History of Congo – Part 3: Since Independence

Who Was Fulbert Youlou? (1917-1972)

The Republic of Congo’s first Head of state was Fulbert Youlou. This abbot gradually proved himself in politics. In 1956, he founded Congo’s conservative political Party, the Democratic Union for the Defense of African Interests. He was elected mayor of Brazzaville in November 1956. In March 1957, his party has a majority of 23 seats in the Assembly. The following year, Youlou was appointed Prime Minister.

Throughout his life in Congo, he was attributed to a number of mystical powers. It is reported that he enjoyed bathing and praying at the Loufoulakari Falls, the highly symbolic spot where colonists executed Boueta M’bongo, a resistance fighter from the Kongo Kingdom. It is said that he bathed there in his cassock and came out of the water dry.

November 21, 1959: the First President of the Republic of Congo Takes Office

Fulbert Youlou was promoted from Prime Minister to President.

August 15, 1960

This politician led his country to independence on August 15, 1960. A controversial figure, he led the country from 1959 to 1963.

Fulbert Youlou, President of the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville), visited the United Nations Headquarters in 1961. Here is a picture.

December 15-19, 1960

At the major intercontinental conference in Brazzaville, he encouraged economic liberalism and blamed communism.


A French constitutional law was passed. It allowed member states of the French community to become independent while negotiating their continued place in the community. Therefore, African independence was gradually proclaimed in the 1960s. The community will be abolished 35 years later, on August 4, 1995.

August 15, 1963: Resignation of President Fulbert Youlou

He tried to impose a one-party system, monopartism, and imprisoned union leaders who opposed him. Under pressure from the army and trade unionists, Fulbert Youlou left power with a reputation of an authoritarian and corrupt President who had failed to secure economic prosperity for his country.

The government that emerged from this revolt describes the three days that led to the former priest’s downfall as the “three glorious days”.

On the evening of his resignation, he was sent to a military camp. Youlu was then detained until his trial, scheduled for June 8, 1965, almost two years later.

He was accused of embezzling public funds and using for personal purposes a small British military airplane propeller he had allegedly received from the French government. He was also held responsible for the deaths of three trade unionists when a prison was taken by storm on August 13, 1963.

The Democratic Union for the Defense of African Interests political Party is dissolved this year.

1963-1968: Alphonse Massamba-Debat Becomes the New President

Alphonse Massamba-Debat led the country and introduced scientific socialism. He drew closer to Communist China and set up a one-party system. He dissolved the Congolese National Assembly on August 1, 1968, but his assumption of power was a failure. Indeed, the army seized power the very next day. Consequently, Massamba-Debat tendered his resignation to the Congolese army. The constitution was abrogated, a revolutionary council was formed and a provisional government was created. At the end of 1968, Marien Ngouabi was appointed President.

The Night of Friday March 25 to Saturday March 26, 1965: Youlou's Escape

Youlou was placed under police custody in a villa, awaiting trial. However, he managed to escape during the night. He took advantage of President Massamba-Debat’s absence to escape with his children and wife. He was allegedly helped by a group of paratroopers from the Congo-Brazzaville army. They are said to have “abducted” him from his place of residence.

Realizing that the abbot’s life was over, Alphonse Massamba-Debat, Youlou’s successor as Head of state, helped him flee to Leopoldville (now Kinshasa). He immediately received political asylum from Moïse Tshombe, Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

At his trial on June 8, 1965, he was sentenced to death in absentia and his assets were nationalized.

In November 1965, he expressed his wish to move to Nice for treatment. Nevertheless, Yvonne de Gaule, a fervent Catholic, refused to welcome the priest. Her reasons were that he was a polygamist and wore a cassock despite the Church’s prohibition.

1966: Youlou's Exile in Spain and Refusal of Admission to French Territory

On January 19, 1966, he arrived in France accompanied by his children and wives, against the advice of General de Gaulle. Finally, he left for Spain, where Franco accepted his arrival.

In the years that followed, Youlou’s supporters tried to return to power in various ways, but without success. Successive regimes anathematized Youlou.

1972: the Death of Fulbert Youlou

In 1972, Fulbert Youlou died in exile in Madrid. He was 54 years old at the time. The Congolese government of the time agreed to the repatriation of his body, but no official ceremony was organized. He was buried in his native village of Madibou. His memory was not rehabilitated in the country until 20 years after his death, during the 1991 National Conference.

1969-1992: People's Republic of the Congo

The Republic of the Congo is renamed the People’s Republic of the Congo. There was then only one political party: the Congolese Labor Party inspired by Marxist-Leninist ideas.

The regime was undergoing a period of instability. The country depended on food imports and manufactured goods. Its economy was then based on the exports of raw materials such as wood and oil. The President in power since December 31, 1968, Marien Ngoubi was assassinated at home on March 18, 1977. Shortly after, the former President Alphonse Massamba-Debate suffered the same fate…

The Eastern Bloc countries supported the People’s Republic of the Congo. For example, the Soviet Union and the Congo signed a trade treaty in 1978.

The current Head of state is called Denis Sassou-Nguesso. He led the country from 1979 and 1992 before returning to power in 1997.

The USSR and the Congo (from the 60s to the 90s)

The Soviet Union and the Brazzaville government established strong diplomatic relations. Once independent, the Congo got closer to the USSR. Their cooperation was centered on education, army, and mines. Nowadays, the capital still testifies to this friendly relationship since the Soviets built social and administrative buildings there. In addition, hundreds of Congolese students studied in the USSR and ended up marrying Soviet women. Nowadays, this academic cooperation continues between the Congo and Russia.

From February 25 to June 10, 1991: the Sovereign National Conference

This gathering brought together nearly 1,200 delegates from political parties and civil society. At the end of this event, they voted for the end of monopartism and the establishment of a democracy. They also demanded a new constitution.


Pascal Lissouba is elected President of the Congo. The country is again named the Republic of the Congo.

1993-2003: Conflicts and Political Tensions in the Congo

This ethnic and political conflict brought into opposition President Pascal Lissouba and his militia named the Zulus against the one of Denis Sassou Nguesso known as the Cobras. To this were added the tensions with the supporters of Bernard Kolelas. He was mayor of Brazzaville and leader of the main opposition movement. The most important cities of the country ended up under the control of the forces of Sassou-Nguesso. The latter won thanks to the support received by the Angolan army, Chadian soldiers, and Rwandan mercenaries.

The civil war lasted 5 days and took place from June 5, 1997, to October 15, 1997. It is estimated that between 4,000 and 10,000 people have been killed in five months. In December 1998, after a year of peace, clashes took place in Brazzaville and then spread to several regions.

In total, there were about 400,000 deaths.

October 24, 1997

Denis Sassou Nguesso has declared himself President of the Congo. To learn more about his life, click here. 

January 2002

A new constitution was voted on by 80% referendum and a semi-parliamentary regime was set up. The constitution changed in 2002 where the position of Prime Minister has been deleted and the duration of a mandate has been increased to seven years.

October 15, 2015

A new constitution is established during a referendum allowing the president to stand for re-election. The death penalty is abolished, and the job of Prime Minister is reinstated in the system. The Republic of Congo now has 12 departments and is planning a strong decentralization.

If you are curious about the content of this constitution of 2015, you can learn more about it in this 24-page PDF in French here.

March 21, 2021

Denis Sassou Nguesso is nominated candidate of the Congolese Labor Party for the 2021 presidential election. He won the elections.


The Republic of the Congo has had six presidents since its independence. The number of inhabitants of this country increased sharply between 1960 and 2022 since it went from 1.02 million to 5.97 million.

Today, Congo-Brazzaville is chaired by Denis Sassou-Nguesso since October 1997. This country is governed by Anatole Collinet Makosso who became Prime Minister in May 2021.

Summary of the 6 Presidents of Congo-Brazzaville:


Fulbert Youlou (1960 – 1963)

Alphonse Massamba-Debat (1963 – 1969)

Marien Ngouabi (1969 – 1977)

Joachim Yhombi-Opango (1977 – 1979)

Denis Sassou-Nguesso (1979 – 1992 and from 1997 to the present)

Pascal Lissouba (1992 – 1997)

History of Congo – Part 2: Colonial Times

Portuguese Influence on the Kongo Kingdom

It all began with King John II, Portugal’s thirteenth king. Eager to access to eastern markets, he encouraged Portuguese expeditions to the Congo. Consequently, the first European to enter the Kingdom of Kongo was of Portuguese nationality. It was Captain Diogo Cao who discovered the Congo River between 1482 and 1483. 

In 1484, the Portuguese decided to settle in the flourishing Kingdom of Kongo. They transformed the capital, Mbanza Kongo, into a Europeanized city of 40,000 inhabitants, which they named San Salvador. Moreover, they changed the name of the Nzaï River to become the famous river we know today: the Congo River.

The Kongo Kingdom was based on a highly spiritual system, for instance, special authorities were in charge of respecting tradition. However, the imposition of Christianity and the assassination of the kingdom’s sacred leaders by the Portuguese destroyed this system. As a result, the sovereignty of the Manikongos, the kings of Kongo, came to an end in the 17th century with the slave trade, which seized 350,000 slaves from the Kingdom of Kongo. Conflicts regularly broke out between the Portuguese and the indigenous people, who refused to cede their land rights.

Beginning of French Colonization in the Congo

Savorgnan de Brazza’s first expedition began in 1875. Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza’s explorations marked the beginning of the Congo’s contemporary History. Fascinated by Africa, this Italian explorer naturalized French lived between 1852 and 1905. Described as a pacifist, he was loved by the local population despite the fact that he contributed to the expansion of French colonialism.

Treaty of Friendship of September 10, 1880, and Signing of an Act on October 3, 1880

Brazza founded Franceville, now a town in Gabon, and he reached the Congo River via the Lefini River. Expeditions Ducret cruises offer a stopover there, as well as lectures on Brazza’s expeditions and the Kingdom of the Teke. With King Makoko, they signed a treaty that formalized the beginning of the colonial era.

December 17, 1882: the Founding of the Colony of French Congo

French law then approved the texts signed between Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza and King Makoko. The latter is the suzerain of the Teke, a people composed of Central African Bantus located in the following present-day countries: Congo, DRC, and Gabon. French influence is established, heralding the gradual founding of the colony of French Congo. Brazza was appointed government commissioner. The chosen capital was Libreville from 1882 to 1906, then became Brazzaville from 1906 to 1960.

March 12, 1883: the Treaty with the King of Loango

A government commissariat in West Africa is founded for Brazza.

Lieutenant Robert Cordier negotiated a treaty with the King of Loango named Manimacosso-Chicusso. This treaty stipulated French sovereignty over the Kingdom of Loango. This was a state on the coast of Central Africa that is now part of the Congo. The Loango monarchy lasted from 1550 to 1883, and its territory now equals to southwestern Congo and southern Gabon.

November 15, 1884 - February 26, 1885: the Berlin Conference

It was at this major diplomatic event that the division of Africa between the European powers was decided. The official rules of colonization were enacted, leading to the signing of a large number of treaties between European powers and local chiefs. There was now freedom of navigation on the Niger and Congo Rivers, freedom of trade in the Congo Basin and precise conditions for settling on the African coasts. The conference insisted on the prohibition of slavery and the slave trade. Finally, French authority was recognized over the right bank of the Congo and the Ubangi River.

Why are There Two Congo?

In 1884-1885, the French Republic and the International African Association, owned by the Belgian King Leopold II, divided the Congo region at the Berlin Conference. In the 20th century, both nations founded their own colonies. The Congo River separated the French Congo from the Belgian Congo.

December 29, 1903

The colony changed its name to Middle-Congo.

1906: Gabon Separated from Middle Congo

France cut Gabon off from Middle Congo. Gabon became a separate colony from Congo, with Libreville as its capital, while Middle Congo had a new capital named Brazzaville.


The General Government of French Congo replaced the General Commissariat in Congo.

Decree of January 15, 1910

A General Government of French Equatorial Africa was created, replacing that of 1909. It was created in 1910 and dissolved in 1958.

This executive body brought together four colonies, including Gabon, Middle-Congo (Gabon + Republic of Congo), Chad and Ubangi-Shari (Central African Republic).

July 1, 1911, and November 4, 1911: the Franco-German Arm-Wrestling

The Agadir coup of July 1, 1911, was seen as a real diplomatic and military incident, with Germany sending a gunboat from its imperial navy into the Moroccan Agadir Bay against French influence in Morocco.

Therefore, on November 4, 1911, a treaty was signed between Germany and France: Berlin left the bay and allowed France to act freely in Morocco. In exchange, France had to cede territory to Germany so that the then German Cameroon could expand.

1944: France, Brazzaville, and the Bateke Kingdom

During the Second World War, a 14.5-meter monument was inaugurated in the capital Brazzaville on January 30, 1944, to celebrate the solemn opening of the Brazzaville Conference organized by Charles de Gaulle. Brazzaville was then the capital of Free France. This conference symbolized the first step towards the emancipation of the African peoples and represented a gradual approach to decolonization.

In the same year, Queen Ngalifourou Ngassie asked her people to fight for France during her meeting with General De Gaulle. During the Expeditions Ducret cruises, a meeting with the current queen is scheduled.

October 21, 1945: Election of the First Congolese Deputy

The first Congolese MP is elected: Jean Felix-Tchicaya. A year later, he founded the Congolese Progressive Party.

September 28, 1958: Referendum on the Constitution

Charles de Gaulle’s government wanted to bring France closer to its associated African peoples. The idea of a French community was put to the vote, asking African states, including the Congo, if they wished to become a member state of the community and gain autonomy.  The Congo voted 99% in favor of membership and became an autonomous republic.


French army intervened in Brazzaville in 1959 to calm political unrest caused by partisan struggles. The protagonists were the “Yulists” (called “Youlistes” in French as supporters of Fulbert Youlou) of the Democratic Union for the Defense of African Interests and supporters of Jacques Opangault’s African Socialist Movement.

Following demonstrations by the African Socialist Movement, Jacques Opangault was arrested in February 1959. He was released in August 1959.

On August 15, 1960, the independence of the Republic of Congo was symbolically proclaimed in the presence of the French Minister for Cultural Affairs, Andre Malraux.

That same year, Jacques Opangault was appointed Minister of State in Fulbert Youlou’s government.

For further information, please consult the following websites with French content:

– Schirmer Henri, Les traités de partage de 1894 en Afrique centrale. Annales de Géographie, tome 4, n°17, 1895. p. 480-498, source : Persee

– Charles de Chavannes,(1853-1940), Exposé sommaire de voyage dans l’Ouest-Africain : mission de Brazza au Congo, présenté dans la séance tenue au palais Saint-Pierre, le 21 février 1886, sous les auspices de la Société de géographie de Lyon, 1886, source gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France =  45 pages

– D.Neuville et Ch. Bréard, Les voyages de Savorgnan de Brazza : Ogôoué et Congo (1875-1882) , 1884, source gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France = PDF of 324 pages

– Recueil des traités de la France, Tome 14, 1880-1917, publié sous les auspices du Ministère des Affaires étrangères par M. Jules de Clerq, édité par Durand et Pedone-Lauriel (Paris), Bibliothèque Diplomatique Numérique = 585 pages (our selection below)

The pages on de Brazza are on pages 75-83 (about the law of November 30, 1882, authorising the ratification and implementation of the acts and treaties concluded on September 10, and October 3, 1880, with the King of the Bateke for the cession to France of a portion of territory) and on pages 109-112 (with the law of January 10, 1883, appropriating the necessary funds to meet the expenses of Mr Savorgnan de Brazza’s mission in West Africa and the French establishment formed in the Congo).

History of the Congo – Part 1: Precolonial Times

Royaume du Kongo et Royaume de Loango

Source of illustration: Carte particulière du royaume de Congo et de ce qui précède depuis le cap de Lopo by Sr. d’Anville, 1731, Archives diplomatiques, Bibliothèque diplomatique numérique


Although the Republic of Congo has a rich and interesting history, its past is often little-known. This Central African country is also called Congo-Brazzaville, to better distinguish it from its neighboring country, Congo-Kinshasa, which is equivalent to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Congo became independent from France on August 15, 1960. However, the territory has born many other names over the years, such as the French Congo, the Moyen-Congo territory, and the People’s Republic of Congo. This article focuses on the precolonial era.

Forest Peoples

The Pygmies, a people of hunter-gatherers living in the primary forest, are regarded as the first inhabitants of the region. During our safari cruises on the rivers of the Congo, we will discover the indigenous peoples (Pygmies) and their ancestral knowledge. In the first century BC, other indigenous peoples, the Bantu, migrated from present-day Nigeria to the Congo basin. This led to the creation of the Kongo Kingdom and the Bateke Kingdom.

Bateke Kingdom (12th-1892)

This precolonial Central African Kingdom owned a large territory. It extended over eastern Gabon, western Congo, and part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The term Bateke refers to the People of the Teke since the prefix -Ba equals to the plural. The Teke, a Bantu population, founded the Bateke Kingdom in the 17th century, which was the rival of the Kongo Kingdom.

The Makoko lineage, which means “King”, continues to this day. The kingdom’s current capital is Mbe. It’s a village located in the north of Brazzaville. The queen lives in Ngabe, on the banks of the Congo River. During Ducret Expeditions cruises, we stop to greet the Queen of the Teke Kingdom.

The Teke Kingdom was not divided into clans, but was based on chieftaincy: land chief, lord, great lord of the crown and king. The most important social unit was the village. For the Tekes, religion is based on belief in the spirits of the ancestors, who are always present with humans. As for the Superior Spirit, it resides in the cliffs of the Lefini River. The god Nkwe Mbali serves the king and protects the kingdom.

Teke society lived from agriculture (corn, cassava, groundnuts, tobacco, and raffia), fishing, hunting, crafts (pottery, weaving) and trade. From the 18th century onwards, the bow and spear were replaced by the gun, and weaving declined sharply because of imported fabrics. For example, raffia cloth was used as currency in the west of the kingdom. Later, raffia was replaced by European fabrics.

Queen of Teke Kingdom

One of the kingdom’s key figures is Queen Ngalifourou Ngassie, respected sovereign and undisputed mother. Born in 1864, she was enthroned queen and succeeded her husband King Iloo I.  The first Teke sovereign, this Makoko is reputed to have signed the treaty with Savorgnan De Brazza that gave birth to Brazzaville in 1880, and later to a Federation of French Equatorial Africa. The cruise includes a lecture on the Savorgnan de Brazza expedition.

The current queen is the granddaughter of the first Ngalifouru Queen, who passed away in 1956. She was buried the following year. Following the burial of the 17th Makoko Auguste Nguempio in July 2021, Queen Ngalifourou Ngantsibi appointed King Michel Ganari Nsalou 2 on November 20, 2021. Consequently, he becomes the 18th Makoko.

Kingdom of Kongo (1390-1914)

This monarchy, whose history is linked to the Republic of Congo, lasted nearly five centuries. Its territory included the DRC, Congo, Angola, and Gabon.

The Manikongo is the political leader of the Kongo People. Elected by administrative officials called “bambuta”, the Kongo king, also known as the “ntinu wa Kongo”, was responsible for the well-being and security of his people. After his election, he chose six governors for the empire’s six provinces.

According to Italian explorer Filippo Pigafetta in 1591, the provinces were as follows: Nsundi, Mbata, Mpangu, Mpemba, Mbamba and Soyo, excluding the Loango lands.

Kingdom of Loango (1550-1883)

The Kingdom of Loango today represents southern Gabon and part of southwestern Congo. The Loango region is perceived as an independent political entity of the Kongo Kingdom.

The 3 Main Provinces of the Kongo Kingdom: Nsundi, Mpangu and Mbata

The crucial Nsundi province established close relations with the royal house. Its influence inspired a royal house name that would later appear: the House of Nsundi. As for Mpangu province, its success was due to its economic importance and stability. The province of Mbata symbolized the political weight of the Kingdom of Kongo: succession to the throne, coronation of kings, burial of kings… Perceived as a sacred province, tradition demanded that the king of the kingdom find a wife from Mbata. The kingdom’s elites were more loyal to the king in this rich province because of the revenue collected through taxation.

Historical Figures of the Kongo Monarchy

Lukeni lua Nimi ruled the Kongo Monarchy from its inception in 1390. The first Manikongo, he declared Mbanza Kongo capital of the Kongo Kingdom. Between 1482 and 1506, the Manikongo converted to Catholicism named Jean I, known as Nzinga Nkuwu, decided to take over the spirituality of his kingdom.

Kongo knew several dynasties: the one of the Kwilu between 1568 and 1622, that of the House of Nsundi until 1626, then again, the Kwilu until 1636 and the House of Kinlaza until 1665, when Antoine I of Kongo became the kingdom’s last independent sovereign.

The 7 Kingdoms of Kongo dia Nlaza

The 7 Kingdoms of Kongo dia Nlaza are a confederation of Central African states. Renowned for their cloth production, they joined the Kongo Kingdom in the early 17th century. The Kongo royal archives of the 16th century are the first piece of evidence found of this potential alliance of small political entities. However, it is likely that its creation dates from earlier. A second piece of evidence from the 17th century reveals to us that these 7 kingdoms were also called the “momboares”.

According to the explanation of a Portuguese Jesuit priest, the immense production of fabrics or clothing produced by these 7 kingdoms was made from raffia or palm. Their quality was such that these products were exported to Luanda, today’s Angola, then under the aegis of the Portuguese colonial power. According to records, the 7 kingdoms exported around 100,000 meters of fabric per year, ranking them among the world’s largest textile producers at the time. Unfortunately, this historical legacy is unknown, but it describes the proud and rich heritage of the Congolese people.

Kongo Civil War (1665-1709)

There was strong rivalry between the royal families of the Kongo Kingdom, particularly among the supporters of the Kinlaza and Kimpanzu Houses, who eventually clashed. This civil war lasted 44 years. The youngest of the three brothers of the House of Água Rosada put an end to the conflict by negotiating a rotation of the devolution of the royal title between these two Houses. In so doing, he succeeded in reuniting the kingdom in 1709. His name was Pierre IV du Kongo. Having ruled from 1709 to 1718, he stipulated that the King of Kongo should be one of the descendants of the 3 Houses between Água Rosada, Kinlaza and Kimpanzu.

What Is the House of Água Rosada?

Its name refers to the Congo River and means “pink water”. This was the last royal line of the Kongo Kingdom. It lasted from the 18th to the 20th century.

This Portuguese influence changed the system from 1888. Indeed, that year, Pierre VI du Kongo, the last sovereign of the Kongo Kingdom, signed a treaty of vassalage with Portugal. He had already sworn allegiance to Portugal in 1860, but gradually opened the doors to Portuguese colonization. His long reign lasted from 1859 to 1891. In the end, the Kongo region became part of Portuguese Angola and the independent state of Congo, which is the current DRC.

Safari in Congo VS Safari in Kenya: Forest VS Savannah

What to choose between a Congo safari and a Kenya safari?

Congo and Kenya represent two ideal countries to go on safari: one is located in Central Africa while the other in East Africa. Both crossed by the equator, they have numerous national parks, nature reserves, wildlife areas, and sanctuaries, some of which are protected to preserve their biodiversity.

A safari allows you to glimpse the silhouettes of animals in the midst of their natural environment, whether in the middle of a Congolese forest or the Kenyan savannah. It is an experience like no other!

Observing Congolese wildlife VS Kenyan wildlife: what animals live in each of these destinations?

Congolese fauna is fascinatingly diverse, with its large mammals, colorful birds, and imposing reptiles. The Republic of Congo’s main animal is the endangered gorilla. However, nearly 60% of these are found in the Congo, where they are becoming increasingly rare. The Congo is becoming famous for the large primates it protects, such as the mountain gorilla in eastern Congo and the lowland gorilla in the west, in the country’s dense forest.

Moreover, we can observe in Congo one of the mammals the closest relatives to humans, the chimpanzees, whose intelligence and social behavior impress many people. Pangolins are mammals that can be observed along forest paths. Hippos can also be seen basking in shallow water.

Furthermore, Congo is also home to over 700 species of birds. The Congo Basin is the habitat of the African grey parrot, the region’s famous colored bird named touraco, the silvery-cheeked hornbill, the African fish eagle, and the migratory African swift.

A little more complicated to see: crocodiles and pythons that are long but non-venomous reptiles. On the other hand, Kenya is home to the black mamba. Dangerous and fast, it is the most venomous snake in the world. It lives in eastern and southern Africa: in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and South Africa, for example.

In Kenya, you can observe herbivores such as zebras, gazelles and wildebeests. In addition, elephants, rhinoceroses, and others such as lions and leopards can be seen.

Kenya and Congo both have elephants. The difference is that in Congo, they are forest elephants, smaller than their savannah cousins in Kenya. In the Congolese territory, elephants can easily be observed in the forest or in the bais, where they can gather by the dozens with other mammals.

Subspecies of lions and their food antelopes live in each of these destinations. Indeed, in the Republic of Congo, lions live in the northeast of the country, while the bongo, a species of antelope, lives in Central Africa. In Kenya, the Masai lions, also known as East African lions, are another subspecies that can be seen. Highly endangered, these felines are victims of the ancestral practices of the Masai, a semi-nomadic people of herders and warriors from East Africa. Nevertheless, some of them try to protect these lions, but their number is declining, from 30,000 in the 1970s to around 2,000 in 2022, according to AFP.

Which flora is best for a good safari?

These two African countries feature incredible landscapes: in one, you are immersed in the Kenyan savannah, with its tall dry grass, ancient trees, and mountains, while in the other, you are on the Congo River, surrounded by lush green vegetation in a peaceful, luminous setting where spectacular waterfalls lurk.

The Congolese forest represents 65% of the national territory, that is to say over 22 million hectares. In Congo, landscapes are made up of tropical forests and clearings. For example, Africa’s largest forest is the Congo Basin, covering 3.6 million km². Indigenous peoples and local communities have a rich cultural heritage as fishermen and hunter-gatherers. One of Congo’s biggest parks is the Nouabalé Ndoki National Park. It is home to a very large population of western lowland gorillas.

Whereas in Kenya, panoramas are different, with more savannah, valleys, and mountains. With several private reserves, over 25 national parks and around 35 nature reserves, it is a famous safari destination.

What activities are offered on each of these safaris?

In the Congo, safaris can be enjoyed on foot or by boat. The comfort of the cruise ship, including the cabin and the services available on board, enable tourists to fully enjoy their stay while having an observation site.


  • In the Congo: Expeditions Ducret suggests kayaking and trekking in addition to motorboat excursions. Wildlife observation is at the heart of the safari cruise experience. Accompanied by naturalists, passengers discover the incredible richness of the Congo. On board, conferences are organized on wildlife, history, biodiversity preservation, and indigenous people. Passengers visit National parks listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites including parcs Dzanga Sangha, Lobéké and Nouabalé-Ndoki. At the Mondika scientific camp, gorillas can be observed for an hour from a distance of seven to ten meters, in groups of four.


  • Kenya: The country’s most famous safari is in south-western Kenya, in the Masai Mara National Reserve. It is renowned for its safaris, which can be enjoyed from the air by plane or hot-air balloon, or on the road by car or minibus. The best activity, however, is watching the sun set over the savannah. Toursits enjoy going to the beach or a stroll along the shores of the Indian Ocean, where water sports and diving are sometimes possible.


When is the right time to go on safari?

  • In the Congo: animals can be seen all year round. The peak of the rainy season is in October-November.
  • In Kenya: between December and March or June and October.


A safari in Kenya takes place in the savannah, whereas in the Congo it is in the forest. The Republic of Congo is just opening up to tourism. So, a safari there is a safari away from the crowds, in virtually unexplored places. UNESCO recognizes the biodiversity of these countries, with the Congo Basin listed as a natural World Heritage Site.

The Congo is certainly one of the best places to see gorillas and forest elephants! A cruise on the Congo River guarantees a unique experience and the chance to go where only a few tourists have gone before.

When to Explore Congo Basin according to Climate?

The Congo Basin Rainforest

The Congo Basin rainforest is the second largest in the world, in terms of area, just behind the Amazon Basin. This vast region is inhabited by 185 million inhabitants spread over 6 countries. While exploring this region, you discover 6% of the world’s forest area. More specifically, choosing to visit Central Africa means discovering 286 million hectares divided between Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Its forest cover and peat bogs sequester the equivalent of ten years’ global CO2 emissions. Essential, this African region plays a vital role in global climate stability. More than 10,000 varieties of tropical plants and endangered species can be found in the region, 30% of which are native, such as forest elephants, lowland gorillas, mountain gorillas and okapis. In total, more than 400 mammal species, 700 fish species and 1,000 bird species live in the Congo Basin.

The Altitude of Central Africa's Rainforests

65% of the territory lies between 300 and 600 meters above sea level. Around a third, almost 30%, is located between 600 and 1,650 meters above sea level. Only 5% of this zone’s forests are situated between 0 and 300 meters. Finally, just 1% of these forests are montane, that is to say above 1,650 meters altitude.

The Congo River Basin

The biggest river basin in Central Africa and on the African continent is the Congo Basin, with a surface area of around 4 million km². With annual renewable water resources of around 1.3 billion cubic meters, it represents around 30% of Africa’s water resources. The average annual flow of the Congo River is 41,000 m3/second. Although located in six different countries, 85.3% of the Congo River Basin lies in the predominantly forested regions of four countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Republic of Congo. The Congo Basin has a complex hydrographic network composed of rivers, vast flooded forests, and lakes.

Congo Basin Climate Commission

In 2016, the Congo Basin Climate Commission, under the aegis of the African Union, was created by the countries of Central Africa. This was made possible by the joint initiative of Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso and Moroccan King Mohammed VI by including all the states of the extended Congo River basin and the neighboring Atlantic and Indian Ocean basins. The objective of this commission is to accelerate the implementation of the climate transition and economic transformation of the Congo Basin in a perspective of sustainable development.

Find more information on its declaration (in French) by clicking here. 

Three-Basin Summit on Biodiversity Ecosystems and Tropical Forests

Congo is recognized worldwide for its biodiversity. Brazzaville hosted the summit of the three basins of biodiversity ecosystems and tropical forests. The event took place from October 26 to 28, 2023, and broached environmental issues related to the Amazon Basin, the Congo Basin, and the Borneo Mekong Basin in Southeast Asia.

For more details, we share you the declaration here

Rainfall in Central Africa

Average annual rainfall in this part of Africa is higher along the Gulf of Guinea.  For instance, it reaches 3,000 mm in Libreville, the capital of Gabon, 3,200 mm in Gata, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, while it can rise to 6,000 mm south of the island of Bioko, which belongs to that country, 3,400 mm in the economic capital of Cameroon and almost 12,000 mm in Debunscha, a coastal village in Cameroon with one of the highest rainfall records in the world. Nevertheless, in the south of Central Africa, rainfall drops sharply to around 1,000 mm at the mouth of the Congo River. In northern Congo at Ouesso, average annual rainfall is 1,590 mm, compared with 1,345 mm in southern Congo at Brazzaville.

Congo's Climate

The Republic of Congo is an intertropical zone influenced by the dry Sahelian and South African anticyclones and the humid St. Helena anticyclone, also known as the South Atlantic anticyclone. On one hand is the Sangha region and its capital Ouesso, and on the other is the country’s capital Brazzaville. The average year-round temperature in Congo is 26°C/70°F, due to its proximity to the equator. However, temperatures can rise to 32°C/89.6°F in the wet season.

In the north of the Republic of Congo, the mornings are often beautiful and sunny, with the rains that rather come at night. This information is for guidance only, as no two years are alike. In fact, rain can be short and intense, just as it can last a few hours.

  • Ouesso: Capital of the Sangha Region

The pleasant equatorial climate in northern Congo guarantees both humidity and warmth. At night, temperatures drop below 24 degrees. During the day, it can reach 30°C/86°F. Rains are regular throughout the year, with a peak between October and November. The rainy season remains a crucial period, as the rivers have a greater flow and allow navigation. Consequently, from the end of January to the end of March, when rainfall is at its lowest, navigation in the North is interrupted due to the lack of water.

  • Brazzaville: Capital of the Republic of Congo

The sub-equatorial climate of southern Congo includes two seasons: the rainy season and the dry season. Rainfall falls between October and May, making way for a dry season between June and September. In October and November, the colors of the landscape are at their most spectacular, despite heavy rainfall.

Temperatures in Other Central African Countries

Temperatures in Cameroon range from 20°C/68°F to 28°C/82.4°F. Rainfall is highest between April and October.

In the Central African Republic, annual temperature reaches 33°C/91.4°F. Rainfall is heaviest between May and October. The best period is also during the dry season, from November to March.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has an equatorial climate in the center. Its climate is tropical in the south and north. The dry season takes place between December and May for the part north of the equator, and between May and September for the part south of the equator.

The countries of Central Africa enjoy magnificent biodiversity and bearable heat all year round.


In other words, there is no single best season to travel to Congo Brazzaville. Book from now your rainforest cruise with Expeditions Ducret!

What animals can you see on safari in the Congo?

Animals to spot in the Congo Basin?

If you decide to venture into the depths of the Congo, you are likely to come across a large number of living creatures. Plants, mammals, birds, insects, fish and reptiles – the Congo Basin is teeming with animals, each more fascinating than the last. Our imagination and popular culture have often led us to see Africa as a fairly homogenous continent where, in a vast savannah, a lion chases an antelope in a wild and hostile environment. In reality, however, this continent, where animal species and humans have lived for thousands of years, boasts a huge diversity of landscapes. By definition, the Congo Basin and its equatorial rainforest embody this richness. Here you will find many species, some of them endemic, that have found refuge in the heart of the dense forests, far from man. In this article, we’ll try to give you a flavour of this richness before you decide, perhaps, to go and see for yourself.

The great primates of the Congo Basin

Two of the wide variety of apes found around the globe can be seen on a Congo safari.

The chimpanzee

Famous for its close genetic relationship with humans, the chimpanzee is very common in the equatorial zone of Africa. 

Although it belongs to the Pan genus of the Hominidae family, along with its cousin the Bonobo, it is mainly found north of the Congo River, in the Republic of Congo. 

Its diet consists mainly of plant fruits and insects, which places it in the omnivore category. Proud of its great intelligence, the Chimpanzee has been widely introduced into human society.

 In science, psychology, cinema and the circus, it is not uncommon to see this primate portrayed as a parallel to man. 

However, the development of the animal cause and the major threats to the species and its natural habitat have led us to rethink the way it is treated in modern society, and have kept it away from laboratories and entertainment.

The lowland gorilla

Although highly endangered, the western lowland gorilla is still very present in the Congo Basin.

This majestic, strong animal, which has inspired a number of successful films, is a far cry from the brutal, stupid beast we are shown in cinemas and in popular culture.

Measuring 1.7 metres for males and 1.3 metres for females and weighing up to 230 kilos for the largest specimens, the gorilla is actually highly intelligent. Research has shown, for example, that it uses tools to live, such as branches, which it uses as a probe before crossing bodies of water.

Even more surprisingly, researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia have concluded that the rate of blood flow to the gorilla’s brain is twice as fast as that of our australopithecine ancestors. As a result, they are better oxygenated and have better connections, which has an impact on their cognition.



If you accidentally decide to dive into a pond in the Congo, we advise you to be careful not to disturb a potential mammal… measuring up to almost 4 metres and weighing up to 3.5 tons, the hippopotamus is considered to be the most dangerous animal in Africa.

Its aggressiveness is mainly due to its highly territorial behaviour, prompting it to confront any creature that comes too close to its habitat.

Its impressive jaw, which can open up to 180°, and its sharp 50cm canine teeth give it one of the most powerful jaws in the animal reign.

Despite this advantage, the hippopotamus feeds mainly on fodder, which it grazes at night. The rest of the day, it lurks in the water among its fellow creatures. Its unsocial nature has led to the herds being divided into 3 categories. The females on one side look after and protect the young, the males on the other, and the dominant alone.

Forest elephants

This majestic creature, a symbol of Africa and the Congo crest, lives in the tropical forests of the Congo Basin.

Its natural habitat is very localised, in Central and West Africa in dense forests. This is largely due to the fact that the species has disappeared from 75% of the areas it once occupied. Poaching, the expansion of urban areas and ever-increasing deforestation policies are the main causes of this disappearance.

Today, thanks to the fight to protect animals and their natural habitats, many forest elephants have found refuge in protected areas, reserves and nature parks. This is where you’ll have the best chance of seeing them. Forest elephants are highly social creatures, living in smaller groups than their Asian cousins.

They play a key role in the ecosystem, as their diet and digestive habits encourage the germination of certain seeds. Knowing that a single elephant can easily eat 180kg of food a day from a wide variety of products, more than 300 according to studies, you understand the importance of this animal in its environment.

A wide variety of birds

Although the Congo Basin abounds in a unique wealth of animals, we tend to forget about those above our heads that we hear singing without seeing them, those that make the branches creak and that watch us with a watchful eye: the birds.

When it comes to ornithology, the Congo has nothing to envy the rest of the world. There are over 760 species living in Congo Brazzaville. From the little gnat-fly to the crowned eagle, not forgetting owls, falcons and pelicans, there are an impressive number of birds in the region. And with good reason: its dense forests and biodiversity provide a high-quality habitat for these winged creatures.

If you venture out into these areas, it’s not unlikely that you’ll spot one, but it’s all a question of how carefully you look.

If you would like to find out more about all the bird species found in the Congo, please visit the following website: https://www.oiseaux.net/oiseaux/famille.republique.du.congo.html

Insects, a micro-scale world that populates Africa.

If all the animals we have mentioned above manage to live, or even prosper, it is largely thanks to those we don’t see, the little creatures that walk under our feet, those at the base of the food chain.

The Congo Basin is home to 370,000 species of beetle, not counting the flies, ants and caterpillars that are present in their millions in the equatorial forest. Their presence ensures the pollination of more than 11,000 species of tropical plants, some of which are endemic to the region.

The region also abounds in butterflies, one of the most emblematic of which, the Papilio antimachus, can reach a wingspan of up to 25 cm.

Insects are also very popular in African culture and widely consumed. In the Republic of Congo, caterpillars already account for 10% of the population’s annual diet.



The Congo is home to a large number of rodents. But don’t worry, we’re not talking about disgusting-looking city rats. Scientific studies have captured and studied almost 12 species of rodents and soricomorphs (including moles and shrews).

Unlike all the other animals mentioned above, the latter do not find refuge in primary forests. Recent studies have shown that they thrive in areas inhabited by humans, such as fields and farmland, where they can find abundant food.

They are therefore a major issue for local populations, given the havoc they wreak. Rodents include squirrels, gerbils, shrews, dormice and mice.

Republic of Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo, how to differentiate them?

What are the differences between the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo?

The name of the Congo region comes from “Bakongo”, the name of the Bantu people who live there. Archaeological discoveries and excavations have established that the Bakongo people have lived in the region for thousands of years. This is why the region naturally took the name Congo from the colonial period onwards.

Two countries, one name – that’s what makes the Congo region so special. It’s easy to get confused. And with good reasons, there are many similarities between the Republic of Congo and its big sister, the Democratic Republic of Congo: the same region, the same climate, the same language, the same wild and unspoilt nature. However, a closer look reveals that the two countries are much more different than they first appear.

Different heritages: the French Congo and the Belgian Congo

What differentiates the two Congo’s is their history. Congo Brazzaville is a former French colony, created in 1891. Initially under the name of “Moyen Congo”, before taking on its current name, Republic of Congo, on 15 August 1960. Since then, its capital has been Brazzaville. Congo Kinshasa, on the other hand, is a former Belgian colony founded in 1908 which gained independence on 30 June 1960. Congo Kinshasa took the name of Zaire under the dictatorship of General Mobutu in order to avoid confusion with neighboring Congo. However, with the arrival of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo and Joseph Kabila, Congo Kinshasa changed its name once again to become the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Two countries, two scales

Of all the disparities, the difference in size between the two countries is surely the most glaring. With a surface area of 342,000 km², Congo Brazzaville is around 7 times smaller than Congo Kinshasa, which covers an area of 2,345,000 km². This makes the Democratic Republic of Congo the second largest African country after Algeria.

Twin capitals

Separated by the Congo River, the capitals of Brazzaville and Kinshasa face each other on the banks of the Malebo Pool.

Brazzaville is the capital of the Republic of Congo. Its name “Brazza” coming from the patronymic of the Italian Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, an explorer in the service of French expeditions. Kinshasa or “Kin”, formerly known as Léopoldville until 1966, is the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

To avoid confusion, it is also possible to differentiate the two Congos by using their informal nicknames of Congo Brazzaville and Congo Kinshasa.

Each country has its own flag

Flags are also a way of distinguishing the two Congos. The flag of Congo Brazzaville uses the colours of pan-Africanism. These colours can be found on many African flags, they are red, green and yellow. The flag of the DRC, for its part, is red, yellow and blue, with a star symbolizing the country’s promising future.

The great demographic gap

The difference between the two countries is also marked at the demographic level. While the Democratic Republic of Congo has a population of 96 million, Congo Brazzaville has just 5 million.

In addition, there is a 5-year difference in life expectancy between the two states. it is set at 60 for the DRC and 65 for the Republic of Congo.

The distribution of the population is also not the same. Congo Brazzaville has a population density of just 15 inhabitants per km². In Congo Kinshasa, the population distribution is 45 inhabitants per km². However, the majority of the population live on the plateaux and in the savannah near rivers and lakes. While the humid and swampy forest areas of the Congo forest are deserted by the population due to the inhospitable nature of the forest.

Two different political realities

Since the 1960s and the independence of the two countries, the official language has remained French. The second most widely spoken language is Lingala in both the DRC and Congo.

However, despite their proximity, the two states have very different political situations. During the Cold War, Zaire was influenced by the Western bloc, while the People’s Republic of Congo (Congo Brazza) was influenced by the Eastern bloc.

Today, the Congo’s political situation remains much more stable than that of its neighbor, the DRC. Since the civil war of the 1990s, the country has been ruled by President Sassou Nguesso. In the DRC, despite attempts to stabilize and secure the country, it remains highly unstable, with persistent risk zones in the east of the country.

A natural world

The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to most of the Congo Basin forest. It is the second largest tropical forest in the world after the Amazon rainforest.

The region is divided in two by the Congo River and its tributaries. It is the river that acts as the border, distinguishing the Republic of Congo on the right bank from the Democratic Republic of Congo on the left bank.

In total, the natural border created by the Congo River and its tributary the Ubangi is almost 2,410 kilometers long, making it the 15th longest border in the world.


The two regions are not only rich in exceptional biodiversity. The Republic of Congo is the fifth largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the DRC also has diamond and mineral resources that are essential to the energy transition.

Policy of respect for the environment

As well as sharing the Congo River, the two countries share the Congo Basin Forest, most of which is located in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The regulations governing the preservation and protection of the environment are not the same in the two countries.

The Democratic Republic of Congo owns most of the Congo Basin, covering an area of 234 million hectares. The forest covers some 181 million hectares. However, the forest is shrinking by half a million hectares every year as a result of slash-and-burn farming and logging. Agroforestry and reforestation have been put forward as solutions to this environmental problem. Indeed, they could help meet the demand for wood and food in a sustainable way.

For its part, the Republic of Congo is largely covered by forest. More than 70% of the country’s surface area covered by forest, making it the fifteenth most forested country in the world. The environment is therefore highly vulnerable and its protection is vital. But the Republic of Congo is not sufficiently prepared to adapt to climate change. The country is suffering from climate disruption. It represents a risk for the population whose livelihood depends on this environment. Nevertheless, the Republic of Congo is aware of its ecological importance at global level and is working to put in place climate-smart practices.

Nouabale Ndoki Park

A call from the wild

We’ve all dreamt of going on an adventure. Young or old, fascinated by exploration or just to escape a monotonous lifestyle. But where to go? Well away from the big polluted cities, the sound of horns, car fumes and exhilarating buildings as far as the eye can see, there’s a place waiting for you in the heart of Africa’s equatorial forest, at the centre of one of the richest regions on our planet: the Parc Nouabale Ndoki.

Where is the Nouabale Ndoki Park located?

The Nouabale Ndoki National Park (NNNP) is a protected area, listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, devoid of any human contact or exploitation, preserving unspoilt, pristine nature. It is located in the north of the Republic of Congo, in the Sangha department. Proud of its tropical forests and verdant clearings, it is undoubtedly one of the best examples of ecosystem protection in the Congo Basin, and indeed in Africa. No roads or buildings have been erected by man, and no home other than that of the animals has tamed this unique area of the world.

Covering an area of 4,000km2, it forms the Sangha Tri National, alongside the Lobéké Park in Cameroon and the Dzanga-Sangha complex of protected areas in the Central African Republic.

Together, these three protected areas cover more than 7,500 km2, offering a unique natural space teeming with rich, wild flora and fauna.

Hippos, gorillas, buffalo, elephants, chimpanzees, and hundreds of other species live here in perfect harmony. The density of these areas has allowed an exceptional flora to develop. Nature reigns supreme here.

When and why was it created?

The site was created in 1993 in response to the challenge of preserving natural areas in Africa, but also to combat the disappearance of species and the serious decline in forest areas as a result of the development of human society. Many of the species present on the site are already listed as endangered or could become so in the next few years.

The Sangha Trinational breaks down established borders and forces joint management of the area. But the fight to preserve these ecosystems goes far beyond the borders of the countries that host them. This area has been maintained, protected and safeguarded for almost 30 years thanks to close collaboration between the Congolese authorities and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

These areas have also benefited the economies of the countries that are responsible for them through the development of tourism. In the Parc Nouabale Ndoki, tourists can observe gorillas, elephants, buffalo and thousands of birds.

But the remarkable professionalisation of the Park has also enabled the protection of these natural areas to be promoted to a higher level. Numerous laws have been passed to combat poaching, and the number of forest rangers has increased tenfold. The stakes are therefore also political. The Nouabale Ndoki Park presents itself as a spokesperson for animal causes on a global scale.

How do I get around the Nouabale Ndoki Park?

In keeping with the principles of eco-responsibility and conservation, most of the Park is visited on foot, accompanied by experienced trackers. These visits also allow visitors to immerse themselves in nature and observe the animals that live there as closely as possible.

In the swampy clearing of Mbéli Bai, for example, you can meet many primates such as gorillas, as well as more majestic animals such as forest elephants, buffalo and sitatungas.

Last but not least, some sections of the Park can also be explored on pirogues, boats that will take you to the heart of the habitat of numerous marine animals such as crocodiles or the astonishing articulated freshwater turtles.

What can you see inside?

The list of animals present inside the site is far too long to list in full, but here is a brief overview.

The park is home to a number of majestic animals, including gorillas, elephants, crocodiles and hippos.

The Nouabale-Ndoki forest is home to a multitude of insects, colourful Euphaedra butterflies, dozens of species of birds such as the bright red Cassin’s Malimbe, frogs and monkeys of various breeds.

The unique flora found in the Parc Noubalé Ndoki is one of its most important features. The Park is home to 244 species belonging to 45 different families. There are emblematic species such as the strangler fig, recognisable by its aerial roots, and the mukulungu (Autranella Congolensis), which is found in equatorial Africa and can reach heights of up to 50 metres.

While this flora plays an active role in the survival of the animal species that live in the Park, offering a certain shelter and abundance of food thanks to its density and richness, it has also benefited the local tribal populations. Honey, leaves and mushrooms represent the wide range of products that this area produces, a key point in the development of these people, providing them with an almost infinite source of goods.

But far removed from local traditions and survival, other people have also found in the Parc Nouabale Ndoki a consuming passion. Every year, dozens of groups of scientists visit the Congo Basin to record its plant species, which are often threatened with extinction.

The Nouabale Ndoki Park and indigenous peoples?

While the Nouabale Ndoki site provides a safe haven for animals, it has also served to highlight the indigenous ways of life in the area.

Hunting, fishing, crafts and the way of life of the indigenous peoples are often neglected in favour of city life, which is simpler at first sight.

It is therefore a real challenge to enhance and safeguard these ways of life close to nature so that all the knowledge that goes with it does not disappear.  The Nouabale Ndoki Park and the river tourist cruises provide an opportunity to discover these ecosystems and help to promote the knowledge of the indigenous peoples. The encounters you will have in the Park with the pygmy peoples, most of whom are trackers, will enable you to meet men and women whose way of life is far removed from that of modern civilisation.

Is it possible to observe gorillas in the Park?

Some “habituated” gorillas have been monitored for almost 20 years by scientists. Habituation is a long process involving several stages. Each research assistant is given a group of gorillas (between 6 and 15 individuals) to spend 8 hours a day with, until the day when his presence at a distance of around ten metres no longer disturbs the silverback. The habituation process can take between 5 and 10 years. This habituation work has made it possible to document the species and monitor groups over several decades. Today, the Park has three groups of habituated gorillas that can be observed at less than ten metres. Tracking begins not far from the scientists’ camp at Mondika, a two-hour walk and 45-minute drive from Bomassa, the Park’s entrance point.

Packing for a Safari Cruise

Safari Cruise Luggage List

A Safari cruise in the Congo is an opportunity to immerse yourself in an unknown and remote environment. That’s why an exceptional environment goes hand in hand with the right equipment.


For the expedition, you’ll need light, breathable clothing first and foremost. Choose long-sleeved, quick-drying shirts and long, quick-drying trousers. Make sure you also take discreet clothes in the colours of nature.

Take a light fleece or jumper for cooler evenings and for morning or river activities. Although the Congo is not renowned for its low temperatures, rain combined with a light breeze will make you want to cover up.

Similarly, rain and showers are commonplace in the Congo, so take a light raincoat to cover up in case of rain.

For the various activities planned, whether during the expeditions or for your moments of relaxation, please remember to take a swimsuit..

After a long day, it’s time to relax. That’s why you’ll need casual clothes and a comfortable pair of shoes to relax on board.


On treks and hikes, you will need a pair of walking or sports shoes. Please check that they are sturdy and comfortable enough for walks that may last several hours. They should be closed shoes, ideally lightweight and quick-drying, as we’ll be walking in wet conditions.

It is also advisable to take pairs of high socks to minimize the risk of bites, or to avoid small insects accidentally slipping into your shoes during forest expeditions.


Soft backpacks are best for trekking through the Congolese forest. Please check that your backpacks are comfortable enough and suitable for trekking in the forest, so that you can carry binoculars and your water bottle.

We also recommend that you take rain covers for your bags or check that they are waterproof in case of heavy rain.

As far as travel bags are concerned, we also recommend soft bags to make them easier to carry and store on board the ship. Make sure that your baggage does not exceed 20kg, as this is the weight limit on domestic flights.

Water bottle or reusable water bottle

For long excursions in the forest, and because you mustn’t neglect hydration in hot, humid areas, we recommend that you always take a water bottle with you. Especially as these are not provided by the cruise. For the cruise, you’ll need reusable containers, which you can fill on board using the ship’s various water fountains.

First-aid kit

If you have everything you need on board in the event of an accident or injury, you can take a small travel kit with you, including antiseptic wipes, bandages, tweezers, plasters, aspirin, anti-diarrhea and anti-malarial medication, etc. Make sure you also take your medical documents with you.

You should also bring your yellow fever vaccination certificates, as well as your polio, measles and covid 19 certificates, all of which are required for gorilla watching.

Sun protection

The Congo is an equatorial country, so the sun shines all year round. You are therefore strongly advised to take something to protect yourself from UV rays. Make sure you take a sun hat, which should be suitable for expeditions, that is to say of a neutral colour and preferably canvas. You must also take sun cream.

Insect repellent

If you’re preparing to visit the wilderness areas of the Congo Basin, remember to bring insect repellent containing DEET, the most effective for wetlands.


To get the most out of your safari experience, we strongly recommend that you bring a pair of binoculars. Remote areas are full of details, and binoculars will allow you to observe animals without frightening them or disturbing them in their natural habitats. A pair of binoculars will also allow you to continue exploring even during the cruise, as you’ll be able to observe the shores and contemplate the richness of the rainforest from the deck of the ship.

Night-vision binoculars are always a plus on a wilderness expedition.

Camera equipment

A Congo Safari cruise is an opportunity to discover the flora and fauna of the Congo Basin. To immortalize these timeless moments, it’s advisable to take a camera with you, in addition to your connected objects, to ensure the best possible photo quality. We recommend a camera with a minimum 200mm lens.


For the expedition, please bring a torch, preferably a headlamp. Even at night, the exploration continues, providing an opportunity to discover a different type of fauna, or simply to go out on deck to observe the stars without light pollution.

Books or board games

The setting of the cruise promises to be one of disconnection and relaxation, all immersed in the setting of the Congo Basin. During the cruise, you’ll also have time to relax. It’s a good idea to bring along something to keep you entertained, such as books, for your moments of rest during the cruise.


The Hippopotamus, a semi-aquatic mammal

The common hippopotamus, or Hippopotamus amphibius for short, is a semi-aquatic mammal found in the sub-Saharan region of Africa. It can be distinguished from its counterpart Hexaprotodon liberiensis, commonly known as the dwarf hippopotamus, due to its smaller size.

The common hippopotamus, the more emblematic of the two, is one of the largest land mammals, alongside rhinoceroses and elephants. An adult male can measure between 3 and 5 metres and weigh up to 3,200 kilos. The name Hippopotamus, which translates as “river horse” in Greek, is a reminder of the special lifestyle this mammal has adopted. It spends most of its days lounging passively in the water, only coming ashore at nightfall to feed.

As it is unable to submerge completely, evolution has given the Hippopotamus a special morphology that enables it to keep its sense organs out of the water while the rest of its body is underwater. This particularity also enables it to remain on the alert for the various threats hanging over these wild lands. In addition, it secretes an oily substance that protects the parts of its body exposed to the sun. This reddish-pink protective oil has also contributed greatly to the animal’s popularity.

How does a Hippopotamus behave?

Although popular culture has given it a rather childlike and weary appearance, the Hippopotamus is in reality a ferocious and very territorial animal. This aspect, often forgotten by Westerners, generally leads to a difficult cohabitation between the Hippopotamus and the local people of Africa. Although highly gregarious during the day, the hippopotamus quickly becomes a solitary animal when night falls, making it much harder to keep an eye on, and the agricultural fields pay a high price. In fact, this enormous mammal is often the cause of a great deal of destruction during its nocturnal feeding bouts.

During the day, the animal settles down and forms groups of between 2 and 150 individuals. In society, male hippopotamuses do not try to attract females, or at least not directly. The two individuals are attracted through an intermediary, their territory.

The male, who is very dominant, takes care of finding a comfortable habitat and defending it from various predators. It is this same territory which, depending on its quality, will have an attractive effect on the females of the species.

The female looks after the young, accompanying them to feed at night when the herds separate. However, the young hippos can quickly become a threat to the adult males in the herd during the breeding season, when intra-herd clashes over leadership can occur.

Hippopotamus: an endangered species?

According to scientific studies, hippopotamus populations are declining in more than half the countries where the species occurs. The number of individuals is currently estimated at around 120,000. This sudden disappearance is closely linked to the large-scale poaching of the species. The ivory in its gigantic teeth and the animal’s meat are a rare commodity that fuels both the legal and illegal trade. In addition, the significant development of human activities in areas where the hippopotamus lives has led to an increase in encounters between humans and animals.

What solution is provided?

In response, many African countries have asked for the Hippopotamus to be added to the list of the world’s most endangered animals. This would give the species the highest level of protection under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). But this protection would also make it possible to combat the illegal trade that threatens the species.

The Hippopotamus is already listed as an Appendix II species, which means that they are not in danger of extinction, but could become so in the next few years if their plight does not improve.

Finally, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has already classified the species as vulnerable on its red list.

What role do hippos play in dispersing seeds and regenerating aquatic plants?

Like many other African species, the hippopotamus contributes in its own way to the balance of the ecosystem around it. Through its faeces, the hippopotamus encourages the flow of silicon into lakes and rivers. This mineral is no less vital for certain terrestrial and aquatic organisms (algae, diatoms, water sponges) than it is for climate balance. Indirectly, through plants, silica controls part of the carbon cycle and therefore certain carbon sinks.

how does it happen?

This distribution of silicon by hippopotamuses is easily explained by their lifestyle. They feed at night on dry land before returning to the water during the day, where they excrete their faeces. According to research, their faeces modulate up to 76% of the total flow of silicon, thereby promoting the development of the food web and carbon fixation.

Their presence is therefore essential to the survival of many plants and microplankton in Africa.

How do hippos communicate?

Ethnological studies in recent years have revealed some interesting facts about how hippos communicate.

Hippos use voice recognition to manage their group relationships.

The sound frequencies they emit tell them whether the animal in front of them is a stranger or not.

The animal responds in various ways. An approach, a cry or even a jet of excrement can be emitted in response to an animal’s call.

Throwing excrement allows them to mark their territory, as many animals would do.

Although the Hippopotamus appears to be idle during the day, it is actually when it is lurking in the water that it pays the most attention to its environment and the individuals in it.

Even more surprisingly, voice recognition also enables hippos to distinguish between their fellow hippos and the groups to which they belong. In this way, it could determine whether a hippopotamus on the riverbank belonged to a rival clan or to its own group.

Where can I see hippos in Congo Brazzaville?

The great efforts made by certain African countries to protect the hippopotamus have led to the creation of numerous reserves where the animal can be observed.

The Lefini reserve in the Republic of Congo and the Nouabalé-Ndoki national park are natural sites protected by the government where Hippos can be observed in their natural state.

During the safari cruises offered by Expéditions Ducret, it is possible to observe hippos in many places along the Congo or Sangha rivers.

What place do hippopotamuses occupy in African culture?

Given its age-old presence on African soil, the hippopotamus has been given a place in the continent’s stories and myths. These traditions, which are largely passed down through stories and tales, have given the animal a divine place.

It is the female animal in particular that has been given this honorary title. In African mythology, she was known as Tawaret, the goddess of fertility and childbirth in ancient Egypt.

This legend dates back to ancient Egypt. Tawaret, or Taouret as it is pronounced, meaning “the great one”, is a hippopotamus goddess standing on her lion-like hind legs and holding a hieroglyphic sign meaning “protection” in her human hands.

This hybrid appearance, a cross between different animals and humans, is intended to symbolise several aspects, such as fertility, but also the ferocity of a mother defending her son.

The obsidian knife that accompanies it in some of these representations symbolises fertility. The obsidian knife was once used to cut the umbilical cord.

Finally, its reddish-brown skin colour is thought to represent women’s menstruation.