Mbeli Baï

Mbeli Baï is a one-of-a-kind window on into the heart of the rainforest. The 12 ha forest clearing offers unobstructed views on a variety of wildlife behavior: male elephants measuring their strength, young gorillas playing and splashing, sitatungas expertly moving through water. The baï is a place of quiet coexistence for many species and an ideal place for wildlife viewing.
Tourism Experience
Access to the viewing platform at Mbeli Baï starts with a 45-minute drive from Bomassa, following by a beautiful paddle up the Ndoki and Mbeli rivers in a dugout canoe, gliding through magnificent swamp forest and past glowing water lilies, followed by a 45-minute walk through the forest. Let your eyes widen in wonder as you climb the steps of the 5 meter high viewing platform to reach the perfect spot to enjoy one of the most impressive wildlife shows in Central Africa. 
Not keen on sunbathing, most animals prefer to visit the bai early and late in the day, although some solitary bulls may relax the entire day in the main pool. Spending the night on the viewing platform offers the best views, especially the ones washed by the pale pink lights of the rising sun. Make sure to stay long enough, as the number of visitors is of course unpredictable. 
Animals may come in large numbers or shun the baï if they have found sufficient food elsewhere, or simply don’t feel like it. It is possible to visit Wali Baï in one day, or for a longer period as part of an overnight stay.
Species you could see
    Frequent visitors:
  • Forest elephants

  • Gorillas

  • Forest buffalos

  • Sitatungas

    • Elusive visitors:
  • Slender-snouted crocodiles

  • Clawless otters

    • Birds:
  • Jacanas

  • Palm-nut vultures

  • Good to know
    • Mbeli Baï is the only long-term study of the demographics of forest buffalos.
    • Guereza colobus can be seen venturing into the bay, on the ground, but stay cautiously close to the edge.
    • The Club Ebobo, which educates children of neighboring villages on the importance of ecosystems, was born in Mbeli, from the initiative of a researcher.
    Mbeli is the largest of several forest clearings scattered along the tributaries of the Ndoki River, and as such it has long been a prized place for hunting and elephant poaching. 
    The creation of the National Park put an end to this, and researchers started working at the clearing in 1994. Initially focused on documenting the visiting gorillas, researchers have expanded their scope and now gather a variety of data on elephants, sitatungas and buffalos, leading to studies on a range of different topics, and informing conservation policies. 
    For these species, every animal visiting the clearing is individually known to the researchers, providing life histories of up to two decades for some. Over time, the research team has identified more than 600 elephants, 500 gorillas and 150 sitatungas. The Mbeli Baï Study is the longest running field site on some of these species.
    Data collection is carried out daily from the top of the viewing platform. 
    Researchers identify animals thanks to a combination of features, for instance the form and vein patterns of elephant’s ears, the shape and size of their tusks, and the amount of tail hair. Additionally, the skilled team of trackers working at the site also allows researchers to safely go around the baï to undertake studies on other species. 
    A current study is assessing the population of leopards and golden cats in the forest adjacent to the baï, while a past one has allowed significant improvement of our understanding of the communication system of petty-nose monkeys. 
    The research team is currently focusing on obtaining more data on nocturnal activities within the baï and is sampling the gene pool of the baï’s most regular visitors to better understand the social structures of flagship species.