (10,000 km2), it’s an enormous protected area in DRC’s northeast corner bordering Sudan, 47 miles (75 km) west of Uganda.

Once Garamba, established in 1938, had thousands of white rhinos, elephants, and others, but poaching by helicopters, automatic weapons, even light cannon, reduced these to remnants. Only 15 rhinos remained in 1984, making it one of the world’s most endangered species. Conservation groups around the world, including the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), WWF, and the U.N., joined in efforts to save these magnificent beasts. Poaching patrols gave them needed protection, they began reproducing again and at recent count were 31, with more expected.

Garamba lists 138 species of mammals, including some 3,000 buffalo, 3,000 hippos, 150 Congo giraffes (only known population of Giraffa camelopardalis congoensis), lions, hyenas, warthogs, olive baboons, golden cats, wild dogs, otters, roans, kobs, hartebeest, oribi, reedbuck, duikers, leopards, and perhaps 4–8,000 elephants (once 16,000) regarded as a unique subspecies adapted both to forest and savannah. Over 300 bird species include eagles, vultures, storks, white-winged lapwings, rufous-rumped larks, crocodile-birds, vinaceous doves, and blue-spotted wood-doves.

Most visitor facilities here as elsewhere have been damaged by years of neglect and war. Recovery remains in the planning stage. It once was possible to camp in the park or stay in an African-style hut but food supplies recently have been few, and the park has no petrol or diesel to sell to visitors. The park is 207 miles (335 km) northeast of Isiro to the entrance at Nagero, 3 miles (4 km) north of the Dungu–Aba road, or by light aircraft from Bunia or Goma.