The Republic of the Congo (the Congo, or Congo-Brazzaville) is a small country near the west coast of Africa. Spanning 132,000 square miles, Congo-Brazzaville’s interior is comprised largely of tropical forests and dense vegetation fed by the Congo River. The northern rainforests in the heart of the Congo Basin comprise the world’s second-largest expanse of tropical rainforest. Rivers such as the Sangha, Mambili and the mighty Congo drain this basin and provide a means of exploration through dense forests and access to remote national parks such as Odzala-Kokoua. In these regions, more than any other, wilderness is a highlight and traditional cultures persist. Swamps, bais and rivers characterize the heavily forested landscape, and make it prime western lowland gorilla habitat – and it’s the extraordinary wildlife interactions available here that make the Congo a growing tourist destination.
A former French colony, Congo-Brazzaville has had a troubled past but is now considered calm, stable, and rapidly developing. Dubbed the 'Little Paris of Africa', its French history is most felt in the capital city of Brazzaville with its vibrant streets lined with art, fabric stalls, flower markets, cafés and the smell of freshly baked baguettes from one of its many boulangeries.
That said, tourism is still relatively new. Travelers should not expect five-star amenities in the cities, but because it has been off-the-radar for so long, its wilderness areas and wildlife encounters are truly unforgettable adventures. If you can stand to get your hands a little dirty, the Congo won’t disappoint.
French is the official language, so we recommend a private guide in the capital
Brazzaville's arts scene is on the rise, making gallery visits a good way to explore the capital
Odzala-Kokoua National Park is home to pioneering research of the Western Lowland Gorilla
Odzala National Park is the destination for wildlife, adventure and our favorite luxury accommodation. We recommend spending the bulk of your time there to truly immerse in the country's natural highlights.
Odzala-Kokoua National Park is the highlight of the country. This is where travelers can explore pristine and remote wilderness and track western lowland gorillas.
Adventurous travelers who prioritize unique and remote experiences over top-of-the-line luxury will love exploring this country. It is ideal for escaping the usual tourist circuits, and exploring outside of the typical safari game drive. Experiences in the Congo are based primarily around walking, boating, and community interactions. The country is also a must for those who want to track Africa’s western lowland gorilla.
Travelers who need only 5* accommodation without the hiccups of a developing tourist industry would not like the Congo. Similarly, if you are not an active, hands-on traveler, or if you want the classic “Out of Africa” safari experience, the Congo will not be a good fit.
The climate across the Congo is basically the same wherever you go, hot and humid. Generally, there are four seasons, which are alternating dry and rainy. The dry seasons include January to February and May to September. These are the coolest, driest months in Odzala National Park, which make it our preferred travel time.
The rainy seasons are from March to April and October to December. Temperatures tend to be hotter, and humidity high. While this may not bother all travelers, we try to avoid these months.
While the country itself is relatively cheap, to maximize experiences in hard-to-reach locations, such as gorilla trekking in Odzala, we recommend budgeting a minimum of $8,000 per person for a 7-night journey.
Our favorite way to experience the country is in the wilderness. Journey from camp to camp in Odzala National Park and learn all about the area’s wealth of history and ecological information. Your guides can take you hiking through jungle trails, tracking gorilla on foot, kayaking or walking along the river, or cover more ground by motorized boat. However you explore here, it’s all about getting out of the car and moving.
Western lowland gorillas are the highlight for most travelers in the Congo. With that in mind, you may also encounter other various primates, birds, forest elephants, bongo, forest buffalo, dwarf crocodiles, forest ducks, kingfishers and even hippos.
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