In the DRC, about 400 kilometres from Lubumbashi, the Upemba and Kundelungu National Parks are a must-see destination for an authentic safari.

Created in 1939 in the heart of today’s Lualaba province, the park where the Lualaba River, the source of the Congo River, flows, covers an area of approximately 1,173,000 ha. At its creation, the Upemba Park was home to an incredibly dense flora and fauna: the famous Upemba lion, black rhinos, elephants, leopards, zebras, buffaloes, and large herds of endemic species.

 The conservation of the Complex of Upemba and Kundelungu National Parks is the initial objective of ICCN’s action. As illustrated on some maps, the conservation area would have historically hosted more than 100,000 elephants. In contrast to the typical tropical forests of Congo, habitats range from highland steppe, high altitude grasslands through Miombo forests, savannah and flooded grasslands to a network of rivers, waterfalls, wetlands and gallery forests.

The Lufira River and Lake Upemba form a strategic watershed for the region. Upemba National Park has been identified as one of the richest regions in the world. Its tourism potential is remarkable due to the combination of breathtaking scenery and wildlife potential.

A region with unique potential

 Unfortunately, in a context of instability and lack of conservation protection policy, wildlife has been greatly reduced by decades of intense poaching for ivory and bushmeat. The headquarters of Upemba Park has been attacked three times (1997, 2004 and 2012), staff members have been killed and property and equipment stolen. The continued presence of Mayi-Mayi in the area remains a destabilising factor. Only small elephant troops survive in less accessible areas, and large carnivores are considered locally extinct, as the prey base is insufficient to sustain them.

But there are other threats to habitat and fauna; these come from land use for food production, a proposed hydroelectric dam project and extractive industries (mining, charcoal production, sand extraction) currently being implemented in the conservation area.

An aerial and ground survey of wildlife in Upemba and Kundelungu National Parks in 2008 highlighted low levels of wildlife and the need for urgent action (WCS 2009 ). In response, the EU supported ICCN to manage Upemba National Park through a technical assistance project supervised by Robert Muir and implemented by FZS (2010-2013). Since the creation of a complex of Upemba and Kundelungu National Parks by ICCN, progress has been commendable. The securing and stability of the entire complex by patrols has resulted in the increased presence of animal species and the return of some lion families. Today, dozens of zebras and large Kudus can easily be seen in Lusinga in the annexed area of the Kundelungu National Park. Continuous monitoring of elephants in the Kasenga sector in the north-western parts of the Upemba Park, bio-monitoring on other conservation targets including zebras, big kudus, sand antelopes, hippos.

Attracting tourists

To enhance security within the complex, capacity-building training was organized in Lusinga, the headquarters of the Complex. A total of 47 eco-guards received para-military training for three months with the support of FARDC. Thanks to the partnership between ICCN and Forgotten Parks, the motorized cart is being improved. At the end of 2019, the Complex acquired, with funding from the European Union, six Unimogs trucks to transport patrol officers from their station to the field and to transport rations from the different towns to the three stations of the Complex: Lusinga, Katwe and Kayo.

To accommodate the tourists, the complex has received equipment for Kundelungu which has twelve well-equipped tents with comfortable bedding and VIP chairs. Many attractions are to be discovered: the thermal spring (Mayi ya moto), the caves of Kaboyaboya and Kibakishi, the waterfalls of Kayo, Lungeya, Kwango, Lofoi, Lutshipuka, Masansa. The Munte landscape, the thermal spring and the Mpelenge gorge.

A plan for the rehabilitation of the access tracks to these tourist sites is currently being implemented. However, a number of them are still inaccessible during heavy rains.

In the future, the training and equipping of eco-guards will secure all the ecological corridors of the complex before proceeding with the reintroduction of species in order to attract more tourists to this conservation area.

The Upemba Park of unparalleled beauty is in urgent need of rehabilitation. Hamaji Magazine remains hopeful that everything will be done to protect it and to bring back tourists. This is the most important thing. We believe that this jewel in the heart of Lualaba will soon become again the favorite destination of those seeking an authentic safari in Congo.

With the contribution of Forgotten Parks
Contact: Forgotten Parks +243 829 638 800