DRC – Democratic Republic of Congo Tourism
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (known as the DRC) is can mostly and safely be accessed from Rwanda via its Goma border. Democratic Republic of Congo has the world’s second-largest rainforest, with hundreds of thousands of miles of the Congo River Basin, with glacial mountains and savannah elsewhere, the DRC is enormous and supports a staggering array of wildlife and cultures.
Key Facts about Democratic Republic of Congo
- 7 national parks and 57 Reserves and Hunting Areas including 5 included on the World Heritage list of UNESCO (Virunga*, Kahuzi Biega*, Garamba*, SALONGA* and fauna reserve of Okapi) ;
- 4 endemic species : Mountain gorilla, Okapi, bonobo (pygmy chimpanzee), Congolese Peacock ;
- A variety of ecosystem covering nearly 145 million hectares, or the second block of tropical forest in the world after the Amazon and one of the biodiversity reserves on the planet ;
- Wilderness ((the Congo River, the Atlantic coast (37 km), the impressive waterfalls, lakes and their contours, mountainous areas of East) built (heritage monuments, religious buildings, and cultural (a rich mix of cultures and traditions around 450 ethnic groups), works of art markets, historic sites ;
It’s no secret, of course, that the DRC has suffered tumultuous ups and downs over the course of its long history – a history that stretches back some 80,000 years. As was so often the case, with the coming of colonialism (in this case Belgian), the area’s wealth of resources led to conflict and systemic abuse, which, since independence in 1960, have continued to experience repercussions.
The main tourism activity in Democratic Republic of Congo happens in Virunga National Park. To reach the park most tourists fly into Kigali airport in Rwanda, then take a three-hour taxi ride to the border crossing at Gisenyi. The park provides secure transportation to its headquarters, Rumangabo, where Mikeno Lodge offers 12 luxury bungalows. Excursions include spectacular Nyiragongo volcano, where trekkers can also camp in the collection of 12 shelters on the summit of Mount Nyiragongo, next to the lava lake.
Just outside the park boundary is Bukima Tented Camp, one of the main starting points for Virunga mountain gorilla treks, with six luxury tents and views of 4,437m Mount Mikeno. A permit to trek at Nyiragongo, including accommodation in the huts, costs $255.
Visiting Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park is gifted with with breathtaking sights – dense jungles, vast bubbling lava lakes, wide savannah plains and glacier-clad mountains. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, a visit to Virunga is an experience unlike any other. For those seeking to encounter exceptional wildlife and landscapes, Virunga offers an unparalleled experience.
In the southern sector, visitors can reach the summit of Mt. Nyiragongo, an active stratovolcano, to watch the world’s largest lava lake churn while camping on its crater’s rim. Guests looking to try their hand at mountaineering can climb the 5,109 m (16,761 ft) Rwenzori Mountains in the Park’s northern sector to explore high montane forests, before emerging to find the largest snow- capped glaciers left on the African continent.
And for a truly African experience, visitors can take a safari through the vast savanna of the central sector’s Ishasha Plains, enjoying fantastic views of big mammal wildlife including elephants, lions, hippos,
Of the few remaining places left in the world to see endangered mountain gorillas, Virunga National Park stands as the most unique. Living peacefully on the forested slopes of the Park’s volcanoes, mountain gorillas are highly intelligent, good natured, and fascinating to observe. An encounter with Virunga’s mountain gorillas is an experience that will leave you awestruck and forever changed.
The Park also offers a range of accommodations for those looking to relax and unwind amongst stunning views – including the luxurious Mikeno Lodge, the serene simplicity of Tchegera Island, and the newly built Kibumba tented camp, starting point for gorilla trekking.
The dense forests of the south, punctuated by volcanic peaks including the dormant Mikena volcano, are home to the gorilla population as well as other primates. Virunga is also the only park in the world to contain three taxa of Great Apes.
Indeed, Virunga provides one of those rare opportunities to engage in travel and tourism that are of genuine benefit to the region – that, in fact, are essential to its survival. Even now, the park is under threat from potential drilling explorations. The increased economic benefits – as well as greater international attention – that tourism brings are essential factors in ensuring that Virunga continues to be protected and conserved for future generations.
Current ongoing projects include mountain gorilla protection, halting the elephant crisis, and funding the training of anti-poacher bloodhounds (known affectionately as Congohounds).
A trip to Virunga affords the traveller the opportunity to witness some of the world’s most spectacular wildlife, in a stunning landscape seen by relatively few people.