At once beautiful and challenging, the Central African Republic is subject to poor internal governance and security issues outside of urban areas. It is blessed with a wealth of natural resources, which will, it is hoped, be utilized in the future to stabilize the economy and bring international dollars into this landlocked country.
“Central African Republic (CAR) is a country open to visitors and guests; you’ll need a long time as the country is big and can take time to get around when in 4x4. However, if time is not on your side, it is possible to take flights to some of the smaller destinations within the country. CAR has substantial wildlife, where walking and trekking excursions puts you nose-to-nose with some of natures big though gentle creatures, from hippos to elephants to gorillas. One of the best ways to save the wildlife and enjoy a holiday is to simply come and enjoy this spellbinding country.”
History & Culture - There are more than 80 ethnic groups in the Central African Republic (CAR), each with its own language. The landlocked country is a former French colony which became independent in 1960. The capital city of Bangui was founded in 1880 by the Oubangui (also spelled Ubangi) River, which is the most important river in the country. Bangui is friendly, with lots of arts and crafts and is the country’s biggest trading port. Places to see include the cathedral and the Saint Paul Mission, the Boganda Museum, the Arts and Crafts School and the Central Market which is known for its malachite necklaces. See the fishermen’s round huts and canoes on the banks of the river.
In the Lobaya Region 100km (60 miles) from the capital there are forest tribes who still live in small huts made of vines with roofs made of leaves, and there are coffee plantations at the edge of the forest. At Zinga there are beautifully crafted wooden houses, while at Bouar there are burial mounds that are thousands of years old.
The Boali Waterfalls are both wide and high and are used to generate hydroelectricity. You can visit the hydroelectric power plant near the falls. There are also spectacular waterfalls on the River Kotto called the Kembe Falls and the Toutoubou Falls near Berberati. There are no railways in the Central African Republic so goods are mainly transported by river. Basketball is the most popular sport.
Nature & Wildlife - CAR is noted for its population of forest elephants and has potential as an ecotourism destination. The most visited National Park is Dzanga-Sangha National Park in the rainforest of the southwest where you can search for gorillas and elephants. Aka people live in this remote area. The nearby village of Bayanga offers accommodation and most people arrive by air rather than pass through the many checkpoints by road. In the forest surrounding Mbaiki there are pygmy settlements in the rainforest.
There are two other important parks. Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park to the north is on the UNECO World Heritage List and has leopards, lions, black rhinos and a high concentration of hippos. Bamingui-Bangoran National Park is in the northeast. There is an impressive variety of wildlife although the activities of poachers, particularly from neighboring Sudan, have led to a considerable decrease in the last 20 years, particularly of elephants and rhinos. The best way to see the wildlife is in a 4-wheel drive vehicle. From Birao, a tour operator can set you up with reliable guides and, more importantly, reliable vehicles. You’ll only be able to get around, though, during the dry season. Otherwise, the roads become more than swamps; they become flowing rivers!
Trekking - Trekking and hiking in CAR is very arduous even for the intrepid traveller. There is not much in the way of accommodation once you get out of the main cities, though a tour operator can connect you with all you’ll need. Have a 4x4 booked and ready to take you to various places where day hikes are possible. The best place to go walkabout is Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park or Bamingui-Bangoran. Walking trips through the park must be accompanied by a guide, but you may see black rhinos, cheetahs, leopards, buffalo, gazelles and elephants. Poaching has taken its toll but strong programs are being implemented to save the wildlife.
Mountain Biking - Riding a bike around CAR will not be that easy, as the country is a bit smaller than Texas with the rolling hills of British Columbia. Most of what you’ll find here is savannah, though undulating hills is the common terrain feel. The Fertit Hills and the Yade Massif in the northeast and northwest respectively offer some great “roads” (dirt tracks) for riding and seeing the country’s interior. It’s only possible to bike here during the dry season.
Fishing - There are all kinds of places to cast your rod in CAR. The problem is getting there. If you’ve pre-booked something with your tour operator, then you can try your luck at any number of the rivers, streams and tributaries that branch from the Congo River. Parts of the Mbomou, Ubangi, Uele, and Sangha River feed thousands, maybe millions, of people a day. The watershed here is extremely vital to the lives of not only people but of the animals that call CAR (and the surrounding countries) home. Common species are catfish, perch, pike, and carp.
Other Outdoor Activities - There is a lot to see and do in CAR. Developing activities includes rock climbing and golf outings. There are some great rock formations and you won’t even have to bring your own equipment. The guides are trained and have years of experience to help you climb some of this areas most famous, though low-key, rocks. This is a great way to experience 360 views of various areas.
Luckily, this is a country where rainfall is predictable. The temperatures are pretty hot all year long, and more so in the north. Here, you’ll find drier conditions and in the south there is higher humidity, especially after the rains. The dry season is from the end of October to the beginning of May. Everything between (May to October) is wet and wetter. The heaviest rain is generally recorded in the southwest, where the massive trees grow.
At once beautiful and challenging, the Central African Republic is subject to poor internal governance and security issues outside of urban areas. It is blessed with a wealth of natural resources, which will, it is hoped, be utilized in the future to stabilize the economy and bring international dollars into this landlocked country. More
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