available in Democratic Republic of Congo
Reserves and Wildlife
The Democractic Republic of Congo (DRC) (formerly Zaire) is the largest country in Central Africa both geographically and by population. Covered primarily in lush, green rain forest, the heart of DRC is comparable to the Amazon rain forest (the only rain forest larger than that of DRC). Due to its turbulent and tragic past, the DRC is still in a phase of recovery, so doesn’t suit travellers seeking a luxury safari experience for the time being. Those willing to brave the rustic charm of the DRC, however, will be richly rewarded as this beautiful country boasts smoking volcanoes towering above rain forests, impressive Mount Nyiragongo, an active lava lake, and the chance to view majestic gorillas in their natural habitat.
Virunga National Park, located along the Albertine Rift, is one of the oldest protected areas in Africa, as well as one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet. The park is an adventurer’s dream with its dense, green jungles, fiery lava lake, expansive savanna plains and glacier-covered mountain tops. Safari through the wilderness spotting elephants, lions, hippos, and giant forest hogs. Summit Mount Nyiragongo, an active strato volcano and watch the volcanic lake churn and bubble. If you’re brave enough, climb the 5, 109 m Rwendzori Mountain, emerging to view the largest glaciers in Africa. One of the most unforgettable experiences in Virunga is of course a visit to the peaceful, forested slopes in which fascinating and highly endangered gorillas go about their lives.
One of the largest parks in the country is Kahuzi-Biega National Park, a vast area of primary tropical forest dominated by two breathtaking extinct volcanoes, ‘Kahuzi’ and ‘Biega’. This incredible park also boasts over 250 gorillas, one of the last groups of the eastern lowland gorilla left on earth. Aside from gorillas, the park is also home to over 130 species of mammals and 340 species of birds. Expect to see wildlife such as the eastern chimpanzee, owl-faced monkey, bush elephant, civet cat and bush buffalo in these parts.
Garamba National Park, one of Africa’s oldest parks, is the last stronghold for the largest population of elephants, the last remaining white rhinos and the last remaining Kordofan giraffes in DRC. This is the land of grasslands, woodlands and expansive savanna plains, as well as forests and swamps. The park is also the home of savanna lions, antelope, chimpanzee, hyena and hippo. Enjoy bird watching, boat cruises, fishing and wildlife safaris as you explore this spectacular park.
- Dec–Mar. This is the dry season for the north – slightly easier travel conditions.
- Jan A good month to have the mountain gorillas totally to yourself.
- Apr–Oct. This is the dry season for the south and the best time to attempt overland routes across the country.
- In general, the best time to visit is June to September, when the season is dry and temperatures uniform.
- Sitting on the equator means the temperature is warm all year round, ranging from low 20°Cs to low 30°Cs.
- Capital – Kinshasa
- Currency – Congolese Franc
- Languages – French, local African languages
- Size – 2,345,409 km2 (905,567 sq mi)
- Population – 101,780,263 (July 2020 est)
- The CDC recommends the following vaccinations for the DRC: measles, polio, hepatitis A and typhoid. Check with your doctor which other vaccinations you might need and make sure your routine vaccinations are all up-to-date.
- Malaria is a risk throughout the country – get medical advice on which prophylaxis you should take before, during and after your trip.
- There is an outbreak of Ebola in some provinces of the DRC. Travellers should avoid contact with blood or body fluids and avoid contact with wild animals or bush meat.
- A yellow fever certificate is required for travellers from all countries.
It’s best to stick to bottled drinking water.
- Lush landscape of rain forest, rivers and volcanoes
- See gorillas in their natural habitat
- Wealth of mammals and birds
- Ideal destination for adventurous travellers
- Potential danger – always get up to the minute information before travelling
- Rebel armies and bandits in northern and eastern parts of the country
- Turbulent past and political unrest
Arriving in the DRC
- N’djili Airport is the international airport in Kinshasa, the largest of the four international airports in the DRC. Taxis will ask US$45 to take you to downtown Kinshasa (1-2 hours). Alternatively, hotels often offer an airport-collection service.
- Flying is the best way to travel between towns in the DRC due to long distances and terrible roads, although air travel is not cheap.
- Travelling with a tour company takes the headache of getting around DRC with its virtually nonexistent transport network, danger areas to avoid and visas to purchase.
- All visitors to DRC need visas. These are not available on arrival so you must apply at the DRC embassy in your home country or country of residence.
- Visa fees tend be between US$100 and US$200, and normally require several weeks to be processed. The exact documents required to obtain a visa varies from embassy to embassy, but in general it includes proof of hotel booking, yellow fever vaccination and a legalised letter from a sponsor in DRC.
- An alternative is a two-week, single-entry tourist visa issued for visitors to Parc National des Virunga. This visas costs US$105 plus you and can be purchased once you have booked a package. See Visit Virunga for more information.
- Your tour company will be able to give you more information and help regarding visas.