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Things to see and do
Get to know Garamba National Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this remote national park in the northeast of DRC boasts a staggering array of habitats, from open undulating savannah grasslands to dense rainforests. Managed by African Parks since 2005, Garamba was once home to the last population of wild northern white rhinoceros and still boasts large elephant, hippo and giraffe populations.
Visit likeable Lubumbashi
Lubumbashi is the capital city of the mineral rich Katanga Province and DRC’s primary economic hub. It’s the country’s most diverse city, and has the best infrastructure, as well as good travel connections with the wider region. But it’s also a pleasant place to explore for a couple of days, with some fine Belgian architecture and good restaurants and accommodation options.
Hang out with bonobos at Lolo Ya Sanctuary
Just 90 minutes outside of Kinshasa, this sanctuary provides a home for orphaned bonobos. These inherently peaceful primates, who resemble chimpanzees, are incredibly intelligent and known for solving most of their problems with sex. There are various trails through their forested enclosures, but you’re just as likely to find these loving creatures hanging around by the main building.
See the resurgence of Goma
On the northern shore of Lake Kivu, Goma has been at the centre of the various wars that have engulfed the wider region. As a result, it’s had to become a master of reinvention. It’s the DRC’s tourism capital, if such a thing exists, and the main access point to Virunga National Park. It’s also got a surprisingly lively and youthful arts scene.
Feel the pulse of Kinshasa
Kinshasa is a crazy and sometimes scary place. Not for the faint of heart, this sprawling city on the banks of the mighty Congo River has some great nightlife, cultural offerings and music. If the chaos of the capital gets too much, on its fringes there’s an equatorial forest surrounding a beautiful lake called Ma Vallée with a tavern on its banks.
Explore Inkisi Falls
In the southwest, the Inkisi Falls (60m/197ft high) and the massive complex of caves that wrap around them may be visited in one day, but many visitors stay for two or three days at the pleasant resort in the town of Mbanza-Ngungu. The impressive falls are an easy hike from the resort and 130km (80 miles) by road from the capital city Kinshasa.
Experience the beauty of Bukavu
The beautiful, verdant town of Bukavu hugs the southern tip of Lake Kivu and serves as a departure point for the under-visited Kahuzi-Biega National Park and Idjwi Island. The former is home to eastern lowland gorillas and some great hiking; the latter is the second-largest lake island in Africa and a perfect spot for a few days peaceful relaxation.
Discover Upemba National Park
Upemba National Park straddles the River Lualaba and is accessible from the towns of Lubumbashi and Kolwezi. It includes several lakes and picturesque riverine sections inhabited by hippos, crocodiles and aquatic birds. Wildlife stocks were previously decimated by poachers and militias but are slowly returning with the help of the Frankfurt Zoological Society. For now, this beautiful park remains tantalizingly tourism free.
Wander around Kalemie
Enjoy the Democratic Republic of Congo’s areas of watery beauty from the pretty and laidback town of Kalemie on the banks of the immense Lake Tanganyika. The town has a functioning airport to connect with the wider region and Tanzania across the border. There’s also some fascinating, crumbling colonial architecture, colourful markets and pleasant accommodations with great lake views.
Track Gorillas in Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park is Africa’s oldest national park. It comprises two jagged mountain ranges and game that includes lions, elephants, buffaloes, hippos and numerous antelope species. Best of all, this park is renowned for its mountain gorillas. Track these incredible creatures through the dense forest and then peer into an active lava lake from the top of Nyiragongo volcano.