Tourism in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is uncommon. Tourists can see wildlife, indigenous cultures, and geological phenomena not found easily or anywhere else in Africa. Carpeted by huge swaths of rainforest and punctuated by gushing rivers and smoking volcanoes, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire) is the ultimate African adventure. As much a geographical concept as a fully-fledged nation, DRC has experienced one of the saddest chapters in modern history, suffering a brutal 20th century of colonial exploitation, authoritarian madness and what has been dubbed Africa’s first ‘world war’, which finally ended in 2003 with the rise of the Kabila political dynasty.
Tourists can trek to see both mountain and lowland gorillas in wild, meet pygmies still practicing their traditional way of life in the forests, spot bonobos and okapi two rare species not found anywhere else on earth, and climb to the summits of active volcanoes and see a boiling lava lake in the crater of Mount Nyiragongo, Virunga national park, Kahuzi Biega national park. The DRC has experienced frequent unrest in the eastern part of the country.
In the capital city, Kinshasa, limited tourism opportunities exist. In downtown Kinshasa an ivory market exists where other than the obvious, Congolese art, tribal masks, and other beautiful goods can be procured. Outside Kinshasa is a bonobo preserve called Lola Ya Bonobo. In Kinshasa visits to the Congo River or the city golf course or downtown restaurants can be nice.
While real stability remains many years away, the cautious development of DRC’s enormous untapped mineral wealth and the presence of the world’s largest UN peacekeeping force have bred optimism among its tormented but resilient population. At the same time, a small but fast-growing tourism industry, centered on the incredible Parc National des Virunga, has seen travelers return to what is easily one of Africa’s most thrilling – and challenging – destinations.
Primate trips are cheaper in the DRC than in neighboring Rwanda or Uganda.