Flag_of_the_Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo.svgThe Democratic Republic of the Congo was formerly, in chronological order, the Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Congo-Léopoldville, Congo-Kinshasa, and Zaire (Zaïre in French).

A case that has particularly alarmed conservationists is that of primates. The Congo is inhabited by three distinct great ape species; the common chimpanzee, the bonobo and the gorilla.

It is the only country in the world in which bonobos are found in the wild.
The chimpanzee and bonobo are the closest living evolutionary relatives to humans.

Much concern has been raised about the great ape extinction. Because of hunting and habitat destruction, the chimpanzee and the gorilla, both of whose population once numbered in the millions, have now dwindled down enormously. Gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos are all classified as endangered by the World Conservation Union, as well as the okapi, which is also native to the area geography.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, is a state located in Central Africa, with a short Atlantic coastline (37 km). It is the third largest country in Africa by area after Sudan and Algeria and the 12th largest in the world. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is, with a population of nearly 71 million, the eighteenth most populous nation in the world, and the fourth most populous nation in Africa, as well as the most populous officially Francophone country.

In order to distinguish it from the neighboring Republic of the Congo to the west, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is often referred to as DR Congo, DROC, DRC, or RDC (from its French abbreviation), or is called Congo-Kinshasa after the capital of Kinshasa (in contrast to Congo-Brazzaville for its neighbor). It also borders the Central African Republic and Sudan to the north; Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi in the east; Zambia and Angola to the south; the Atlantic Ocean to the west; and is separated from Tanzania by Lake Tanganyika in the east. The country enjoys access to the ocean through a 40-kilometre (25 mi) stretch of Atlantic coastline at Muanda the roughly nine-kilometer wide mouth of the Congo River which opens into the Gulf of Guinea.

Flora and Fauna

The rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo contain great biodiversity, including many rare and endemic species, such as the common chimpanzee and the bonobo formerly known as the Pygmy Chimpanzee), the forest elephant, mountain gorilla, okapi and white rino. Five of the country’s national parks are listed as World Heritage Sites: the Garumba, Kahuzi-Biega, Salonga and Virunga National Parks, and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. The civil war and resultant poor economic conditions have endangered much of this biodiversity. Many park wardens were either killed or could not afford to continue their work. All five sites are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage in Danger. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most biodiverse African country.

Over the past century or so, the DRC has developed into the center of what has been called the Central African “bush meat” problem, which is regarded by many as a major environmental, as well as, socio-economic crisis. “Bush meat” is another word for the meat of wild animals. It is typically obtained through trapping, usually with wire snares, or otherwise with shotguns, poisoned arrows or arms originally intended for use in the DRC’s numerous military conflicts.

The “bush meat crisis” has emerged in the DRC mainly as a result of the poor living conditions of the Congolese people and a lack of education about the dangers of eating it. A rising population combined with deplorable economic conditions has forced many Congolese to become dependent on bush meat, either as a means of acquiring income (hunting the meat and selling), or are dependent on it for food. Unemployed and urbanization throughout Central Africa have exacerbated the problem further by turning cities like the urban sprawl of Kinshasa into the prime market for commercial bush meat.

This combination has caused not only widespread endangerment of local fauna, but has forced humans to trudge deeper into the wilderness in search of the desired animal meat. This overhunting results in the deaths of more animals and makes resources even scarcer for humans. The hunting has also been facilitated by the extensive logging prevalent throughout the Congo’s rainforests (from corporate logging, in addition to farmers clearing out forest for agriculture), which allows hunters much easier access to previously unreachable jungle terrain, while simultaneously eroding away at the habitats of animals. Deforestation is accelerating in Central Africa.

For the detailed information about DR Congo’s tourist attractions, please visit THE Online Travel Guide for DR Congo: ENJOY CONGO.

Acess Rwanda Safaris has introduced a series of the PURE PRIMATE SAFARIS, in the eastern DR-Congo, taking in the giant, rare, eastern Lowland Gorillas, in the Kahuzi Biega national park, the exotic camping on top of Mt. Nyiragongo active volcano, and the tracking of the Mountain Gorillas in the Virunga national park, in the DR-Congo.

This is in combination with the tracking of the Mountain Gorillas, and the Golden Monkeys, in the Volcanoes national park, and the trekking of Chimpanzees, and the Colobus Monkeys, in the Nyungwe Forest national parks, in Rwanda.

The Democratic Republic of Congo at a glance

Time zone: Western side – GMT + 1, Eastern side – GMT + 2

Climate: The climate is hot and humid in the equatorial river basin, drier in the southern highlands and wetter in the eastern Highlands. North of the equator, the wet season runs from April to October, while south of the equator, it runs from November to March.

Clothing: Lightweight clothing is worn throughout the year, although a jacket or jersey is advisable for the evening.

Languages: French is the official language. Of the 450 tribal languages of the country, Swahili, Kikongo, Tshiluba and Langala are the most widespread.

Population: The population of the DRC was around 60 million people (as at 31st July 1998), of which 48 % were under the age of 14. Due to the war that started on 2 August 1998, the population has since been reduced to 56 millions. There are over 200 African ethnic groups in the country, the majority of which are of Bantu origin. The Mongo, Luba, Kongo and Mangbetu-Azande people make up approximately 45 % of the population.

Health: The country is a high-risk malaria area, and tropical diseases such as yellow fever, cholera, bilharzias and meningitis occur in rural areas. Medical facilities are limited and visitors are advised to carry their own full medical kits.

Transport: A national airline, Ligne Aérienne Congolaises, and many private airlines operate internationally, and there are several regional airlines. Hewa Bora Airways, a private airline, operates small aircraft both nationally and regionally. International airports are situated in Kinshasa, Kisangani, Gbadolite, Lubumbashi and Goma. There are 210 local airports, of which 104 have paved runways.

The railway system of the country is operational, but the roads are in poor condition, becoming almost impassable in the wet season. There are 11 ports and harbours in Kinshasa, Boma, Matadi, Kisangani, Kindu, Kalemie and Goma.

Communications: There are limited mobile cellular and normal telephone facilities, and some use of the Internet is possible. There are 10 television stations and AM and FM radio stations.

Electricity: The electricity supply is 220/240V AC, 50Hz.

Water: Tap water is not safe to drink and should be boiled or purified.

Currency: The currency is the Congolese franc (CDF), which can be broken down into 100 centimes. Credit cards have limited use and US dollars, pound sterling and Euros are also accepted.

Banking hours: 08h00 to 11h30, Mondays to Fridays.

Public Holidays:

  • 1 January: New Year’s Day,
  • 4 January: Commemoration of Martyrs of Independance,
  • Good Friday (varied),
  • Easter Monday (varied),
  • 16 & 17 January: National Hero’s Day,
  • 1 May: Worker’s Day,
  • 17 May: Changes of the System,
  • 24 June: Pisces Day,
  • 30 June: Independance Day,
  • 1 August: Parent’s Day,
  • 25 December: Christmas Day.

Entry regulations: All visitors entering the DRC require a valid passport and a visa, as well as a yellow fever vaccination certificate. Special travel permits are needed for entry into the central mining regions; and other permits may be required, depending on the level of unrest in the area.

Don’t miss: Travelling on the Congo River by boat, visiting Lake Tanganyika and Lake Kivu, the Pende dancers and masked Yaka, the Gungu Festival.