Republic of Congo Overview
Home to colorful cultures and international conservationists, The Republic of Congo is nevertheless best known for its apes. Congo is indisputably the top destination in the world for lowland gorillas and wild chimpanzees, many of which reside in the dense inland rainforest and swamplands, and can be visited at Odzala National park, where the sheer size of animal residents and their mischievous antics thrills intrepid visitors.
Congo’s certainly a plucky nation, one that’s ever gaining in stability, and – whilst overtly welcoming – quick to judge visitors on how they act and dress. Cities like capital Braazaville – a vibrant market town where you can shop for essential accessories like bats, caterpillars and natural aphrodisiacs – are maddeningly bustling for tourists (invariably the center of attention), but seduce with their smiling children and simple lifestyles. The capital sits along a busy riverfront, where you can watch traders and canoes float past while snacking on chili river fish wrapped in manioc leaves, or nursing an oversized Ngok (crocodile) beer.
A semblance of French colonialism lives on here, too: baguettes are a staple part of the diet, and, of course, French is the national language. It all feels undeniably African, though, when eying the elephants, drifting around the atmospheric, candlelit night markets or being thrashed at the national pastime, energetic games of table football (‘babyfoot’). The people of the Congo are a charismatic bunch - philosophers, poets, musicians and cooks abound - and seduce visitors with their playful personalities and light hearted take on life, despite the tragedies surrounding six years of recent conflict and strife.
Large parts of the Republic of Congo are still highly dangerous travel destinations, so it’s always worth checking the latest updates before crossing the border. The dangers are nothing next to the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (often confused with the Republic), however. For those of us into obscure fruit drink advertising trivia, no, sadly you can’t find Um Bongo in the Congo, but you can find a culture that’s unexpectedly and delightfully effervescent.