D.R. Congo

by Peter Baxter  

Guns In The Forest

The point at which the Belgian Crown occupied the Congo Basin was the moment that modern history arrived in East and Central Africa. It was this event that triggered the rush for territory that set in motion the great Scramble For Africa. The Congo has always been a dark and brooding region of the continent, a fact felt by Joseph Conrad who revealed the horror to the world in his iconic novella The Heart Of Darkness. These days empire building in the dark heart of Africa is the preserve of demagogues and warlords, but a traveler to the region will not remain long untouched by the passion of this last great and untamed wilderness.

Parts of the Democratic Republic Of Congo also sit high on the list of African ecologies under threat. Thanks to the unrelenting human assaults on remaining Mountain Gorilla habitat, and the random killing of these beasts, it is probable that DRC sits at the top of that list. In fact the Mountain Gorillas themselves are simply the leaders of a pack of critically endangered local animal and plant species. DRC borders Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda at the junction of the Rift Valley Lakes region, and there is to found the volcanic ranges and once impenetrable forest. There also is arguably one of the densest populations zones in Africa.

A hiatus currently exists between international conservation agencies fronted by a handful of similarly endangered National Parks Wardens, and the various armed powerbrokers and warlords that rule this multi-ethic and multi fissured landscape. This is one of the great ecological battles of our time, which if won could help secure the safety of dwindling Mountain Gorilla populations for at least another decade.

Most of the economic activity and the frenetic life of the country is concentrated in the west and along the lower reaches of the Congo River. DRC is a major local producer of hydro-electricity and the river itself the main transport artery inland. This is a densely verdant land, packed to capacity with tourist potential, but currently a hardy travelers destination only. Eco-tourism in the east has been viable in the past, and with or without the gorillas will always be a factor in this most African of Africa landscapes.

Travel To & Within The Democratic Republic Of Congo

  • Flights To The Democratic Republic Of Congo
  • Hotels in The Democratic Republic Of Congo
  • Why Travel To The Democratic Republic Of Congo

    Congolese capital Kinshasa enjoys a mixed reputation for sleaze and an irrepressible groove. The country boasts some huge names in the Rumba, Soukous and Kwasa Kwasa music styles, names such as Papa Wemba and Pepe Kalle. The city itself is a rough-and-ready frontier town with enormous sums of money in circulation which of course stimulates glitzy nightlife, splashy hotels and cosmopolitan restaurants.

    Inland another world exists. Development is minimal, infrastructure is almost non-existent, and in the main life at the river’s edge is lived at its most basic level. Inland nature rules, and security permitting, the nation’s national parks are gifted if not always well cared for.

  • Garamba National Park
  • Kahuzi-Biga National Park
  • Maiko National Park
  • Okapi National Park
  • Salonga National Park
  • Upemba National Park
  • Virunga National Park
  • Garamba National Park situated in the northeast is an area of savannah, woodland and gallery forest that is home to dwindling populations of Congo elephants and white rhino. Virunga National Park and Kahuzi-Biga National Park overlap the Parc National des Volcans in neighboring Rwanda where survive most of the remaining 700 Mountain Gorillas.

    Lowland Gorillas, although not so directly threatened, are nonetheless endangered and found mainly in Maiko National Park. Chimpanzee and Forest Elephant can also be seen here.

    When To Visit The Democratic Republic Of Congo

    DRC is a densely verdant mass of biology so it should come as a surprise to no one that rain, heat and humidity are the norm. In the highland regions to the east this is less so, and on the Atlantic seaboard very little rain falls, but for the remainder rain, heat and sweat are inescapable.

    A period of relatively dry weather affects the central region June and September.

    Travel Warning

    DRC is by no stretch of the imagination a safe travel destination. In the capital Kinshasa crime is rampant and the streets are swimming with sharks posing as policemen, policemen posing as policemen, militias not bothering to pose at all, and every other kind of scammer, bumster, tout or tsotsi that you could ever hope to find.

    Inland insecurity deepens the further east you travel, however it appears to brew everywhere, and any independent travel cannot proceed without armed protection from some quarter.

    The only threat that seems absent in DRC is terrorism.

    In Kinshasa health services are sparse and almost non-existent elsewhere. Contagious disease is common with HIV/AID being widespread, malaria also widespread, and such diseases as cholera, polio, meningitis and monkeypox common.

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