Democratic Republic of Congo Travel Guide
Should the ongoing chaotic civil war ever end in this country, travelers could have a mind-blowing adventurous holiday here. The word ‘democratic’ in the country’s name is totally superfluous, as democracy isn’t really what the ruling government in this high-risk destination is trying to restore. However, you can find an abundance of jaw-dropping natural beauty such as vast areas of lush jungle, mountainous terraces and dense grasslands. The collapsed economy, high unemployment, non-payment of public service and military salaries has resulted in a high crime rate. Armed robbery and street crime are common, and don’t think you’ll be safe in a car; armed gangs are notorious for attacking drivers!
After Mobutu was removed from power by Kabila and his rebels, the country became very unstable and until this day, it is not exactly clear who rules which parts of the nation. But for those who like to travel on the rough side, it might be a ‘cool’ destination. The best accommodation facilities are represented in the bigger cities like Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, while outside of these areas – if you dare to venture - lodgings are pretty basic.
When to Go
If you are not discouraged and still want to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo, then the tropical weather would be a good reason. The higher eastern regions enjoy a fairly temperate climate. In the low central basin, the average yearly temperature is 75°F (25°C), and from 62° F to 68°F (17°C to 20°C) at altitudes of 5,000 feet. In the central and lower western regions, the weather is tropically humid and hot with regular heavy rainfall from October or November until May south of the equator and from April to November in the northern region.
Getting There & Away
The capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa can be reached by air from Nairobi in Kenya, Johannesburg in South Africa, Abidjan in Ivory Coast, Libreville in Gabon, Luanda in Angola, Lagos in Nigeria and Douala in Cameroon. Recently, flights have become available from Kinshasa to the east of the country. However, the east can more easily be reached via Kigali in Rwanda. Kinshasa’s N’djili International Airport represents offices of the majority of the airlines including SN Brussels Airlines (Belgium) and Kenya Airways. Local transport consists of unreliable and often unsafe buses, so expect a few break downs on the way.
Health & Safety
The Democratic Republic of Congo is without a doubt a high-risk travel destination. Travelers should be alert and cautious at all times, and avoid demonstrations and gatherings of crowds. Ongoing armed conflict between Congolese rebels and United Nations forces has displaced large populations in the east, and this part of the Democratic Republic of Congo should be avoided altogether, even by daredevils. The Ituri district is extremely hazardous according to the United Nations, so unless the high risk of rape or being killed amid a clash between armed militia, government troops and certain tribes sounds like a relaxing holiday environment, don’t go there. Kinshasa is most likely the safest place in the country, and as long as you remember to stand still when the national flag is being raised and lowered each morning and evening respectively, you should avoid harm’s path.
Three days in Kinshasa
Two days visiting one of the nation’s five national parks which are listed as World Heritage sites.
One day on a boat tour on the mighty Cong River.
One day at the Boyoma Falls.
Five days on the Lake Tanganyika
Two days in the Okapi Wildlife Reserve
Lake Tanganyika: probably the globe’s third largest freshwater lake by volume.
Kinshasa: a city of sharp contrasts, with commercial and affluent residential areas, sprawling slums and three universities coexisting side by side. The city represents a number of good hotels and used to be vibrant with discos and bars.
Lubumbashi: the nation’s second largest city after Kinshasa. Attractions here feature a brewery, a zoo and a botanical garden.
Boyoma Falls: should you get sticky and sweaty due to the humid and hot weather, you can take a refreshing shower in our planet’s highest-volume waterfall.With 17,000,000 liters of water rushing by per second, don’t forget to bring shampoo!
Livingstone Falls: another beautiful waterfall named after David Livingstone, despite the fact he never explored this part of Western Africa!
Garamba National Park: one of the oldest African national parks, and since 1980, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Unfortunately, the Garamba park guards were not capable of stopping the poachery, and between 1993 and 1995, elephants and buffalos were killed, and in 1996, two of the few remaining white rhinos were shot. This resulted in the return of Garamba National Park to the World Heritage site Danger List.
Okapi Wildlife Reserve: situated in the country’s northeast in the Ituri Forest, the reserve, which is a Word Heritage site, is home to a large population of okapis. In addition, the reserve houses many other endangered and interesting animals.
Safaris: probably one of the activities that attracts the majority of adventurous travelers. The country is rich in natural beauty and there are several national parks where safaris are still relatively safe.
Bird-watching trips: observe African Wood Owls, Great Blue Turacos, White-thighed Hornbill, Congo Peacock and other exotic birds in the rainforest.
Congo River tours: a tour on this mighty river to Kisangani used to be a real adventure, but at present time, is not advisable unless you are a real daredevil.
Kisanto Botanical Gardens: these stunning gardens in Kisanto are a must-see. The gardens houses a collection of enchanting trees from all over the globe that are older than a century, and which are ideal for swimming. Kisanto makes a welcome break for exhausted globe-trotters.