Expedition kit on a table top - Handbook Master Image

DRC: BONOBOS

expedition handbook

This Handbook contains everything you need to know about this epic Secret Compass expedition to see the bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Read on to discover our ethos and team-centred approach and for the nitty gritty like flight and visa advice, insurance requirements and kit recommendations. Use the buttons below to ask questions or to apply for this team or, once approved, to secure your spot on the team with a Booking Form and a £400 deposit.

Key facts

  • Arrive: by 1700 on 23rd September 2018 into N’Djili International Airport, Kinshasa.
  • Depart: leave Kinshasa any time on 4th October onwards.
  • Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive cover.
  • Docs: send your flight, insurance and passport copy in.
  • Balance due: 90 days before departure on 25th June.
  • Find FAQ and Testimonials online.

Aim

The aim of this Epic expedition is to travel into the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s jungle to find humans closest relatives, the bonobos. Supporting the local conservation initiative, the team will have the honour of being amongst the first visitors to the new research and conservation centre deep in the Lomako Reserve.
Travelling by plane, boat and foot, the journey to reach the bonobo sanctuary will be an expedition by itself, rewarded by witnessing these incredible animals in their natural habitat. Fully supported by the DRC government and the African Wildlife Foundation, this is the first official expedition into the reserve with the aim to raise awareness and conservation funds which will be used to study and protect the bonobos for future generations.

Summary

Sharing 98.7% of human DNA, bonobos are undoubtedly our species’ closest living relatives. But, endemic to an area just 500,000 km², within the Congo Basin, threatened for natural resources, we could see them wiped from the face of the earth in as few as 75 years. This expedition provides a unique opportunity, not only to see bonobos in their natural habitat but to contribute directly to their preservation when they need it most.

Highlights

  • Travel via dugout canoe past floating fishing villages and spectacular jungle views.
  • Opportunities so see four additional primate species; black mangabey, red tail guenoc, wolfi monkey and the black & white colobus.
  • Visit the Ekolo ya Bonobo Sanctuary and reintroduction centre near Basankusu, viewing rehabilitated bonobos from the canoes.
  • Visit the Lola ya Bonobo Orphanage near Kinshasa and interact with rescued Bonobos.
  • Keep an eye out for the endless jungle wildlife such as the congo peacock and the tiger fish.

Flights

You need to organise your own international flights. We have a unique partnership with Student Universe (a specialist division of the Flight Centre Travel Group and no, you don’t have to be a student to use them). The dedicated Secret Compass team understand us, our destinations and use global buying power to save you money and offer security along with a 24-hour assistance helpline. Fill in a free, no-obligation Flight Request Form here or call (UK) 0844 560 9799 for assistance in booking international flights.

It is advised that you book a flexible flight ticket that can be changed or refunded if the expedition dates are changed or if it is cancelled for any reason. See our online Terms and Conditions.
You need to arrive at N’Djili International Airport in Kinshasa by 1700 on the 23rd September 2018 and the expedition officially ends after breakfast on the 4th October 2018 although you are free to depart anytime as many flights depart early in the morning.

Insurance

Travel insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all expeditions. You should be aware that many standard insurance policies may not cover you adequately for all aspects of a remote expedition and so we strongly recommend that you purchase a suitably designed insurance policy. Secret Compass cannot comment on the suitability of your cover so if you are in any doubt please contact your policy provider and ask them to confirm that you are covered to our minimum standard (below).

  • Emergency medical repatriation (to home country) including any associated expenses abroad of at least $500,000.
  • Activities: ensure that any expedition activities are included, these could be trekking, horse riding, rafting, MTB etc.
  • Geographical region: check the geographical region you are going to is insured (often the US and Canada or countries such as Afghanistan are not insured).
  • Foreign Ministry advice: check your insurance is not sensitive to any travel warnings issued by your respective foreign ministry. In the UK, many insurers will not insure you when the Foreign Office warns against travel to this area. Foreign Office advice will not necessarily mean we cancel an expedition or do not travel to a particular area. Please check @FCOtravel and the Travel Aware site.
  • Dates: make sure the period of cover begins at the departure and ends at the return to your home country. Many flights take a day or two and time zones vary. Insurance companies may prejudice your claims due to this.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions: disclose these to your insurance company and to Secret Compass.

Prior to travel Secret Compass will require the name of your insurance policy provider, their 24-hour emergency contact number and your policy number. For full information on travel insurance and links to suggested companies, please visit the insurance page on our website.

Visas

Visas for DRC are your responsibility. You will need to apply for a DRC single entry tourist visa. Details are given below for applications via the DRC Embassy in London, please research the specific requirements for your nationality/residency.
Applications at the London embassy can be made in person or by a Visa Assistance Company. In order to apply for the visa you will need the following:

  • One completed visa application form
  • Passport with minimum 6 months validity and three consecutive blank pages
  • Two colour passport photographs
  • Proof of address, e.g. a recent utility bill
  • Proof of employment letter on company headed paper and addressed to the embassy. This must include the name of the applicant, confirm the applicants is an employee of the company, specify travelling for touristic purposes only and state the applicants expected date to return to work.
  • Copy of flight tickets or confirmed itinerary
  • Copy of International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever
  • Invitation letter from your tour operator (see below)
  • Payment

Secret Compass will obtain a letter of invitation from the ICCN using the details you provided on your Secret Compass Booking Form and will send that to you in due course which you may then use to obtain your DRC visa. Please note, we will need a copy of your passport to obtain your LOI so please attach one to your booking form or send by email to info@secretcompass.com upon booking.

In DRC you will stay at the Kempinski Hotel in Kinshasa. Your entry and exit dates should match your flight details so please send these through so we can ensure that your letter of invitation matches up with the correct dates.

CHECK YOUR VISA’S DATES: EMBASSIES CAN GET THIS WRONG.

Yellow Fever. All team members will require an original valid yellow fever certificate, issued more than 10 days before the start of the expedition. WHO advice now states that Yellow Fever Vaccinations are valid for life instead of the original 10 years claimed – please note that this information is not widely known so if necessary you should insist on a medical practitioner issuing a new, valid certificate or extending the expiry on your existing one. Do not accept an exemption certificate as an alternative to a vaccination certificate, as these too are not widely recognised.

Permits

All relevant tourist permits will be organised by Secret Compass.

Passports

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into the DRC with at least three free page for immigration stamps. Please send a clear, colour copy of your passport to Secret Compass ahead of the expedition and carry photocopies with you on the expedition in a safe place.

Departure tax

Please note, there is a departure tax of $50 per passenger plus a fee of 5,000 Congolese Francs on international flights. These are official fees paid when checking in and are not included in your expedition cost. It is best to get an official receipt plus a copy for each fee. You should hand the originals on request to immigration and at boarding and keep the copies.

Day 1: Sep 23 – Kinshasa

Arrive in Kinshasa by 1700 and meet your airport transfer to take you to the team hotel to meet your leader. Welcome meal and expedition briefing.

Day 2: Sep 24 – Ekolo ya Bonobo

Depart early to ger your charter flight to Basankusu. In the afternoon is will be possible to witness a bush meat market for yourselves before jumping on a boat and heading to Elonda, the location of the Ekolo ya Bonobo Reintroduction Sanctuary where you will spend the night. Remember to keep an eye out for bonobos along the water’s edge as you make your way into the sanctuary.

Day 3: Sep 25 – Lomako River Camp

Today will be an early start to get a motorised canoe up the river, deep into the Lomako reserve. You should reach your river camp a few hours before sunset, giving you time to relax and acclimatise to the jungle before dark.

Day 4: Sep 26 – AWF Jungle Camp

Today you will leave the boats and with your porter team, start your 4hr hike into the jungle to the bonobo research centre and reserve. You will have lunch at the African Wildlife Foundation camp, your basecamp for the next few days, before setting out in the afternoon in search of the bonobos.

Day 5: Sep 27 – Jungle Hammock Camp

Depending on the location of the bonobo families, it is likely you will set out today with enough kit for a night away from the camp in the depths of the forest. The day will be spent bonobo viewing and hiking through the forest looking for other wildlife such as the congo peacock. As night falls you will set up your hammock camp and prepare for your night close to the bonobos.

Day 6: Sep 28 – AWF Jungle Camp

Waking up close to the bonobo family, you will have the maximum time to watch the families and explore the forest. In the evening you will head back to the AWF basecamp for the night.

Day 7: Sep 29 – AWF Jungle Camp

Your last full day in the jungle with the bonobo’s and researchers before heading back to your camp in the evening.

Day 8: Sep 30 – Lomako River Camp

This morning will be your last hike out into the jungle to see the bonobos before departing camp in the evening, or depending on how the group is feeling, head back down to the river camp in the morning and spend the day floating on the river and fishing before starting your preparations for your journey back down the river the following day.

Day 9: Oct 1 – Ekolo ya Bonobo

Today will be a full days boat ride back out of the Lomako reserve to Basankusu and the Ekolo ya Bonobo sanctuary for the evening.

Day 10: Oct 2 – Lola ya Bonobo

This morning you will get your charter flight back down to Kinshasa and will get a transfer out to Lola ya Bonobo, the orphanage and rescue centre where the Ekolo ya Bonobo inhabitants were originally looked after before being released into the sanctuary. Here you can interact with the orphans and learn more about the conservation project for these incredible animals.

Day 11: Oct 3 – Kinshasa

The morning will be spent at the orphanage before getting your transfer back to your Kinshasa hotel. There will be an opportunity to freshen up before your final meal with the team.

Day 12: Oct 4 – Onward Travel

You are free to depart anytime today or make arrangements to extend your stay. The expedition officially ends after breakfast although many flights depart early in the morning. Please send in your flight details so we can organise your airport transfers.

About Secret Compass itineraries

Please remember that this itinerary acts as a framework plan. It provides guidance as to our intentions but may not be followed religiously. This is an adventure and by definition the outcome is uncertain. The leadership team will adapt, flex and change the plan depending on the numerous frictions you may encounter along the way.

Fitness

All our expeditions are achievable by people with an active and healthy lifestyle. However, this is an arduous expedition that will test you and at times you may be sore, tired, hungry and possibly wet! You must be prepared physically and mentally for the expedition and for living in basic conditions for the duration. Please ensure that you train for the expedition and arrive fit and ready to go. You will be required to be fit enough for the following.

  • Grade: 180.
  • Daily activity: varies but up to approx. 8 hours per day in the jungle.
  • Walk: up to 4 hours per day.
  • Carry: up to 8 kg.
  • Terrain: through close tropical rainforest, through potentially boggy and wet areas, crossing rivers.
  • Climate: in a hot and humid environment.
  • Swim: the primary mode of transport throughout this expedition is vis dugout canoe and river crossings may be necessary when hunting for the bonobos each day. Being 100% comfortable around water is required and being able to swim will be very beneficial.

Previous experience

No previous experience of jungle conditions is necessary to join this expedition but team members would benefit from trekking or hill-walking practice and being used to carrying day bags at around 10 kg for multiple days. At a basic level, you should be comfortable jogging for at least 45 minutes and be able to walk for 8 hours per day in the British hills carrying 10kg for at least 3 days running.

Medical

Vaccinations. Please seek advice from your health professional on recommended vaccinations. The NHS Fit For Travel site and Travel Health Pro are both useful.

There is a high risk of malaria so you should seek advice on appropriate medication.

Yellow Fever. All team members will require an original valid yellow fever certificate, issued more than 10 days before the start of the expedition. WHO advice now states that Yellow Fever Vaccinations are valid for life instead of the original 10 years claimed – please note that this information is not widely known so if necessary you should insist on a medical practitioner issuing a new, valid certificate or extending the expiry on your existing one. Do not accept an exemption certificate as an alternative to a vaccination certificate, as these too are not widely recognised.

Dental. It is strongly recommended that you have a dental check up prior to departure. Dental problems far from help are very unpleasant.

Money

Bring US dollars. These can be changed for local currency (Congolese Francs) if wished, although US dollars are widely accepted in Kinshasa. Please ensure notes are clean and not torn. ATMs accepting international transactions are available in Kinshasa.
US Dollars. Please ensure all notes are issued post-2009 and are in pristine condition. Notes with any damage or writing will not be accepted. Bring a mixture of notes with you as $100 bills are sometimes hard to break.
This expedition is all-inclusive so you won’t need much money except for airport taxes and costs of a personal nature such as tips (entirely optional but 65USD is a good estimation for the entire trip), beer in towns or souvenirs. The Lola ya Bonobo orphanage has a small gift shop selling clothing and postcards in aid of their conservation efforts.
Secret Compass always suggest carrying an emergency fund of $100-$200 in cash.

The following is Secret Compass’s recommended kit list for the 2018 expedition to DRC. There is a reasonable chance that bags may be delayed when transiting through airports on your outbound flights to Kinshasa. Try to keep essential items in your hand luggage (check hand baggage restrictions first). Good quality walking boots and waterproofs are very hard to replace so it is advisable to wear/take these on the flight. There will be the opportunity to leave a small bag at the hotel in Kinshasa with flight clothes etc.
The team will be getting a domestic charter flight between Kinshasa and Basankusu. They have a very tight baggage allowance so please keep main bags to a limit of 15kg and hand luggage to a limit of 5kg. These are the maximum weights allowed so try and keep under these weights.
Discounts
Secret Compass have arranged team members discounts with Cotswold Outdoor, Nordic Life, Outdoor Hire and Expedition Kit Hire, details of these will be sent through on booking.

Baggage and sleeping

  • RUCKSACK or DUFFEL: 50-70 ltr, all personal kit must fit into one bag.
  • DAYSACK: around 30 ltr, for use whilst trekking through the reserve searching for the Bonobo.
  • WATERPROOF RUCKSACK LINER: Sealable “canoe” or “dry” bags made by Podsac or Ortlieb, etc.
  • SMALLER DRY BAGS: As above, but smaller bags to put essential items in. The large rucksack liners sometimes leak so anything important needs to be waterproofed individually.
  • SLEEPING BAG LINER: Silk or cotton. Coolmax are ideal. If you are a cold sleeper you may want a thin sleeping bag or thin blanket in addition to a liner.

Clothing

  • 2 x TREKKING SHIRTS: Thin trekking shirts that dry quickly. Long sleeves to provide insect and sun protection.
  • 2 x THERMAL BASE LAYER: Long sleeved thermal top. Helly Hansen or equivalent.
  • 2 x LONG TREKKING TROUSERS: Thin trekking trousers that dry quickly and are comfortable.
  • 2 x MID LAYER: Fleece or equivalent.
  • 1 x WATERPROOF JACKET AND TROUSERS: Gore-tex or equivalent. Thin and light as it will be very humid.
  • WATERPROOF GAITERS: To keep boots as dry as possible when walking on wet boggy ground.
  • 1 x WALKING BOOTS: Must provide ankle support and be worn in before the expedition. Please consult your nearest outdoor store for advice on choosing the correct boot. Waterproof liner is advised.
  • 4 x MID WEIGHT HIKING SOCKS
  • SANDALS: For use around camp (not flip flops).
  • WIDE-BRIMMED SUN HAT
  • WARM HAT FOR EVENINGS
  • GLOVES
  • 4 x UNDERWEAR: Sport or cycling shorts don’t chafe.

Eating

  • MUG
  • KNIFE, FORK, SPOON
  • WATER BLADDER OR ROBUST BOTTLES: You need to be able to carry a minimum of three litres of water in a combination of camelback and water bottles.

Health and Hygiene

  • WASHBAG, TOOTHBRUSH AND TOOTHPASTE, RAZOR, DEODORANT (optional).
  • SOAP (optional): Anti-bacterial and biodegradable.
  • TRAVEL TOWEL/SARONG (optional).
  • WET WIPES OR BABY WIPES (optional).
  • ANTIBACTERIAL HAND GEL
  • TOILET PAPER: Travel tissues work well.
  • SANITARY PRODUCTS (optional).
  • LIP SALVE WITH UV PROTECTION
  • VASELINE: Keep readily available to prevent chafing skin and heel friction blisters.
  • INSECT REPELLENT: Minimum DEET 30%.
  • VITAMINS (optional).
  • AFTER SUN/MOISTURISER (optional).
  • FACTOR 30+ SUN CREAM

Small first aid kit

A team medical kit with a comprehensive primary care provision will be carried.

  • WATERPROOF BAG OR TUPPERWARE BOX: Keep kit dry and safe.
  • PAIN KILLERS: Ibuprofen and Paracetamol.
  • ZINC OXIDE TAPE AND SMALL SCISSORS
  • MELOLIN DRESSING PADS x 4
  • 2 x CREPE BANDAGE
  • COMPEED BLISTER PADS: Please not that Compeed produce several similar looking blister packs for corns, etc. Please ensure you purchase the standard/ original item.
  • DIARRHOEA TABLETS: Immodium.
  • DIORALYTE SACHETS OR SIMILAR REHYDRATION PACKS: Consider Nuun or Zero tables (non-caffeinated) for regular use.
  • ANTISEPTIC WIPES
  • ANTISEPTIC CREAM
  • PIRITON TABLETS (for allergies).
  • EURAX CREAM (for bites).
  • ANY MEDICATION YOU NORMALLY USE: Find out the generic/chemical name for your medication in case you need to source more in-county. Please also check that your medication is legal in your destination. You must make Secret Compass aware of any medical conditions before you travel.

Other

  • TREKKING POLES (optional): Many team members find trekking poles useful on slippery or uneven terrain.
  • WATCH (optional).
  • HEAD TORCH AND SPARE BATTERIES: Petzl Tikka head torch or equivalent. Check the torch works before you leave home.
  • SUNGLASSES WITH UV-FILTER LENSES
  • PENKNIFE (optional).
  • GAFFER TAPE (optional): For emergency repairs to your kit, you can take some off the roll and wrap it around something else in your kit.
  • 1 x KARABINER: For securing your rucksack (on top of minibuses, etc).
  • SPARE BOOT LACES (optional).
  • SMALL SEWING KIT
  • RE-SEALABLE PLASTIC BAGS (optional): For dirty washing, wrappings, etc.
  • SMALL PADLOCK AND KEY: To lock storage bag left behind.
  • 10 ENERGY/TREKKING BARS (optional): Keeps energy levels up if you start to feel low.

Our approach

Secret Compass organises expeditions, not sightseeing tours. Our expeditions are team-centred, flexible and dynamic. Teams are managed on the ground by Secret Compass staff: industry-leading professionals and guides of the highest calibre. They put the structure in place for your team to have an incredible experience while achieving your expedition’s aims. Our people are as passionate as you are about achieving the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places. Secret Compass teams often go to places that others don’t. This makes our expeditions truly different, taking you beneath the skin and beyond the headlines of the world’s most remote reaches. Inspired by history’s great explorers and challenges, you’ll be set ambitious goals and will overcome similar hardships to those experienced on the audacious journeys of the past.

Remember this is not an organised tour. It is an adventure. More often than not expeditions don’t run smoothly! The nature of the areas we operate in mean that we will encounter a number of challenges that we expect everyone to meet and relish. Friction and hurdles are all part and parcel of an arduous expedition and also to our success as a team. These make the journey more interesting and are often the best and most amusing parts when looking back. Each expedition is thoroughly reviewed on its return and team members will have the opportunity to provide feedback which helps to inform planning for future expeditions.

Local partners and bureaucracy

Our teammates can only achieve the extraordinary with the help of people in the communities we travel through. NGO and aid workers, guides, fixers and interpreters all work extremely hard and are generous in their hospitality to us and our teams: visitors in their land. They are crucial to our success. Please remember and respect that their perspectives and concepts of time, environmental responsibility and customer service might differ to yours. Occasionally there is no established protocol for outside visitors which means we encounter local power struggles or disagreements. Our leaders have years of experience in delicate negotiations like these and conversational chess – especially through an interpreter – and these interchanges are often memorable parts of any expedition.

Infrastructure and natural events

The areas we travel to often especially remote. Transport infrastructure can be ageing, inadequate or non-existent. Flooded roads, collapsed bridges, fallen trees and vehicle break-downs are all par for the course. Our teams thrive on overcoming challenges like these – be prepared to get stuck in and push occasionally! Natural phenomena like desert sand storms, early monsoons, landslides across key routes, winter coming early, gale force winds and driving snow can all make for a more interesting time on the expedition.

Food

In some areas our teams explore, we rely on local food sources. This can often be outstanding (but can also be very average) and we always make the best out of the resources available. In other cases, we will supply filling and high-calorie dehydrated expedition foods (ration packs)

Part of a team

Secret Compass fosters a team mentality across all its expeditions and projects. Like all teams you will have a leader who will give direction to your progress. Crucial to your team’s success – especially when the going gets tough – is the attitude of the teammates working together to achieve the aim. You really are part of a team, not a cosseted guest on a tour. We ask teammates to muck in and help out any aspect of the expedition, from fetching water and helping to prepare and cook food, to carrying some group kit and equipment if required. The working language of all teams is English.

Typical teammates

There really is no typical expedition member, though everyone needs to be fit, healthy and ready to take on the expedition’s aim by the time of departure. Participants range from 21 to 65+ in age and come from all over the world. Backgrounds include contract workers and engineers, IT specialists and students, teachers and literature lovers, journalists and keen photographers and so many more. What bonds our pioneering teams is their shared spirit of adventure and their sense of humour and positive outlook. A good teammate looks on the bright side when the 4×4 breaks down, the rain comes early and when a meal is distinctly pedestrian. Our teammates help each other, look out for each, encourage each other and help each other when needed. Our teams have done us proud in working together to achieve their common goal: the aim of the expedition. If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right expedition company.

Teammate mentality

You need a robust, spirited and can-do attitude to cope with demanding days and rough camping in rugged and wild places. You’ll cover good daily distances (generally carrying your own kit and equipment), eating expedition foods or relying on local food sources. These elements combine to create the unique character of each expedition. On expedition, challenges, frictions and changes to plans are inevitable. Teammates should meet and relish these as an integral part of any arduous expedition and its ultimate success. Such things make the journey more interesting and are often most memorable parts when looking back.

Risk management

Secret Compass is an expedition company not a tour company. Expeditions contain inherent risk. This is part of the appeal for teammates. We do not make expeditions safe as, by definition, that is impossible. We construct and implement a three-staged risk management approach to reduce risk to what we perceive as a tolerable level.

  1. Risk assessment.
    We conduct a thorough risk assessment of potential hazards and threats that may be encountered on the expedition and provide recommendations to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring/ severity if it does occur.
  2. Safety plan.
    As part of our expedition plan, we detail actions to be taken to implement and resource the recommendations of the risk assessment. This includes a detailed medical and communications plan.
  3. Delivery.
    The expedition leader is responsible for dynamic risk management on the expedition itself.

Key risks

Key risks encountered on this specific expedition include insect borne disease such as malaria, climatic injury such as dehydration and heat stroke and road traffic accidents. If you would like to see the full Risk Assessment for this expedition, please email info@secretcompass.com

Incident management and medical

As part of the safety plan, Secret Compass has a full incident and emergency plan for medical and other emergencies. This will be discussed in full at the arrival brief, so everyone is aware what action will be taken. In summary, incidences are usually managed on the ground by the expedition leader in the first instance with remote support from Secret Compass’s 24 hour Operations Room before evacuation to the nearest appropriate medical centre.

Informed consent

It is your responsibility to understand the risks associated with adventure travel in remote areas. You also must understand that medical evacuation will take an extended period of time (potentially up to 2-3 days) and will require wilderness extraction techniques and long carries by stretcher. In-country search and rescue and emergency services are very basic or non-existent and the expedition will rely on internal resources for medical evacuation. By joining this expedition, you accept the risks associated with the venture. If you require any more information on specific risk management for this expedition, or would like to speak to us about our medical planning prior to the trip, please get in touch.

Testimonials

Read team Testimonials or watch this short video featuring expedition teammates (filmed on location in Ethiopia) for an insight into life on expedition.

 

Cultural

When the first bonobo conservation projects moved into the area, Basankusu, the closet city to the bonobos, with a population of 100,000 people, had no doctor and schools were without a single sheet of paper let alone books. Over the years, Lola ya Bonobo have provided equipment for the women’s birthing centre, medication for the pharmacy, and educational material for the schools. In return, many of the people of Basankusu have become ‘bonobo guardians’, protecting them in their new home in the wild. Despite such developments, most inhabitants live at a subsistence level: hunting, fishing, keeping chickens and keeping a vegetable plot.  Chimpanzee, bonobo, wild boar, monkey, antelope, and other wild animals are often sold in the market or at impromptu stalls around the town, and as a result conservation groups are concerned that, with the rise in the human population, many animal species are in danger of extinction because of the trade in bushmeat.

Terrain

You will be trekking deep into the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Lomako reserve: chopping through overgrown, humid, wild jungle; picking up little-used paths; wading through rivers; and navigating waterways in dug-out canoes or other vessels. Keep in mind that this jungle terrain isn’t flat. Every day there are hills to climb up and down. Be sure to exercise and prepare for this accordingly.

Weather

September is after the wet season so the trees will be in fruit, the wildlife should be more prevalent and most importantly, it should be less wet. Temperatures are likely to be somewhere between 25C and 30C with high humidity and occasional downpours.

Transport

International flights. You need to organise your own international flights. You need to be in Kinshasa by 1700 on 23rd September 2018 and are free to depart anytime on the 4th October. We have a unique partnership with Student Universe (part of Flight Centre, and don’t worry you don’t have to be a student); a specialist team of travel consultants who understand us and our destinations, and who have a team dedicated to helping Secret Compass teams. They have a 24-hour assistance helpline and access to the best fares. Fill in a contact form or call (UK) 0844 560 9799 for assistance in booking international flights. Please keep transits through African cities longer than normal to help get your baggage on the same flight as you!
It is advised that you wait for confirmation from Secret Compass that this expedition is a confirmed departure prior to booking your flights, and/ or that your travel insurance covers your flight costs in the event of cancellation by Secret Compass (see Section 9 of our Terms and Conditions). Expeditions will be confirmed when they hit minimum numbers and team members will be informed immediately.

Domestic flights. We will be travelling from Kinshasa to Basankusu by plane.

Road. All airport transfers will be done by car or minibus. There are little to no roads in the reserves so all other transport will be by boat or by foot.

Dugout canoes. All travel into and out of the Lomako reserve will be by motorised dug out canoe. Similarly, there are no roads (or even paths) in the Ekolo ya Bonobo reintroduction sanctuary so the only way to view the bonobos in this area is by boat.

Foot. Once you reach the centre of the Lomako reserve, the rest of the journey will be by foot. Porters will be available to carry the main bulk of the kit to the AWF camp, your base camp whilst in the jungle. The distances covered each day will depend on the location of the bonobos, but expect to be out in the jungle for full days carrying all of our own kit for the day. Further details on terrain is provided below, but keep in mind that this jungle terrain isn’t flat. Every day there are hills to climb up and down. Be sure to exercise and prepare for this accordingly.

Accommodation

Kinshasa. In kinshasa we will be staying in a comfortable hotel in downtown.
Lola ya Bonobo. At both the sanctuary and orphanage the accommodation will be comfortable but basic huts.
During the expedition. For the majority of the expedition we will be sleeping in hammocks provided by Secret Compass.

Reality of living rough for days. Occasionally people on our expeditions are not prepared for camping for multiple days. Living in these conditions can degrade your health if you do not look after yourself and increase fatigue if you are not used to living rough. You need to be highly organised so that your night and morning routine is done efficiently and quickly. If you are inexperienced at camping, it is essential that you get as much practice as possible prior to the expedition.

Food

Group food. In Kinshasa we will eat in decent restaurants. When on the expedition we will eat local dishes provided by a camp cook.
Dietary requirements can usually be catered for but should be discussed with Secret Compass in advance. It is recommended that you bring a favourite snack or cereal bar for each expedition day as a morale boost.

Communications

Secret Compass staff will be carrying at least two methods of communication, usually a Satellite Phone and a DeLorme two-way communication device. These will be used for regular updates to head office and for emergencies.
Unfortunately, routine communication between team members and family/friends is not possible – please reassure them that no news is good news! If there is an emergency and someone needs to contact a team member, they can contact Secret Compass’s Operations Room on +44207 096 8428 who will endeavour to pass a message on within 24hours.
Cell Phone. Your mobile roaming will work in towns. There may be no coverage along the majority of the route.

Here are some frequently asked questions that are specific to this expedition. Read our general FAQ too for questions such as ‘how do I join an expedition’ and more. Can’t find your answer? Contact SCHQ.

Will we definitely see bonobos?

We definitely hope so! Whilst visiting the orphanage in Kinshasa and the reintroduction centre outside of Basankusu you will definitely get to see bonobos in various stages of their rehabilitation process. Whilst deep in the Lomako reserve you will have to go out into the jungle each day to search for the families, however the head primatologist, Sakamaki, and the guides will have a pretty good idea where they are so a sighting is very likely.

How does this expedition support the bonobos and the conservation effort?

There are many conservation models, however the most successful in Africa is when conservation has resulted in an economic benefit for both the projects themselves and the communities which host them. Carefully managed tourism can direct funds both into the projects, enabling them to be more financially viable and into the communities, ensuring that they get a tangible benefit from conservation. On this expedition, we are working directly with the African Wildlife Fund who manage the Bonobo project in this area and AWF are charging a fee that will both help them fund the project and also develop the tourist infrastructure at the site, enabling more people to visit. We will also be working with the local community, employing local people and using their services throughout, directing funds straight into the community.

Can you recommend any jungle kit?

The Secret Compass Journal (The Compass) contains advice on boots, shirts and trousers for jungle treks. Our YouTube channel also has Expedition Kit Advice videos. If you are unsure, please drop us an email or call and we would be happy to help.

I’m a vegetarian. Can I join?

Teammates with dietary requirements are welcome to apply for this expedition and should state their specific requirements when applying. The food situation is outlined in the Practicalities tab.

I’ve never done jungle trekking before. Can I come?

Yes. As long as you fulfil the fitness requirements and have an adventurous spirit and willing to work as a team, then you will have no problems.

Can I arrive a day late?

As the plan outlines, there is a chain of transport to get teammates to the location where the training will commence, so start and end dates are not flexible.

Can I charge electricals?

This will be very challenging with limited access to power once leaving Basankusu for the reserve. Please ensure that you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs to avoid frustration.

Will there be telephone signal?

Your mobile roaming will work in towns. There may be no coverage along the majority of the route.

Can I get porters to carry my bag?

There is local support for this trek, so you will only have to carry day bags throughout. Once based at the AWF camp in the reserve you will be heading out on day trips into the jungle so you will only need to carry our personal kit, food and water for the day and a share of the team medical kit. That being said, it will be hot and humid covering difficult jungle terrain, so you should train in preparation for this expedition by meeting the requirements in the fitness section.

Do you provide further advice?

You might find our Get Ready section useful, with further advice about fitness, flights, travel insurance, visas and our approach to risk management.

How can I apply?

Use the buttons below to contact Secret Compass with your questions or to complete our no-obligation Application Form to join this team. Someone will get back to you promptly.

The Journal