The Republic of the Congo – not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – is changing the face of African travel. The Congo (also known as Congo-Brazzaville) has opened Africa’s equatorial rainforests to travellers, making these incredible ecosystems more accessible than ever before.
The rainforests of the Congo Basin are sometimes referred to as our planet’s green lungs and are an important biodiversity hotspot. It’s home to western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephant, buffalo, hippo, extremely rare bongo antelope, and roughly 100 other mammal species. It’s also a birdwatching paradise of over 400 species that include the African grey parrot, great blue turaco, giant kingfisher, and the very rare picathartes.
A Congo safari offers you a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore the tapestry of pristine forests, savannahs, marshy baïs (mineral-rich wetlands), and rivers at the heart of what is arguably safari’s last frontier. Safaris in Congo are immersive experiences that allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the country’s biodiversity, wildlife, culture, history, and conservation in some of the most remote corners on Earth.
1. See Western Lowland Gorillas in Their Pristine Natural Kingdom
The Congo, specifically the 13,500 square kilometres (5,200 square miles) of undisturbed primary rainforest that is Odzala-Kokoua National Park, is home to a healthy population of western lowland gorillas and one of the best places to visit in Congo.
Gorilla trekking safaris in Congo are unique: you and your guide can walk straight into the forest from camp and start tracking gorillas; sometimes you can find them within an hour. This is different from other gorilla trekking destinations like Rwanda and Uganda, where you must first take a road transfer into the national parks and then hike into the mountains for about two to five hours.
Gorilla safaris in Congo also offer you the opportunity to track these primates for three consecutive days – an activity limited to only one day in the other countries. This allows you to spend more time with the various gorilla families and compare the fascinating differences in personalities and group dynamics.
- Best place to see western lowland gorillas in the wild.
- Walk straight into the forest from camp and start tracking gorillas – no transfers to national parks needed.
- Hike on flatter terrain and lower altitude than in Rwanda and Uganda.
- Go trekking for three consecutive days – spend more time with gorillas.
- Learn about primate conservation with world-renowned researchers.
2. Explore an Extraordinary Tropical Rainforest on Foot
In addition to gorilla trekking safaris in Congo, you can also explore the world’s second-largest tropical rainforest on foot in search of shy forest elephant and buffalo, chimpanzees, and over 400 bird species. You can even go on guided walks at night, tracking nocturnal primates like the Central Potto.
Although a guided walk around a baï can get a little wet and muddy, it’s one of the few places in Africa where you can safely explore forest streams and marshes on foot. These wetland clearings yield a magnetic attraction for forest elephants by night, as well as provide nutrient-rich water and grazing for other animals like forest buffalo, bongo, and giant flocks of African green pigeon and African grey parrot. Dzanga Baï is a pilgrimage destination for environmental travellers and delivers the finest forest elephant encounters in Africa.
- Go on guided forest walks for birdwatching and tracking the 'Forest Five' (forest elephant, forest buffalo, western lowland gorilla, bongo and giant forest hog).
- Head out on night walks in search of nocturnal forest animals like palm civets, galago and flickering fireflies.
- Swim in crystal-clear streams while watching monkeys and butterflies overhead.
- Spend time watching wildlife around a busy forest baï (wetland).
3. Traverse the Congo Basin by Boat & Kayak
Drift silently along the jungle’s waterways while exploring the Congo Basin from a different angle. Keep an eye out for forest elephant, antelope, buffalo, and charismatic monkeys going about their daily lives on the riverbanks.
- Enjoy boat cruises, the perfect way to witness the sunset over the forest on your Congo tour.
- Go kayaking to explore the riverbanks while enjoying the tranquillity of the water.
4. Meet the Forest’s Native Communities & Tribes
Visit local villages and savour the opportunity to learn more about living in the Congo Basin. Spend time with the Ba’Aka community as they go about their daily tasks and gain insight into how these hunter-gatherers have adapted to their rainforest home. If you are a cultural tourist, these interactions will leave you in awe during your Congo safari.
- Enjoy authentic interactions in local villages.
- Savour meaningful meetings with the Ba’Aka tribe while observing their survival techniques in the rainforest.
5. Discover the 'Little Paris of Africa'
The Congo’s capital city, Brazzaville is also known as the 'Little Paris of Africa' and has an intriguing French culture, lively fabric markets, and colourful architecture to explore during your vacation in Congo. The city is home to very friendly and welcoming people, who pride themselves on keeping their city in a pristine condition.
- Visit key attractions like the Poto-Poto Textile Market and Painting School, Marche Plateau Ville, St. Anne’s Basilica, and Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza Memorial.
- Meet the famous Sapeurs or La Sape – an abbreviation based on the phrase Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People) – a subculture centred in Brazzaville and Kinshasa.