Covered by vast swaths of rainforest and embraced by smoking volcanoes and gushing rivers, the Democratic Republic of Congo is the ultimate African adventure. As much a terrestrial concept as a fully-fledged nation, DRC has endured one of the darkest chapters in recent history, suffering an unmerciful 20th century of authoritarian madness, colonial exploitation, and what has been called Africa’s first world war’, which finally ended in 2003 CE with the rise of the Kabila dynasty.
Top Attraction in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Parc National des Virunga
DRC’s majestic calling card is Virunga, Africa’s oldest national park and home to chimpanzees, mountain gorillas, and the active, incredible Nyiragongo volcano (scaled on a thrilling two-day journey). Having been the location for the Oscar-nominated documentary Virunga in 2014 CE, the place grew fast in popularity until May 2018 CE, when the kidnapping of two British nationals led to it briefly suspending all tourism operations. The pair were rescued unharmed, but management has said they won’t welcome more extra visitors until they can assure their safety. The park reopened in Feb 2019.
Perhaps the Democratic Republic of Congo’s most sumptuous single sight, volcano Nyiragongo soars above the town of Goma and the neighboring Virunga National Park and sends crests of smoke into the sky before becoming a brilliant beacon visible for kilometers around after sunset. The trek to the summit is an unmissable adventure, with those who engage in the four-hour climb being lucky enough to be rewarded with glimpses into the volcano’s fiery lava lake below.
Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary
Eighty minutes west of Kinshasa, this unique project provides a home for orphaned bonobos just past the town’s sprawl. Previously thought to be chimpanzees, bonobos are indeed a different species recognized for being much more peaceful than their chimpanzee cousins. They’re also threatened, with only around 40,000 surviving in the wild reportedly. Paths here lead around the forested, large enclosures, but the happy bonobos often hang out right at the front, particularly in the morning.
Chutes du Zongo
A favorite day trip from Kinshasa, although expensive 4WD hire needed to get here, the impressive 65m-high Zongo Falls is one of DRC’s most magnificent sights. Getting to the places with beautiful views involves some hiking (carry those shoes which you don’t mind getting muddy), but viewing the water thundering over the precipice into the river below is exceptional. There’s an impressive Seli Safari Resort here, where it’s possible to stay overnight or have lunch.
Formerly, Stanley Falls, Boyoma Falls are a set of rapids on the Congo River spread out over 160km south 0g Kisangani. The last rapids are to the extreme east of town, where the Wagenia fishermen set up their unique fishing traps. It’s an exciting excursion, but sadly, tourists are routinely fleeced, and where each trip often has hidden costs. The best way is to go with a trusted local or a guide.
Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage
Given you make it back from your gorilla track soon, it should be possible to visit the only mountain gorilla orphanage in the world, which is blended into the grounds of the Mikeno Lodge. Named after the silverback who died protecting the Rugendo group against shooters in the infamous 2007 CE massacre, the orphanage is home to around four to seven gorillas, including Ndeze and Ndakasi massacre survivors.
Parc National de Kahuzi-Biéga
South Kivu’s leading draw is this national park, where you can track habituated Grauer’s gorillas (eastern lowland gorillas) for just US$400 per person, a bargain! Parc National de Kahuzi-Biéga also contains a chimpanzee orphanage at Lwiro (US$30 per person), where between 60 and 90 chimps are kept in excellent conditions.