Ba'Aka, Central African Republic
The Ba’Aka are a nomadic hunter-gatherer pygmy tribe living in the jungles of Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo. The men of the Ba’Aka are considered to be some of the best fathers in the world, as they help rear their young, sharing responsibility with the women. Couples will share hunting, food preparation as well as social and leisure activities, maintaining a strong bond between husband and wife.
Because of the French colonists that were forcing African tribes into slavery, many escaped into the nearby jungles, putting pressure on the wildlife. Over time, the Ba’Aka learnt that net-hunting was far more efficient than their traditional spear hunting and so this has now been adopted as their current way of catching small animals for food.
Families live in small villages in the forests. Their simple huts are made out of sticks bowed and covered in leaves. Unfortunately, with the pressures from the outside world, and the fact the Ba’Aka are marginalized their culture and traditional way of life are under enormous threat. Illegal logging and poaching mean the Ba’Aka have to go further into the forest to find food and even then, come home empty handed. This is causing them to seek other means of income and are often taken advantage of by employers looking for cheap labor.
There is only one lodge in the Central African Republic that offers a Ba’Aka experiences.
Most of the Ba’Aka live in and around the Dzanga-Sangha Forest Special Reserve. The only lodge in the area is Sangha Lodge and it is from here that you can spend time with the Ba’Aka as they go out into the forest to try and hunt. This is not a staged show for the tourists, so you accompany them as they go about their daily lives, trying to survive in the forest. This does mean there is a chance they will catch and kill something. During your time with the Ba’Aka they will show how they build their huts as well as what plants can be used for the different medicinal uses.
Sangha Lodge is a simple forest lodge with just 7 stilted bungalows overlooking the Sangha River. There is a bar and dining area under the traditional thatch. Guests staying at Sangha Lodge have the unique opportunity to spend time at Dzanga Bai, which is a clearing in the forest where hundreds of forest elephants, forest buffalo, bongo, forest hogs and other animals come to get their mineral fix. There is an opportunity to go lowland gorilla tracking as well as enjoy forest walks and sunset cruises on the river. A highlight of a stay is the chance to see the rescued pangolin that are being rehabilitated to be returned to the wild. Often confiscated from the local bushmeat market, they are cared for before being released.