The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, DRC, DROC, RDC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply Congo is a country located in Central Africa. From its huge swaths of rainforest to its widely varying cultures and peculiar culinary preferences, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) surprises travellers at every turn making it the ultimate African adventure. Here are some of the most interesting facts about the country!
1. The two countries of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo are often described together as ‘the Congo basin’. The Congo River runs through a low-lying area in the centre and north of the region.
2. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the second largest country in Africa bordering nine countries: Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
3. Children in DRC account for some of the highest malnutrition rates globally. The levels of hunger and malnutrition are currently at the highest levels in DRC’s history, with over 4.6 million children acutely.
4. The DRC is among the most resource-rich countries on the planet, with an abundance of gold, tantalum, tungsten, and tin – all minerals used in electronics such as cell phones and laptops – yet it continues to have an extremely poor population
5. Despite being a poor and conflict-ridden country, the DRC boasts a space program. Privately financed by the Développement Tous Azimuts (DTA), with significant government support, the Troposphere rockets are expected to send cargo to outer space in the near future.
6. It’s the Capital of African Music. Kinshasa is home to 9.5 million people — called Kinois — who are known for their sense of humour and love of music and dancing. Its popular ‘Ndombolo’ music — with a rumba-like sound — has influenced music throughout the rest of the continent since the mid-1980s.
7. There are eight active volcanoes in the country. Nyiragongo Volcano is one of a chain of eight active volcanoes in the country, and one of the world’s most active volcanic areas. It’s a five-hour climb on steep terrain up Nyiragongo Mountain, but for the adventurous who make the trek, the world’s largest lava lake is revealed at the top.
8. The oldest national park in Africa is the Congo’s Virunga National Park. It is home to rare mountain gorillas, lions, and elephants. The park is currently under threat by the UK oil company, Soco, which has begun oil exploration there.
9. The great apes, such as the bonobos and the eastern lowland gorillas, can be found only in Congo. Both species are endangered due to pollution, deforestation, and bush-meat trade. It’s possible that these creatures – the closest primate links to humans – may become extinct in a decade.
10. The Democratic Republic of the Congo hosts the United Nations’ largest peacekeeping mission in the world, with over 21,000 soldiers from approximately 50 different countries.
11. Belief in witchcraft is so common that children are sometimes accused of being witches. Some of these kids get beaten, and others are even killed. But most become homeless after families abandon them in the streets.
12. Because of two devastating civil wars and decades of economic stagnation, ATMs began appearing in the DRC only in 2010.
How to reach?
N’djili Airport, also known as Kinshasa International Airport, is the main entry point to the Congo. The other international airports are Goma International Airport, Bangoka International Airport, and Lubumbashi International Airport. There are a number of connecting flights from the major cities of India to reach DR Congo.
Virunga National Park: Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park and home to mountain gorillas, chimpanzees and the incredible, active Nyiragongo volcano. Track these incredible creatures through the forest and later hike to the top of Nyiragongo Volcano which offers a spectacular view. Starting from the Kibati ranger station, just outside Goma, you’ll climb through tangled tropical forest and scramble over craggy rocks on the five-hour climb, before arriving at the lava lake at the top.
Tchegera Island: If you are looking for an offbeat destination in DRC, then this is the place to be. Tchegera Island is emerald-green oasis, just off the northern shore of Lake Kivu, the only sign of human habitation is the eight tents of Tchegera Island Camp. You can spend one or two nights here to explore the island keeping your eyes peeled for the multi-coloured birdlife, take a dip in the blue water, or just relax and watch the twinkling stars, beer in hand.
Zongo Waterfalls: This is also a great place to go to if you are a nature lover. Getting to the viewpoints involves some hiking but you will surely love the splendid view of the Zongo Falls and admire the beauty of the nature that surrounds it once you reach the place.