The Ituri Rainforest- Forêt de L’Ituri in French is a thick Tropical rainforest found in the Ituri Province of North-eastern edge of the Congo River basin in the Democratic Republic of Congo-previously Zaire. This Forest derived its name from the Ituri River that drains east-west wards across the Forest into the Aruwimi River and then to Congo and is surrounded to its North and North-eastern side by Savannah and in the eastern side by the lush highlands of the western Rift Valley whereas to the Southern and western side, it is adjacent to the lowland rainforest of the Semliki Forest of Uganda and its Rivers drain into the mighty Congo River. Ituri tropical rainforest covers an area of 63,000 square kilometers/24,324 square miles and is mainly occupied by both the Pygmies and the Bantu-speaking people.
Around 20% of this rainforest is comprised of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve-a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a haven to the Mbuti pygmies-one of the most interesting hunter-gatherer people who have their residence in the Tropical rainforests and are identical with their short height (less than one and a half meters) hence the reason they are called pygmies.
Things to do and see in Ituri rainforest
Most of the Ituri fauna (animals) are endemic to the African equatorial rainforest and some of the notable ones to expect include hyenas that inhabit the open savannah, the Okapi-endemic to Ituri. Other antelopes to look out for include the water chevrotain, the pygmy antelope, Aardvark and over 5 species of duikers, Genets, mongooses, leopards, Buffaloes, elephants and Bongo. This forest supports abundant primate species that include the leaf-eating black and white colobus monkeys, the Chimpanzees, Owl-faced monkeys and the terrestrial Anubis baboons.
There are also several bird species that call this Forest home and they include the Congo Peacock, the African Dwarf Kingfishers, the Senegal Gonolek, the Yellow-breasted forest-robin, the Common bulbul, the Tambourine doves, the Bateleur eagle (Terathopius ecaudatus), the Emerald starling, the Brown-chested Alethe, the black guinea fowl, the gregarious Great Blue Turaco, the white-browned forest-flycatcher and the white-bellied kingfishers among others.
This forest also offers refuge to Mbuti pygmies, the famous hunters and gatherers who stay around the tropical rainforests. The Mbuti pygmies also known as Bambuti are unique creatures on their own; they can be distinct by their short heights (below 1 and half meters on average). In Ituri forest is comprised of 4 distinct populations of pygmies. Every pygmy population is interlinked with distinct tribe of Bantu or Sudanic speaking agriculturalists. The Sua are connected with the Budu (Badudu) on the Western part of the Ituri near Wamba and the Aka of whom few are still living and they are found in the Mangbetu in the Northwest. The Efe have the largest distribution, they span across the Northern and Eastern parts of the Ituri rainforest and they are connected with the Sudanic speaking Mamyu and Lese (Walese). The Mbuti stay with the Bila (Balila) in the middle of the forest. The Mbuti pygmies were once the subject of a study by Colin Turnbull.
In conclusion, Ituri rainforest is one of the most incredible forests in Democratic Republic of Congo. Would you like to explore this off the beaten path destination? Why not book a safari with Congo Gorilla Safaris, one of the local tour operators organizing tours in Eastern Congo. The forest has a range biodiversity including the rarely sighted forest bird species, primates, mammals, several tree species among others.