Formerly known as Zaire, The Democratic Republic of the Congo is presently the second-largest country in Africa. A country filled with an abundance of resources and other wonders. The Congo is a haven for wildlife and nature enthusiasts. The country has the African Big Five animals, which are the Lion, Leopard, African Buffalo, Elephant, and Rhinoceros. Other than that, species that are not found elsewhere are seen in this country, such as the Okapi, Bonobos, eastern Lowland Gorillas, and Congolese Peafowl, to name a few. Congo is also prominent for boasting a rich culture. There are well-preserved ethnic and tribal traditions infused with African, Arab, and French roots observed in the country.
To fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the Congo, here are the eight must-visit destinations in the country.
Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park is located in the Albertine Rift Valley. The park lies in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and boasts the prestigious status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although it is the oldest region in the country, it still maintains the highest level of diversity.
There are more than 3000 faunal and floral species found in Virunga, including 300 species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift. Primates such as mountain Gorillas, common Chimpanzees, red-tailed Monkeys, mantled Guerezas, and others are common in the park. You can see African bush Elephants, Okapi, different species of Duiker and Topi, Lions, and Leopards. Virunga National Park also observes a number of rare exotic birds. There are three distinct areas in the park—the Lake Edward Area, The Rwenzori Mountains, and The Mikeno Volcano Area—that are worth visiting.
Mount Nyiragongo is an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 11,385 feet. It is situated inside Virunga National Park and contains the world’s largest lava lake. The volcano has a lower forested slope, which is home to a wide variety of animals, primates, and birds.
Along with the Congo Safari, hiking Mount Nyiragongo is also recommended. The volcano exposes breathtaking scenery during short hikes, and boiling lava and smoke distinguish the active state of the volcano. Nyiragongo transforms into a mesmerizing sight after dusk, with the volcano igniting a nightly radiance that beautifully contrasts with the starry backdrop.
Known as one of the African Great Lakes, Lake Kivu lies on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The lake also presents lovely scenic drives between towns that dot Kivu’s shores.
There are jagged shorelines that give way to dozens of islands in Lake Kivu. The tiny, c-shaped Tchegera island lies just a short distance away from Virunga National Park and serves as an excellent place to rest after gorilla tracking. The island of Idjwi is Kivu’s biggest island but offers an extremely laidback atmosphere with glorious views.
To get a glimpse of urban Congo, head to Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With over 11 million inhabitants, Kinshasa buzzes with energy and remains chaotic. Kinshasa sits facing Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, which is situated on the northern bank. Kinshasa city is a major commercial centre due to its abundant natural resources. The heart of the city is Gombe, home to excellent restaurants, hotels, and embassies.
There are important historical buildings and museums in Kinshasa that are worth visiting. These include the National Museum of Kinshasa, the Parliament Building, the Roman Catholic Cathedral, and the Palais de la Nation. The Marche Central market in Matonge is one of the most popular markets in Kinshasa. Here, tourists can purchase fresh vegetables, tropical fruits, herbs, grains, and Congolese fabrics. It is one of the best places to relax and talk to the locals.
Lola Ya Bonobo
Lola Ya Bonobo is a sanctuary that works towards protecting orphaned bonobos. It is one of the most famous attractions in the Kinshasa area. The sanctuary takes in bonobos that are orphaned after their mothers are killed for bush meat, as well as those that are sold in black markets.
The sanctuary is spread across 30 hectares of forests, where tourists can visit several feeding stations that the staff uses to track the apes. Lola Ya Bonobo also accepts volunteers, which is ideal for anyone wanting to safely help bonobos.
Formerly known as the Zaire River, the Congo River is the second-longest river in Africa and the second-largest river in the world. Stretching 4,370 km long, this mighty river carries more water than any other water source on the African continent. To enjoy the best of the river, a cruise voyage from the cities of Lisala and Kisangani is fruitful. The expedition covers remote villages, Congo’s historical sights, rainforests, and the local cultural experience.
For an authentic experience, tourists can opt for boat rides such as the local handmade pirogue. It offers a short yet leisurely boat ride on the Congo River. The river’s wide variety of fish species makes it a famous spot for fishing.
Kahuzi Biega National Park
Nestled between the Congo Basin and the Albertine Rift, Kahuzi Biega National Park is a vast area of tropical forest. The park is situated in the South Kivu province and extends from the Congo Basin to Bukavu. It is a habitat for the protection of the eastern lowland Gorillas and the rainforest. The park has exceptional biodiversity and is also categorized as one of the most ecologically rich regions in Africa.
Kahuzi Biega National Park is home to more than 130 species of mammals, including endangered and threatened species. Kahuzi and Biega are the two extinct volcanoes in the area that offer incredible hiking opportunities.
Garamba National Park
Garamaba National Park is found in the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The park has immense savannahs, woodlands, and grasslands filled with colourful wildlife. The Garamba National Park area is one of the oldest protected areas.
The national park is filled with forest Elephants, Bush elephants, Pippopotamus, Congolese Giraffes, and a small population of rare White Rhinos. Around 280 bird species are recorded in the park. Known as a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Garamba National Park also serves as an incredible sanctuary for many endangered species.
Make sure to explore the mentioned locations when you visit Congo for an exceptional and enriching experience.
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