Democratic Republic of Congo Overview
In the finest tradition of countries named ‘Democratic Republics’, the nation formerly known as Zaire is anything but. An untamed wilderness that all but the most hardy of travelers would be well-advised to steer clear of, the Democratic Republic of Congo is a nation that is steeped in a dingy, hell-like history of vicious violence.
With UN interventions in 2006 contributing towards political improvements, however, the future’s finally looking a little brighter in the DRC. The shabby shantytowns and conniving conmen of Kinshasa will shock all but the most robust of wanderers, as will the reams of half finished buildings and underlying sense of edginess that seem to permeate the city. Handle all of that and you’ll be rewarded with a look at some of Africa’s least tourist-influenced markets and a truly African take on nightlife.
Leaving Kinshasa is still more hazardous, but with huge swathes of untouched countryside (the size of Western Europe) and the world’s second largest rainforest within the DRC’s borders, intrepid travelers might deem it a worthwhile risk. Discover the rare orchids and caves at Mbanza-Ngungu or Zongo’s 65 meter Insiki Falls. Then there are the unexplored wildernesses – and many of them genuinely are unexplored – where you might stumble across a family of gorillas or pack of monkeys swinging through the trees, or scramble to the top of an unclimbed hill.
If you are one of those uber-adventurous types, and just can’t resist the call of the wild, the DRC might be the perfect spot for you. Be aware when traveling that ‘security forces’ are anything but in these wilds, and will almost certainly attempt some kind of extortion from tourists to subsidize (or generate) their income. Travel in groups and by day as far as possible, and remember there’s unlikely to be help coming along to bail you out should things go wrong. The plus side, of course, is that you’ll be one of amazingly few foreigners who’ve ever seen the wilds of the DRC, and you’ll inevitably be left with some storming travel stories.
Please note that violence continues to be especially bad in the east of the country, where Ugandan rebel groups have displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and killed thousands more. Travel there is not advised under any circumstances. Please consult the recommendations of your country's state department before visiting the DRC.