DR Congo is known as the second largest country in Africa centrally located along the Equator and having much of its area covered by the thick rain tropical forests with in the central Africa.
The country has badly suffered many years of political unsteadiness, this has highly affected tourism in Congo, particularly in the Eastern section of the country bordering Rwanda and Uganda, where the Virunga National Park and Kahuzi – Biega National Park are located.
Tourism in Congo majorly focuses on gorilla tracking; the country offers travelers both Mountain gorillas located in the Virunga National park as well as the Eastern Lowland Gorillas in the Kahuzi-Bienge National park.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) also formerly referred to as Zaire, Congo Kinshasa or The Congo is the second largest country on the African land mass. It is located in central Africa and borders Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east, South Sudan and Central African Republic to the North, Angola and Zambia to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean in the south west.
The country is named after the Congo River but has seen several name changes over the years. From the early 1971 to 1997 it was known as Zaire which is the original name of the Congo River. Zaire was a Portuguese adaption of the Kikongo word “nzere” to mean river. It was truncated from the phrase “nzadi o nzere” (river swallowing rivers) as many rivers join together in one course to form the Congo River. The latter is today the second largest river globally by discharge and arguably the deepest in the whole world.
Prior to the colonization of Congo, the country is believed to have been occupied by the Bantu as early as the 7th century. This accelerated during the transition from Stone Age to Iron Age that so many migrate to central Africa in search of arable land. Today, it is second to none as the world’s most populated francophone nation but also fourth most populated country in the world. Like any other African nation, DRC was also greatly affected by the salve trade mainly by Arab-Swahili traders.
The Democratic Republic of Congo was colonized on 17th November 1879 by King Leopold II of Belgium. The King had sponsored exploration and administrative ventures of Sir Henry Morton Stanley. Following the Berlin Conference of 1885 that led to the scramble and partition of Africa, King Leopold acquired Congo as his private land and named it the Congo Free State. Infrastructure developments were quickly initiated in the state that included construction of a railway line from the coast to Leopoldville that is today known as Kinshasa.
In 1908, the Belgian government bowed to international pressure and took control of Congo Free State naming it Belgian Congo hence becoming a Belgian colony. It was placed under the colonial affairs ministry and in 1926 the capital was moved from Boma to Leopoldville. The colonial government quickly expanded with the anterior motive of exploiting the natural resources of The Congo. Belgian Congo also directly participated in the two world wars. During the 1st world war, the Force Publique which was the army of Belgian Congo together with British East Africa forces invaded Tanganyika. The Anglo-German forces defeated the German East Africa army and Belgian was rewarded with Rwanda and Burundi that were former colonies of Germany by the League of Nations. In the Second World War the Belgian Congo forces fought against the Italian forces in Italy as well as provided financial support towards the war.
In May 1960, Patrice Lumumba of the Movement National Congolais party won the elections and became the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Joseph Kasavubu the president. 30th May 1960 brought an end to the colonial era as the nation gained independence as the Republic of Congo. The latter was also chosen as the name for the neighboring French colony of Middle Congo hence the countries came to be known as Congo-Leopoldville and Congo- Brazzaville.
Later that year, misunderstandings erupted between the president and the prime minister that led to the dismissal of Patrice Lumumba. Joseph Mobutu who had been appointed the Chief of Staff of the new Congolese Army took manipulated the situation to his advantage to form unity and brew a mutiny within the army. This led to the arrest and execution of Patrice Lumumba on 17th January 1961. Mobutu led a successful coup in 1965 and a referendum there after changed the name of the state to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The name was again changed in 1971 to the Republic of Zaire.
Mobutu’s reign continued with relative peace and stability. However, the country was embattling gross corruption and embezzlement that was turned as Congolese Sickness.
As a reaction to the Rwandan Genocide, many forces fled to eastern Zaire and led a campaign against the Congolese Ethnic Tutsi. The Ugandan and Rwandan forces jointly invaded Congo to bring an end to the Mobutu regime and control it mineral wealth. They joined with key opposition leader Laurent Desire Kabila and in 1997 Mobutu went into exile. Kabila marched to Kinshasa and declared himself president. He thereafter returned the country’s name to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tensions and civil rift continued thereafter and in 2001, Laurent Kabila was assassinated. Joseph Kabila his son succeeded him and quickly initiated peace talks that saw the arrival of UN peace keepers in the nation. A peace pact was signed that stated that Kabila would share power with the rebels. Democratic Republic of Congo was thereafter ruled by a transitional government till 2006. In 2006 the first multi-party elections were held with a new constitution and Joseph Kabila declared President.
The area of the Democratic Republic of Congo spans over the Equator with a third in the Northern hemisphere and rest in the South. As another other state in the equatorial region, it experiences warm climate with rainfall averages of 2000mm a year. The nation has basically two seasons that are the dry and wet season. These influence the economic activity of agriculture in the nation.
The climate of the DRC facilitates the Congo Rain Forest, the largest rainforest in the wild that is only second to the Amazon. The extensive blossoming jungle is encompassed by the Congo basin that drains it waters in the Atlantic Ocean. The rain forest is surrounded by plateaus with savanna in the southern region and northern region, highland areas in the west and glaciated mountains in the east on the border with Uganda. The Congo River basin covers an area of 1,000,000 square kilometers with major tributaries like Lulonga, Ruzizi, Kasai, Ubangi and Sangha.
Democratic Republic of Congo is also gifted with the world’s few remaining active volcanoes. Mt Nyiragongo and Mt. Nyamulagira are the notable highland areas in the Congo. Mt Nyiragongo last erupted in 2002 with lava flowing to the nearby Goma city damaging it and poisoning the Lake Kivu water. Six months later, Nyamulagira also erupted subsequently recurring in 2006 and 2010.
The Kahuzi – Biega National Park.
The Kahunzi – Bienga park is named after two mountains, Mt. Kahuzi (3.308 m.) and Mt. Biega (2.790 m.). With its 6.000 sq km in size, situated in the South Kivu region of Congo. The Eastern Lowland Gorilla, have a close relationship to the mountain gorillas, situated in Kahuzi – Biega National Park in DRC. Kahuzi – Biega national park was the first park to habituate gorillas in 1972 and Congo gorilla trekking has been done ever since. This park provides a secure option for travelers with a desire to track mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Virunga National Park
Elegantly named after the eight Volcanoes Mountains located within its Southern territory, of which the Niyragongo and Nyamulagira are still active volcanoes. The Virunga National Park was founded in 1960 after Congo Independence with a size of 7.800 sq Km along the Ugandan border for over 300 km. This Park is part of the Virunga Conservation Area, which comprises three contiguous national parks – Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, Parc National des Volcans (PNV) in Rwanda, plus Virunga.
Cost of a gorilla permit in Congo
Price of a gorilla permit to Congo is US$500. This includes the permit, escort and transport in Congo. Travelers to Congo for gorilla trekking have to pay for their visa fees at $50 per person; and another $50 to return to Uganda.
Congo Gorilla tracking process
On the gorilla tracking day, trackers assemble at a Kisoro hotel / Virunga hotel by 6.00Am and are then transported to Congo for the tracking. Visas should have been obtained a day earlier. A Congolese-specially-licensed vehicle takes the tourists, and brings them back to the boarder also after tracking.