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.
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.
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.
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.