The Democratic Republic of the Congo, straddling the equator and bordering no less than nine countries, is more of a destination for the hardened tourist than visitors who want to travel from point A to point B in a straight line. That doesn’t mean this erstwhile war-torn country should be discarded as a worthwhile African safari destination, on the contrary. Although the DRC comes with a travel warning, it is the perfect destination for those who seek adventure. The vast landscape, with a size that is larger than Sweden, Norway, Germany, France and Spain combined, is dissected by the mighty Congo River that ends in the Atlantic ocean and dominated by tropical rainforest, the second largest in the world. A small parcel of land is covered by savannah and grassland.
Captivating wildlife encounters abound, including coming face to face with the mountain and lowland gorillas in Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the first national park that was established in Africa. Geological wonders like active volcanoes and one of only four continuous lava lakes in the world on Mount Nyiragongo should also not be missed. Kinshasa N’djili International Airport, as well as international services in Lubumbashi, Goma, and Kisangani, are the main gateways into the DRC. Or travellers can enter the country via ferry from the Atlantic coast while travel by road should ideally be attempted with a 4WD vehicle.
Since the DRC is not generally regarded as a safe destination, it is best to make use of a tour operator when planning on travelling to the country for a true wildlife experience bar none. Primate trekking is probably at the top when it comes to a safari bucket-list, and there is no better place than the DRC. These enthralling experiences take place in the Virunga National Park. Additionally, wildlife excursions can be undertaken in any of the other national parks and reserves of which there is a handful.
The varied fauna and flora of the Valle de la Lufira Biosphere Reserve lend perfectly to hiking and bird watching. A leisurely cruise on the Congo River will give safari-goers a different wildlife perspective, while a visit to the Kisantu Botanical Gardens is a feast for the soul. The vibrant Matonge Central Market in Kinshasa is the ideal place to get acquainted with the country’s city vibe and also perfect for traditional souvenirs and fresh local food.
With such an immense surface area, it is no wonder that more than a tenth of the DRC is set aside for protected areas. This includes seven national parks and 57 reserves. Six national parks and reserves appear on the UNESCO World Heritage list, these include Virunga, Kahuzi-Biega, Garamba, Salonga, Okapi, and Maiko.
The country’s ecosystem affords shelter to at least four endemic species like the mountain gorilla, the okapi, the bonobo, and the Congolese peacock. Virunga is home to a scattering of the less than 900 mountain gorillas remaining in the wild. Other rewarding sightings for visitors to this landscape occasionally shrouded in mist include some 1,500 mammal species including chimpanzees, the savannah giraffe, golden cat, lions, and various antelope species. There are also around 200 bird species.
Accommodation options in the DRC are limited but the country is slowly awakening to the prospects of welcoming even more tourists to its shores. Luxury options are few and far between with basic facilities like tented camps more readily available. When it comes to money, ATM’s are available in the main centres with a choice between US dollars and the DRC franc. Cash is needed for shopping informally, while some establishments may accept credit cards. Remember that visitors need a yellow fever vaccination to enter the DRC.
The weather and the seasons in the DRC are dictated by the country’s position on the equator, giving way for the highest frequency of thunderstorms in the world. To the south, the wet season lasts from October till May and in the north, from April to November. The best time to visit is between December and February for the north and April to October for the south. Average temperatures in the lowlands hover in the mid-twenties Celsius although daytime temperatures can rise to the mid-thirties Celsius.
|Time Zone||GMT +1 (CAT)|
|Language||French, English and Swahili|
|Power||Plug C, D and E & 220V/50Hz|
|Dress Code||Neutral for Safaris|
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To the south, the wet season lasts from October till May and in the north, from April to November. The best time to visit is between December and February for the north and April to October for the south. Average temperatures in the lowlands hover in the mid-twenties Celsius although daytime temperatures can rise to the mid-thirties Celsius.
Accommodation options in the DRC are limited but the country is slowly awakening to the prospects of welcoming even more tourists to its shores. Luxury options are few and far between with basic facilities like tented camps more readily available.
Most travellers require a visa before travelling to the DRC. Travellers can check with their travel consultants or inquire at their nearest Congolese Consulate or embassy.
The following vaccinations are highly recommended before travelling to the DRC: routine vaccinations including MMR, yellow fever, and polio. Additionally, the CDC recommends vaccines for hepatitis A, malaria, and typhoid for most travellers, while other vaccine recommendations include rabies, yellow fever, and hepatitis B.
It is recommended that anyone travelling to the DRC should drink bottled water only, as the country has one of the lowest rates of access to clean drinking water in Sub-Saharan Africa and the world.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is not the best destination for family safari trips. The DRC is renowned for gorilla trekking, which requires a high level of fitness and trekking through dense jungle.
Safari-goers coming to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for gorilla trekking should have a higher level of fitness. The safari experience requires heavy trekking through dense jungle and forest to spot these incredible primates.
Most tour operators and travel agents will recommend purchasing travel insurance before arriving in the DRC. Most plans include emergency air evacuation if visitors are travelling to remote areas of the country. We advise that visitors talk to their travel consultants before travelling.
Travellers opting to self-drive in the DRC require an international driving permit and should always drive with their doors locked and windows rolled up. Furthermore, they drive on the right slide of the road in the DRC.