When we conjure up mental images of the Democratic Republic of Congo, perhaps inevitably those images are of a war torn and dangerous country. Whilst this is sadly true, and has been for decades since independence from Belgium in 1960, the country itself is home to an abundance of rainforests and rivers. The Democratic Republic of Congo is about the same size as western Europe with many still unexplored regions bursting with wildlife including mountain gorillas, white rhinos and, of course, the pygmy chimpanzees. It shares its borders with Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The country also has a small 23 mile strip of coastline connecting it with the Atlantic Ocean and is home to active volcanoes such as Mount Nyiragongo (above) in the Great Rift Valley. Nyiragongo last erupted in 2011, leaving over 120,000 homeless and destroying up to 15% of the surrounding land, however such eruptions are relatively frequent with thirty-four in the last 130 years given its location where the African tectonic plate is breaking.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has a number of rivers and lakes with the main waterways being the Ubangi and Bomu in the north and the Congo in the west. Lake Tanganyika forms part of its eastern border with Tanzania and Burundi. Given the country's difficult past there is no signficant tourism industry and, in the main visitors are advised, if they have to visit the country, to avoid entering around the conflict access points of Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. Once there, the AAC Bonobo Nursery Sanctuary at Kinshasa is worth a visit where visitors can see orphaned apes as is the Symphonies Naturelles some 12km outside of Kinshasa where a number of forest paths can be explored in the 200 hectare woodland. Those interested in plant life will also probably enjoy a visit to the Kisantu Botanical Gardens on the road to Matadi. Check out our Kinshasa profile pages for other attractions in and around the city.
One of the enduring images of the Democratic Republic of Congo has to be the Kahuzi-Biega National Park which is located in the east of the country on the western bank of Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border. The park has two dormant volcanoes, Mount Kahuzi (3,308m) and Mount Biega (2,790m), and was was created in 1970 covering 6000 km sq. and was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1980 given its biodiversity of rainforest and eastern lowland gorilla habitat. Overall, the country sits above a bed of an estimated twenty-four trillion US dollars of natural resources including cobalt, copper, niobium, tantalum, petroleum, industrial and gem diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, uranium and coal. It is perhaps inevitable that when peace becomes widespread and embedded, DRC will become a tourist destination of choice.
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DRC Images: Congo Kinshasa Country Profile
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