|Congo has a number of national parks, five of which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Garumba, Kahuzi-Biega, Salonga and Virunga National Parks as well as the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.
These areas are particularly important to a number of threatened animal species and as such present a great opportunity to see these species in their natural habitats. Garumba National Park is home to the world’s last remaining population of wild northern white rhinoceros, whilst Kahuzi-Biega is home to the rare Mountain Gorilla.
Virunga National Park is also home to the rare Mountain Gorilla too, although it’s believed with the effect of Civil War and poaching, that their numbers have seriously declined even further. Virunga National Park was actually the first national park in Africa, established in 1925. If you are interested in seeing the gorillas there is apparently a hefty fee to do so: a standard permit costs in the region of $500 (US).
The national parks also feature great biodiversity and some fantastic landscapes as well as other rare animals such as the bonobo, also known as the Pygmy Chimpanzee – this is the only country in the world in which you’ll find these chimps in the wild.
The Okapi Wildlife Reserve is the place to visit to see, as the name suggests, Okapi! The okapi are mammals which are closely related to giraffes though their most striking feature is their striped zebra-like markings. There are also endangered species here, such as the forest elephant and you may also see nomadic Mbuti pygmies who live within the reserve.
Nyiragongo Volcano in the east of the Congo near Goma, offers a different experience. You can climb to the top of this volcano in about 4 to 5 hours and view the lava lake inside the crater from above!
The city of Goma is known as the touristic capital of Congo. Much of the city was buried by lava flow from Nyiragongo in 2002 though it’s being rebuilt. As well as being a good base for visiting the volcano, it’s also well located for the Virunga National Park.
Kinshasa is the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and although still a major cultural centre, it has suffered due to war and hence the infrastructure here isn’t what it used to be. Having said that, there are plenty of hotels, restaurants and bars to keep a tourist entertained and the Matonge area is a particularly good place to go after dark when you’ll find the locals dancing the night away to Congolese sounds!
Kinshasa sits on the Congo River opposite the capital city of neighbouring Republic of Congo, Brazzaville.