Epulu

Overview

Introduction

The site of the Parc National d'Okapis, Epulu is a tiny village located in the Ituri rain forest. The rare okapi (similar to the giraffe, but with a shorter neck and legs and a purplish hue) can sometimes be found in the dense jungle surrounding the village. It's very unlikely you'll see one in the wild—they're so elusive that their existence was confirmed only in this century—but they can be seen at the small zoo in the Parc National. The park is on the beautiful Epulu River, and it's possible to camp along its banks.

Excursions can also be made to a Mbuti Pygmy village in the rain forest. This is only recommended for the very adventurous, as it involves a hike of 3-10 mi/5-16 km through the jungle, lodging in the uncomfortable (and tiny) huts that the Pygmies live in and meals of dik-dik stew (made from a small antelope—the dish often includes accidental portions of the animal's fur as well). The people are honey gatherers, so if you visit during the honey season, there will be large numbers of bees swarming around. The Pygmies will likely throw a party in your honor, complete with singing and dancing around the village fire. Visitors must hire a park-service guide in Epulu (you pay an extra fee if you take your camera) and should take along items to trade, as well as gifts for the Pygmies (obtainable in Epulu—your guide will advise you on what's appropriate). Plan three nights in Epulu if you want to see the Pygmies, one if you're interested only in the okapi. 300 mi/485 km north of Bukavu.

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