I have so many Bombo-Lumene stories that I don’t even know which ones to share. There have been floats down the rapids, frolics in the valley beyond the river, terrifying bridge crossings (though nothing like Kimpese), Milky Way Galaxy sightings, goats chasing dogs, dogs chasing goats, “wild animals” that turned out to be friends looking for food after everyone had gone to bed, or two guys singing “No Scrubs” and not remembering (or admitting to it) the next day.
The great thing about the Bombo-Lumene National Park is that it is such a hassle-free camping trip. Almost everyone who likes to escape Kinshasa has made a trip here, and it’s a relatively short trip on a much calmer road than the Route de Matadi which goes towards Zongo, Kimbese, or Kisantu. There are amenities if you want them, like a chalet with two rooms and a bathroom, hotel rooms in case you want to sleep in a bed, Florence Nightingale-type tents that can fit up to 10 people inside or smaller ones, each fitted with mattresses for each person, or you can just bring your own tent. There is no electricity though, so keep that in mind while making your decisions! The people who work there light the BBQ for you (if you want it), wash your dishes before you wake up the next day (bliss), and even light a bonfire after dinner if you so wish. You can apparently see wild animals like antelopes and water buffalos, but since someone from WWF who I think is by default luckier in seeing things like that than I am told me so, I am not convinced.
Bombo-Lumene is a national park in which the Bombo and Lumene Rivers meet. The biggest activity to do there, beyond BBQ-ing and drinking beer/water/wine/etc, is floating down the rapids, which can be either super fun or super terrifying, depending on the speed and depth of the river. There are hikes and walks and bathing spots in the river, which all make for a most relaxing, wonderful, peaceful and restful escape. If you go during dry season, there are even fewer bugs because the evenings are so cold (don’t forget sweaters and sleeping bags if you go then). Basically, if you are an expert camper, a newcomer to the great outdoors, looking for an easy and quick escape, or for whatever other reason you want, you must visit Bombo Lumene.
What to Bring: Food, drinks, tent/sleeping bag if you want to use your own, mosquito repellent, swimming suit and games. For most camp locations, you can drive your car right up to it, so it’s not necessary to pack very tightly (though easier).
Accommodation Options: Chalet (two rooms, one double bed in each, $25/room or $50 for whole chalet). This includes one bathroom and a gorgeous porch area that overlooks the valley and plains of Bombo-Lumene. 3 hotel rooms further away, one double bed and bathroom in each ($20/room). 4 enormous tents that can fit 8-10 people ($30/tent), light mattresses included in each, which can be set up either at the top near the Chalet or at the bottom by the river. You can also bring your own tent ($10/tent). Regardless of which option you choose, there is a $15 entry fee per person.
When to Go: Any time of year. Rainy season or dry season – getting there is not difficult, no matter the weather. A 4×4 is preferrable but not necessary, there is only a short sandy area you have to pass, the rest is on well-paved roads. If you go during dry season, it gets pretty chilly in the evenings so come prepared.
How to Get There: Bombo-Lumene is 130 km away from Gombe. Drive past the airport and keep going. At the big fork in the road, turn right towards Kikwit/Bandundu (left goes towards Maluku), and stay on that road until you see the Bombolumene sign on your right. You will have to sign in at the gate with the ICCN rangers, and then head straight down the sandy road until you get the camp site.
Travel Time: Bombo-Lumene is 130 km away from Gombe and takes about two to three hours to get there.
Risk Assessment: There are bugs, there is a river, but otherwise there are no risks.
Contacts: Mama Judith +243 (0) 99 579 8723