Around many campfires, we’d talked about it often: where is the ‘beating heart’ – the geographic centre-point of Africa? The centre-points of North America, South America, Australia and Europe had long been found, but no-one had yet located Africa’s ‘heart’.
In 2015, with GPS coordinates supplied by the International Geographic Union, the Kingsley Holgate expedition team set off to find the ‘Heart of Africa’, somewhere within 200,000Km2 of impenetrable equatorial rainforest in the northern regions of the Republic of Congo, an area described by National Geographic as ‘the last place on earth’. It is home to the world’s largest populations of great apes and forest elephant and is one of Africa’s most important strongholds for wildlife. Approximately 125,000 lowland gorillas live in these rainforests, alongside the endangered forest elephant, forest leopard, golden cat, eight species of antelope, three species of crocodiles, and chimpanzees – many of which have never seen humans. (remove if too much text). There are few roads in this vast expanse of dense rainforest and swamp, not to mention sapping humidity, blood-sucking insects, threat of armed rebels and bandits, malaria – and a fresh outbreak of Ebola.
After an adventurous 8,000Km journey through Botswana, Zambia, Angola and the DRC, the expedition reached the near-impenetrable rainforests of the Republic of Congo. The last 17Km were done on foot, helped by a team of Ba’aka pygmies. The journey over the next seven days was one of the most physically demanding ever undertaken by the Kingsley Holgate team – constantly wet, wading through waist-deep bogs, dragging, falling, and cutting pole bridges. Endless backtracking and detours to skirt impassable swamps that sucked a man down, pouring blood from infected wounds caused by the razor-sharp undergrowth, attacked by bees and siafu (army ants), out of food and little sleep. Every team member suffered from infected bites, wounds, torn ligaments and sheer exhaustion but the expedition eventually reached the GPS coordinates, and a beacon made by Barrows now marks the ‘Heart of Africa’, which also pays tribute to Africa’s elephants. It’s a world-first geographic discovery for the Kingsley Holgate expedition team and our partners.