An insider’s overview from the experts at Steppes Travel.
They say that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the country around which all other African countries revolve and that you can only truly know Africa if you know the DRC. Two-thirds the size of Western Europe and home to nearly 300 different languages and tribes, the DRC is a country of vast jungles and dark corners, endangered primates and tribal strongholds, equatorial rainforests and active volcanoes.
With tourism returning to the Virunga National Park, the allure of the DRC for intrepid travellers looking for a rich and rewarding experience is clear.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park
Founded in 1939 and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, Kahuzi-Biega remains the last stronghold of the eastern lowland gorillas, with about 250 individuals in three habituated groups.
Dominated by two extinct volcanoes, this vast area of primary tropical forest is a sprawling park of lush, rolling hills and thick jungle. The forest trails are sometimes frequented by elusive forest elephant and bongo, and are home to a high number of other primate species, including Bosman’s potto, red tailed monkey and Angolan black monkeys.
The birding is excellent and surprisingly easy, with about 200 resident species including the Congo peacock and Rwenzori turaco.
If you’re feeling active, there is the chance to hike to Mt Bulugumisa, taking you past the pretty Tshibati waterfalls before enjoying magnificent views from the summit.
Virunga National Park
Africa’s oldest national park and, spanning 7800 sq km, features forests, savannahs, lava plains, swamps, erosion valleys, active volcanoes and the glacial peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains.
It is also the only park in the world to have populations of three great ape species: the chimpanzee, lowland gorilla and mountain gorilla.
Wandering through the shadowy forests you may also find okapi, forest and savannah elephants, hippos, numerous rare birds and even lion.
Extraordinarily, half of all the biodiversity in sub-Saharan Africa can be found in Virunga. It is no wonder this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most exciting places to explore in all of Africa.
The park comprises three main sectors: the northern sector, defined by the Rwenzori Mountains that border Uganda; the central sector, around Lake Edward, the Ishasha river and Rwindi plains; and the southern sector, best known for the mountain gorillas and other primates that live in the dense forests on the flanks of the formant Mikeno volcano.
It is here that you have the opportunity to climb the active Nyiragongo volcano, spending the night camping on the ridge of the caldera, and watching the sun rise over the Virunga landscape. This is a rare and extraordinary experience.
Spend a night at the beginning of your safari relaxing in an idyllic camp on Tchegera Island, in the vast Lake Kivu.
The scenic town that is the base for visits into Kahuzi-Biega NP, consisting of faded colonial mansions and colourful gardens over rolling hills.
Swim in Lake Kivu, take a boat to Idjwi Island or visit Nyungwe Forest National Park in neighbouring Rwanda.
Goma is the gateway to Virunga National Park and an important NGO post. Much of the town was destroyed when My Nyiragongo erupted in 2002.
The town is built from the black volcanic rock which surrounds the area, giving a contrast to the green hillsides.
Beyond the Ordinary
Set off deep into the DRC’s interior, heading to the Lomako Reserve in search of wild troops of bonobos.
To learn more about travelling to the DRC, and to discuss a personalised itinerary, visit www.steppestravel.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)3332 223177.
** A £200 travel voucher can be used in conjunction with any new booking with Steppes Travel. Voucher value will be redeemable against final balance of booking. Voucher cannot be used against the deposit paid on confirmation of booking. Total value of vouchers must not exceed 20% of the total booking value. It cannot be used for bookings via agents or private group bookings. This offer is not combinable with any other Steppes offer or voucher.