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Bonobos! Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary (DRC) – mini trip report

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Sep 17th, 2011, 11:17 PM
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Bonobos! Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary (DRC) – mini trip report

I’ll post a separate trip report for DRC and Republic of Congo, but for anyone just interested in the Bonobos, I’ve created an album that is “all bonobos” from my visit to Lola ya Bonobo in the DRC. The link to photos from my visit to Lola is at http://flic.kr/s/aHsjwgcc3G.

Lola ya Bonobo (“Paradise for Bonobos” in Lingala) is located outside of Kinshasa and is the world’s only bonobo sanctuary–their website is at (www.friendsofbonobos.org).
It was only about 5 or 6 USD to enter, which is really quite shocking when you think about how much a lot of us have paid for other wildlife experiences. I probably should have found out when feeding time was and gone at that time, but I was not disappointed. For those of you that have been to Ngamba Island in Uganda, you’ll recall that you must go at feeding time if you aren’t doing a chimp walk, as the chimps are otherwise out in the forest. At Lola, you are able to follow a path around the sanctuary, and at least while I was there the other day, there were enough bonobos that were hanging out by the fencing at various spots that I was not the least bit disappointed. (I have heard that folks have gone in the afternoons and not seen any though.)

The young ones are kept in a separate enclosure and have contact with the caretakers. The youngest bonobo was being held by several different employees/caretakers while I was there, and I was able to get within a few feet of him. Possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen. At one point this adorable little guy slowly climbed down his caretaker mom and walked over to me and briefly clutched my arm. (!!!) It seemed like he wanted me to pick him up – although I was dying to, I know you aren’t supposed to so didn’t…I did not want to give him any germs, and I wasn’t looking to get ejected from Lola for unauthorized bonobo hugging.

You can stay as long as you want at the sanctuary….I could have stayed all day. Unfortunately, I had the slight problem of an incorrect entrance stamp in my passport that I needed to go deal with in Kinshasa, but I will save that for the trip report!

This is a truly special place, and if you are ever anywhere near Kinshasa, it is not to be missed. I also tried everything imaginable (including begging via email) to make it to a gorilla sanctuary back in the Republic of Congo (Lesio-Louna – see http://www.ppgcongo.org/telechargeme...de-english.pdf if interested) however, they make it pretty much impossible for independent travelers to go there. (They finally said I could come, however they gave me 24 hours’ notice to get myself back to Congo-Brazzaville, and come up with around 500 Euro cash, when I couldn’t retrieve money by an ATM, and western union transfers were not going through, so ‘twas not to be.)
Lola was awesome though – definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

Also, I must say that the folks I met in the DRC were some of the kindest, warm hearted people I have met anywhere in the world. I was truly blown away by their kindness and openness to the American girl who couldn’t speak French and was trying to navigate alone in a country with no tourist infrastructure.
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Sep 17th, 2011, 11:37 PM
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Also should have added that I would highly recommend Doddy Mundiono as a taxi driver - he can be reached at either 243(0) 998129666 or 243(0) 897511526 or email [email protected]. He works for a non-profit when they have enough funding, and also offers taxi service (my first hotel in Kinshasa hooked me up with him). He is an absolute angel, and I can't say enough nice things about him.

The going rate right now for taxi to take you to Lola from Kin is $60USD.
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Sep 18th, 2011, 04:20 PM
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Those babies are just the cutest. I don't know that I would have been able to resist picking him up, I would love to have the caretaker's job,
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Sep 18th, 2011, 06:43 PM
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Great gallery! I really, really hope DRC stabilizes and gets more tourism. From everything I've heard and read, the country has much to offer. Glad you are enjoying your experience. I'd love to visit someday.
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Oct 4th, 2012, 03:32 PM
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Hi Maxwell, I was just searching for anything about bonobos as my husband says he'd like to see them in the wild. This sanctuary sounds wonderful, but also, do you (or anyone reading this) know whether there is any tourism set up to see them in the wild? And is it safe to go there? Thanks!
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Oct 4th, 2012, 04:55 PM
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Wonderful, you'll get to DRC eventually, I am sure. Thank you for the Bonobo info and photos. Your restraint in not picking up the baby is impressive.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 04:30 AM
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Maxwell, you are such a brave and adventurous lady! I wish I had had you "guts" when I was your age. Seeing the bonobos like you did would be wonderful!
PS I love your "Bio" on your Fodor's page--expecially the part about not traveling with needy, whining people.
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Oct 18th, 2012, 07:05 AM
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Just spotted this thread from a few weeks ago --

Jane62: I never saw mention of places to see the bonobos in the wild in the DRC (they are only in DRC) but if anyone would know, I would think it would be the folks at Lola (they were very responsive to my emails.) I've researched trips into the congo basin just for fun (they are way above my price range) to track the lowland gorillas and don't even recall seeing mention of them on those trips.

JaneB - thank you!

On a sad note, four of the babies at Lola died suddenly in late July. Last I read on their website, they were still trying to determine the strain of the bacteria to which their deaths were attributable. heartbreaking.
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