D. R. Congo is a country located in the heart of Africa, and the second largest in the continent. Just like most Sub-Sahara African countries, Congo is equally gifted with teeming wildlife, lush vegetation, interesting traditional cultures, towering volcanoes and endangered primates that cannot easily be found anywhere else in Africa and the world over.
A trip to Congo presents a golden opportunity for travelers to meet both the mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas in their natural habitats, as well as an epic cultural encounter with the ancient forest pygmies that are still practicing their traditional way of life. Meet the bonobos and the okapi, the two rare species not found anywhere else on planet earth and also hike up various volcano summits.
But most importantly, the eastern province of Congo stands out as the most peaceful and diverse and it holds lots of D.R. Congo’s iconic tourism destinations, including two national parks, up to 6 mountain ranges, vibrant culture, lush vegetation, beautiful scenery, and two highly treasured and endangered primates – lowland and mountain gorillas.
Despite frequent political conflicts, Democratic Republic of Congo as a country still offers more than just mountain gorillas, ranging from the Nyiragongo Mountain, Idjwi Island in the midst of Lake Kivu, and an ultimate lowland gorilla safari to Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park
Kahuzi-Biega National Park is a true gem and a UNESCO world heritage site located in eastern DR Congo that has been less explored yet it presents unique adventures in a tranquil environment. With an area of about 6000 square kilometers, Kahuzi-Biega national park was established in 1970 and it is marked with various vegetation types, such as marshlands, swamps, bogs and a tropical rainforest that visitors enjoy during their trip in this beautiful jewel.
Kahuzi-Biega national park presents a myriad of activities and experiences to any visitor who finds their way in Eastern D.R. Congo; these include lowland gorilla trekking, birding, hiking mount Kahuzi, community and a city tour in the nearby Bukavu.
Virunga National Park
Virunga national park is located in the Eastern province of D.R. Congo near the border with Uganda and Rwanda along the northern shores of Lake Kivu. It is Africa’s oldest National Park formed in 1922 and continent’s biggest conservation area covering up to 7800sqkms. It is arguably the second oldest park in the whole world, after Yellowstone national park in USA.
Virunga national park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, but due to the political conflict and poaching in 1994, it was pronounced a site in danger. The park is named after the Virunga ranges – a group of 8 volcanic mountains that occupy the southern section of the park.
The park consists of magnificent habitats ranging from swamps and steppes to the snow fields of Rwenzori, and from Savannah rangelands to the lava plains on the slopes of Nyiragongo Volcano. Virunga national park is a famous hub of endangered mountain gorillas, in addition to a number of other magnificent wildlife species which include forest elephants, chimpanzees, remarkable okapi, lions, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, etc.
Salonga National Park
With an area covering approximately 36,000 square kilometers, Salonga national park is undoubtedly Africa’s biggest forest national park. The park is situated within the Congo River basin and home to an array of verdant flora and fauna.
The park is home to a wild range of mammals, reptiles and primates alike including the remarkable bonobos, the Salonga monkey, African slender-snouted crocodiles, African golden cat, long-tailed pangolin, Congo Peacock, leopards, Angolan slender mongoose, Okapi, among many others.
The park’s vast vegetation cover combines lush rainforests, wetlands, grasslands and woodlands. Salonga national park is a birder’s paradise with iconic species, which include among others yellow billed stork, black stork and cattle egrets.
Garamba National Park
Known for its expansive tracts of savannah grasslands, woodlands and forests stretching endlessly along the river shores, Garamba national park is a huge protected area with approximately 4,920 sq. km. Garamba national park provides safe shelter to the “big four” mammals including endemic subspecies of Congolese giraffes, last remaining populations of the northern white rhinos, hippos, mixed populations of forest elephants and buffaloes.
Other animals that call this park home include endangered chimpanzees, diurnal primates, savannah lions, spotted hyenas, bongo, forest hogs, numerous antelopes and so much more.
Lomami National Park
Lomami National Park also known as Parc National de la Lomami, is located within the middle basin of the Lomami River, straddling the provinces of Tshopo and Maniema. The national park was first created in 1992 and formally gazetted in 2016, July 7th , consisting of 8,879 km² (887,900 hectares).
The park is characterized of tropical lowland rainforest and savanna in the south and hills in the west, together which are home to several unique species including Okapi, Bonobo, Congo peafowl, Lesula – the newly discovered species of primates, as well as rare Salonga monkeys and numerous African forest elephants occupying the northern section of the park.
Upemba National Park
Upemba National park is a large national park located in south east of Democratic Republic of Congo in Haut-Lomami, Lualaba Province & Haut-Katanga Province (previously Katanga province). Upemba was once the oldest park in D.R. Congo first gazetted in 1939 following the Belgian royal decree.
With its enormous 1.75 million hectares, Upemba national park is an extraordinary habitat for some 1800 different species, including forest elephants, buffaloes, Katanga Impala (endemic to the park), Cheetahs, Zebras, leopards and lions, etc.
Kundelungu National Park
Kundelungu National park is located in south eastern Katanga province adjacent to the famous Upemba National park. Stretching up to 7600 sq.km, Kundelungu National park is was formerly a private hunting ground before it was upgraded into an important protected area for wildlife conservation and to control hunting activities after they were suspended from the park.
The resident Lofoi falls form the highlight attraction of the park, plus the park’s eco system is characterized by savannah grassland which is a hub of notable wildlife including the antelopes, monkeys, buffalos, Hippopotamuses, jackals, warthogs, porcupines, snakes, crocodiles as well as leopards, cheetahs, lions, zebras among others.
Maiko National Park
Created in 1949, Maiko national park was formerly known as Bakumu Hunting Reserve. The park covers a huge area of up to 10,885 Sq.km and situated within one of the most remote forest areas of D. R. Congo.
Three of D. R. Congo’s remarkable endemic animals, including the Grauer’s gorillas, okapis, and the Congo peafowl can be found right in this park. Maiko national park is as well a significant spot for conservation of the eastern chimpanzee, an African forest elephant, plus the endemic aquatic genet.
Mangroves National Park
Also referred to as Muanda Marine Reserve, Mangroves National Park is the country’s only marine park and a Ramsar wetland, known for its mangrove forests. The park is D.R. Congo’s smallest national park at only 768 km2 (297 sq. mi) in size; but nevertheless provides shelter to the endangered manatee population.
Situated at the mouth of Congo River, Mangroves national park supports the presence of hippos, crocs, snakes as well as the Southern reedbuck and a bushbuck which is sighted occasionally.