Congo is located to the west of the mighty Zaire (Congo) River and its major tributary, the Oubangui. The northern part of the country is filled with rainforest that are largely uninhabited. Most Congolese live in the southern part of the country which is the industrial center or where the main capital city is. On the coastal plains of the western part is where the population is more concentrated on the agricultural industry and where oil reserves, Congo’s most precious mineral are found and processed.
Here are the top ten not to be missed places in Congo.
Basilique St. Anne du Congo (Brazzaville)
The Basilica of St. Anne is one of the last remnants of the French occupation era. It has a beautiful and unique architecture that leaves visitors impressed with its beauty and grandeur. The basilica is the true jewel of the Brazzaville, the capital city. The stone structure and its acoustic are truly incomparable. It is a perfect example of a beautifully designed religious architecture that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Its steeple has just been laid and renovated, plus the roof tiles have all just been replaced with a more solid terra cotta tiles to prepare for its 70th year anniversary (2012).
Important works of restoration and rehabilitation were initiated by the government and the private sector towards the end of the year 2000. The arches made of metal and glass were meticulously planned by the architect and organized by an Italian company called the Errezeta. The church was also provided with bells made in Italy by the papal foundry Martinelli. It is a place of peace that is enchanting and solemn in all corners. It is located between Downtown and Poto-Poto, a bustling and progressive city. The church is dedicated to the masses and faithful believers of Brazzaville.
Lola Ya Bonobo
When in Kinshasa, you not only get to appreciate the greenery and peace of the place but you also get to admire the presence of the extraordinary bonobos (gorillas) at the Lola Ya Bonobo. The tour begins with a visit to their natural habitat and sanctuary, a wide spacious area behind a lake with enclosed fences. There are stairs on the tour route and observation decks to admire and witness how these amazing creatures live and interact with each other and their guests. This place is superb and very educational as the dedicated guides explain everything about the bonobos.
You will love this conservation site for two reasons. The first reason is the animals where you have the chance to see and contemplate for a while about how endangered their species are and what the government and wildlife habitats like these are doing to protect them. The second reason is the sanctuary stands next to a small natural attraction called Lukaya Falls, where you can relax and sit on the picnic grove area and admire the serene beauty of the place. Do not forget to take something to drink (drinks are available at the reception) and a hat because the visit does not take place in the shade.
If you are looking to flee the hustle and bustle in the city of Kinshasa but you do not want to go too far, visit the tranquil natural lakes of Ma Vallee. Enjoy the beauty of the majestic Lake, which is well rounded with a superb Jungle (perfect for excursion, camping and recreational activities). To reach the lake, you need to take a hike of about 6 km and arrive at the dazzling natural site. For those who are not keen into walking along a woody trail you can rent a mountain bike to explore the lake and the beauty of its natural surroundings.
The silent nature and the forest lake water are very impressive. A moment in this place is a good experience to admire nature. You can walk around the lake on foot and discover some types of wild mushrooms, mile legs, and other types of wild flowers and plants. It provides an excellent way to spend the rest of the day after observing the bonobos which is very near this attraction. Enjoy a pleasant and adventurous walk along the entire perimeter of the lake and be fascinated by the lush vegetation and the melodious singing of the exotic birds that live in the area.
The road from Kinshasa City to Zongo Falls takes at least five hours, and the last two are pretty bumpy. But a great view through beautiful scenery and many local tribes can be seen along the road that leads to the magnificent falls. The travel along the unpaved roads is already an experience. There is the possibility of unique places to eat and drink with beautiful views. The locals here are very friendly. The Zongo falls is more than just phenomenal, it is enchanting and a real crowd drawer as tourists gather and admire its natural beauty.
A guide to exploring it is not really necessary as the locals gladly tell stories about its existence and majestic presence. To get around the falls, there are only two possible ways. Definitely go to the other side of the waterfall where you can enjoy a natural shower. Tip: do closed shoes for descent / ascent. But when you’re in front of the waterfall, it is best to opt for a swim in the beautiful waters facing the falls. It provides a nice location for a weekend getaway where you can rent a small hut or cottage, or set up tents around the perimeters of the beautiful and impressive waterfall. Spend a night and hear the sound of the waterfalls as you sleep.
Muse National de Kinshasa
The National Museum of Kinshasa (Muse National de Kinshasa) is a place where one can go not only for understanding the rich cultural history and ethnicity of the people of Congo but also for its collections of its beautiful tribal masks carved in wood and decorated with shells and beads. At this museum you can also find the most beautiful statues, icons and tools that magically take you on a magical dimension and another era. Artisan crafts are also proudly displayed showcasing the patience and hard work a Congolese tribe pours on every piece. Woodworking skills have been passed down through generations and the designs have greatly improved even for hundreds of years. You will learn so many stories and a huge wealth of information about the ancient tribes, ancestral spirits and traditional African rites. You will also get to admire the most magnificent views outside the museum.
The National Museum is in fact situated atop a hill from where you can admire “Le Fleuve Congo” who, with his majesty is imposed on the eyes and gives you a beautiful landscape. On the left you can see Brazzaville (Congo, Republic of the Capital) and to the right you can see the “Kinshasa la Belle” (the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo), the two capitals are so close that you can see for yourself how blessed this country is with nature and valuable heritage. This museum is highly recommended and truly epitomizes the important part Congo plays in African history.
One of the best possible things to do while in the Goma region is to experience the tedious ascent to the top of Mount Nyiragongo. The processing of permits to be allowed entry to the mountainous region can be quite a hustle along the border authorities but it is all worth the fear and excitement once you begin the exploration and assault to the summit. The most beautiful reward after engaging yourself on a rigorous climbing trails and paths is the wonderful view over the volcanic chain of the East African grave breach. You will be particularly impressed with the night view of the active volcano along with its magical presence and stunning volcanic activity with appropriate sound and lighting effects that will leave you breathless and amused.
The fee for the hike ($100 US) can be paid on the spot, where the guides and porters are hired at the same time which the visitor can also get at the national park office. It is advisable to make purchases of coal with the stores in the last of the remaining tin huts on top of the crater so you can start a warming fire that is urgently needed especially in bad weather. Directions can be done from Goma by car and from there you can hire a vehicle with a driver to take you to the foot of the volcanic mountain. Climbing may take at approximately 5-6 hours.
The security situation in Goma and Kivu region is at times unpredictable. It is advisable to monitor any travel security alert around the region before visiting the mountain. The excursion is recommended only for those who have the latest and reliable information on the current situation around the area.
The Lake Kivu is more than just an attraction it is a magical site that you can explore when you are in the town of Bukavu, Goma region. The lake can be crossed by a motorized ferry boat that can hold up to fifty passengers. On board you can see splendid views along the coasts and the presence of government security forces. When you arrive at the lake, you can also visit some coffee plantations within the area called the Miniva and admire the perseverance and resilient spirit of the Congolese to survive their everyday lives.
The lake is like heaven on earth and this area is totally protected from any dissidents because of its tourism and economic importance. Everyday you can see the charming fishing boats heading out to the sea as early as 1 am and comes back to the shore before 6 am with their catch and the jolly atmosphere and soaring voices of the singing fishermen who are happy with the day’s catch.
The whole region is of incomparable beauty and although the people are very poor, they are very welcoming, friendly, and polite to every tourist that visits their community around the lake. In this community you will find unique discoveries, the natural beauty of the lake and the nearby attractions and also understand the people’s need to be heard and appreciated. It’s the beauty of human nature that truly deserves our attention.
Mercato delle Stoffe Africane
The Mercato delle Stoffe is an African textile market situated in the port area of Kinshasa. On weekends this market draws in the most crowds who check the colorful collection of fabrics. A multitude of women street sellers dressed in local clothes is a common sight. They go around selling their African fabrics that are very special and admirable. For a few dollars you can buy textiles that are ideal for tablecloths, curtains, sheet covers, etc.
It is advisable to wear comfortable shoes and hat as the outdoor atmosphere is generally humid. Learn how to bargain and negotiate on the prices and choose the most eccentric style at a reasonable price.
Charles de Gaulle House
Brazzaville is the capital that needs to be discovered. Nestled along the river and 10,000 miles from the bustle of her twin Kinshasa, it will delight lovers of natural wonders and classic architecture. The best example is the Charles de Gaulle House.
It was built for the French leader during the 1940’s, at a time when the Republic was still under the rule or part of the French Equatorial Africa (1910 to 1960). This is the main reason why French became their national language.
Musee de National du Congo (National Museum of Congo)
It is a museum that was built in 1965 after their independence from France was declared. It greatly showcases the interesting collection of historical artifacts and art pieces that were wonderfully done by artistic Congolese painters.
All efforts to preserve and maintain this beautiful museum are done by the government and the cooperation of the Congolese private sector that help build this museum.