Sangha Lodge, The Bio Diversity lodge

Since opening the lodge in 2009, we have had many questions about the location, the lodge, our conservation efforts and simply about what to bring. Below we try and answer these for you.

About the lodge

We are a speciality biodiversity lodge with a track record as a rustic owner run destination, where we are passionate (but realistic) conservationists trying to make a difference to our environment. We have an excellent birding and wildlife background and offer a place where you will find basic good food and a cold beer. We are not a backpacker’s hostel, self-catering or a bed and breakfast but a full-service lodge.   Do not expect a typical east or southern African Safari, but rather a rainforest experience reminiscent of Borneo or the Amazon but with charismatic mega fauna thrown in. The high Bio Diversity however is far more than just Elephants and gorillas. We offer a dynamic wildlife experience and knowledge you will not find elsewhere in the region and your stay actively supports our conservation efforts.

About your hosts

The lodge is run by Rod and Tamar Cassidy, two South Africans with a passion for birding and conservation, who stumbled into owning a lodge in the heart of Africa. For more about our story, please read the blog on the Sangha Lodge website.

Who should visit and why?

This is pioneering travel, for anyone with an adventurous and intrepid spirit, who wants to venture where few are willing to go.  

Central African Republic is at the central heart of the African continent and in Dzanga-Sangha you will find wildlife as you have never seen it before, with forest elephants congregating en-masse in the bai, often accompanied by forest buffalo, bongo, red river hog or giant forest hog. The river and birding experiences are dynamic and engaging and you may enjoy a cultural opportunity of witnessing the indigenous Ba ‘Aka (pygmies) practicing traditional net hunting, hut building and collecting medicinal plants still in use today.

What is the best month to visit?

This all depends on what you are looking for. Generally, there is no bad time to visit, we promise. Elephants at Dzanga, and habituated gorillas are easy to see all year round. But there are somethings that are better at certain times of the year.

Birding is best in the wet season, especially august through end October. While Bongos are best in the dry season, especially late March and April.  

Is Sangha Lodge in the national park?

The lodge is not within the National Park, which from a conservation perspective is the preferred route for development. We are located 5 kilometres from the park along the Sangha River, within a 64000 hectare hunting concession. Sangha Lodge pays the annual fees for the Trophy hunting rights and instead of hunting we are developing sustainable tourism in this area now under our protection and conservation.

Is it safe coming to Central African Republic?

Travel advisories will always advise against travel to CAR, and while this is sound advice for a large part of the country, the troubled region is as so far away from the remote south west were the lodge is located and we have never, even in the bleakest dark times in 2013 and 2014 been affected. Bangui, the capital too is secure and your passing through this quaint capital should never be an issue.

We make every effort to ensure a safe and secure journey and access to our lodge and thus control the process as much as possible, flying you directly from Bangui to Bayanga, which also minimises any potential risks significantly.

Is the lodge suitable for independent travellers?

Individual travel is expensive and the fewer persons travelling the higher the logistics costs to a remote destination like Sangha Lodge. If you are really cost sensitive, then there are alternatives that are more cost effective and Sangha Lodge may not be the place for you.

Please carefully read the frequently asked questions, as well as our individual traveller rates (which are available on request). If you still think that Sangha Lodge is the place for you and would like to join us, then we will welcome you at any time. 

What is the optimal group size for visits to Sangha Lodge?

Sangha Lodge has 7 chalets, and thus can sleep up to 14 guests comfortably. However, based on the activities available, the ideal group size is 8-10 guests at any time.

What meals can we expect?

Breakfasts are continental and lunches will either be picnic lunches or lunch at the lodge, depending on your activities. In the evenings cocktails are provided as of 18h30 followed by a combination of western and African cuisine and desert. Coffee is available throughout the day.

Why is it so expensive?

Whilst the lodge makes every effort to source locally and support local business, supply is a challenge and thus most goods are still brought in by plane. Similarly flights into the region are limited, and flights or access directly to the lodge is limited and comes at a high cost, and risk to the lodge. We are working hard to try and bring down the costs, and our efforts are starting to bear fruit, but this is an ongoing process of developing tourism in the region.

Where does my money go?

Fees for your stay contribute directly to our conservation efforts, including amongst others: Pangolin research; wildlife rehabilitation; managing the reduction of the bush meat trade and hunting through funding and maintaining what should be a hunting concession; socio-economic development by providing seeds to local entrepreneurs who grow fruit and vegetables which are then bought by the lodge for use for our guests; and numerous other local initiatives including the minimum requirements of educational, medical and other community support.

Do you provide assistance on arrival at Bangui?

Depending on the package selected, Sangha Lodge provides Meet and Greet, Immigrations and Customs support at Mpoko International Airport in Bangui. Should you not be on a package that includes this support, it can be arranged and quoted on request.

If we need to overnight in Bangui, where should we stay?

Should you require accommodation in Bangui, we recommend that you book directly with Hotel Ledger, details for which may be found on their website - http://www.laicohotels.com/ledger-plaza-bangui/  

What is the weight restriction on the internal flights?

The plane from Bangui has adequate capacity for up to 50kgs per person, however if taking the small charter flight from Yaoundé, then you will be limited to 20kgs per person at all times, and it is recommended that you travel with a soft bag.

Who needs a visa and how does one obtain a visa?

This is supportive advice only, and the onus remains with you to ensure that you have the latest accurate information for your nationality, prior to travel.

Whilst some countries do not require visas, some airlines will not let you fly without a visa, and thus it is important that tourists obtain a visa prior to arrival. Tourist visas may be obtained from your local Central African Republic Embassy or Consulate, or from the French Embassy or Consulate where no Central African Embassy is present.

What are the medical requirements?

Yellow fever vaccination is required and it is recommended that you consult your medical practitioner and local travel clinic regarding recommended additional vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis.

All I want to know about set departures?

Can I modify the activities I participate in?

Flexibility in terms of activities is not a problem. We would book you on the set package and give you some indication of the additional Euros you may want to bring for alternate or additional activities, which can then be arranged once you are here.  The flexibility is good, as you may change your mind once you have experienced some of the activities and are then able to adjust accordingly.

If I come on a set departure package, can I extend my stay?

Extending your stay for additional nights at the lodge depends on availability, however the key challenge is the logistics, as unless another charter flight is operational, you may be in for significant cost for the additional flight.

Are there any set departures from Yaoundé or Douala?

Not currently.

Does the lodge have internet access?

Yes, the lodge has connectivity via satellite, thus you will have limited and sometimes somewhat slow connectivity in certain areas of the lodge.

Does the lodge have mobile / cellular network access?

Unfortunately, not, other than in a small area in Bayanga village. You will not be able to use your mobile phone or send SMSs.

Currency - can I use my credit card or access a bank?

There are no banks in Bayanga or in proximity to the village or lodge, thus visitors should bring cash with them in EURO, preferably in smaller denominations. Dollars are not accepted at all, and cannot be exchanged. Depending on the package selected, most costs should have been paid upfront, thus you will require money to settle any outstanding items, the bar bill, for tipping and purchasing of curios in the village. Should you not be arriving on a package, then adequate funds should be brought for activities and other expenses.    

What language do they speak in CAR?

Sango (also spelled Sangho) is a creole language in the Central African Republic and is the official and primary language spoken in the country. Most locals speak French, specifically for more technical speech or loan words where detailed description is required.

Can one drink the water?

Water is sourced straight from the Babongo river, and is filtered for drinking and cooking. Guests are provided bottled water free of charge, and have the option to use bottled or filtered water for drinking. Ice is made from bottled water.

Is it suitable for children?

All children are welcome at the lodge, though not during set departures. Also bear in mind that children must be 16 and older to participate in the gorilla tracking experience, though may be younger for the other activities.

Will I be able to see Pangolins?

Most likely yes, if you are a guest at the lodge. There are currently black-bellied pangolins being rehabilitated and reintegrated into the wild, and it is likely that you will be able to visit one during your stay. Note that our priority is the well-being of the Pangolins, thus should their safety be compromised, they be unwell or under distress for any reason, a visit may not be possible and no non-residents will be allowed to visit.