Safari in Congo: The 10 best things to see
A safari in the Congo means experiencing the country’s unique atmosphere. Between the hustle and bustle of Brazzaville and the unreal calm of the Sangha forest, a change of scenery is guaranteed. Each region has its share of entertainment and attractions, while offering a wide variety of landscapes. So here are the top 10 things to see on a Congo Safari.
1 - Brazzaville, a sensational city
Brazzaville is the capital of the Republic of Congo, situated on the right bank of the Congo River. Unmissable and emblematic, Brazzaville is a colorful and verdant city, the ideal starting point for a Congo Safari. It stretches over 10 kilometers and faces its big sister Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Brazzaville is a bustling city, but not one that attracts many tourists, which is what makes it so authentic. The city of Brazzaville alone offers an interesting range of possibilities, with its museums, picturesque markets, old quarters and ceramics and sculpture workshops. Among the many monuments and tourist attractions you can discover are the Basilica of Sainte-Anne du Congo, the Sacré-Coeur cathedral, the Poto-Poto painting school, the sculpture and ceramics workshops scattered around the city, as well as the markets and old quarters. The Mungali Bakongo and Poto Poto districts are particularly lively, and will immerse you in the Congolese atmosphere from the moment you arrive.
2 - A remarkable environment : the Congo Basin
The Congo Basin is one of the largest expanses of equatorial forest in the world. An essential site for a Congo Safari, it stretches over six countries and is considered to be the planet’s second green lung after the Amazon forest. For over 50,000 years, the Congo Basin has played a major role in the region, providing vital resources for almost 75 million people.
The trinational Sangha site is located in the north-east of the Congo Basin and straddles three countries: Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo. It comprises three national parks covering an area of 750,000 hectares. The special feature of this site is its high level of conservation, which has enabled it to preserve a pristine, untouched natural environment that promises an enchanting experience on a Congo Safari.
For example, the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park is located in Congo-Brazzaville, north of Ouesso, and forms part of the Trinational Sangha site with the Dzanga Sangha Park in the Central African Republic and the Lobéké Park in Cameroon. At the heart of the Nouabalé-Ndoki park lies Mbeli Baï, a veritable haven of peace. This 13-hectare marshy clearing is home to populations of elephants, buffalo and gorillas, as well as thousands of birds.
3 - Meeting the people of the Congo
A safari in the Congo is also an opportunity to immerse yourself in Congolese culture and traditions.
The Congo is home to a myriad of different peoples, depending on the region. In the northern forests, indigenous populations such as the BaAka pygmies still inhabit the Congo Basin forest. Although no systematic census has yet been carried out, in 1984 it was estimated that they represented around 2.29% of the population. The indigenous peoples of the Congo Basin region have lived in the primary forests for thousands of years. The pygmies are one of the last indigenous populations of this African forest. With forest exploitation and modernization, their cultures and traditions are threatened with extinction. Once semi-nomadic, many of these communities have now become sedentary.
4 – A unique flora
A safari in Congo Brazzaville is also an opportunity to discover some unusual flora. The Congo Forest, also known as the Congo Basin Forest, is characteristic of a forest in its purest state, untouched by any trace of human activity. Covering 180 million hectares in six Central African countries, it is home to a number of emblematic plant and animal species.
Its humid tropical climate, with an average maximum temperature of 30°C and minimum of 21°C and abundant annual rainfall, makes it a region where vegetation is extremely prolific.
This forest is of great importance as it provides a large quantity of goods and services, and its value to the economy is undeniable, both as a source of primary materials and as a climate regulator.
Threatened by human construction, poaching and deforestation, it is a vulnerable region. That’s why preserving the forests of the Congo Basin is essential, vital even, for the future and the ecological balance of Africa and the world.
5 – An Emblematic African wildlife
The wildlife of Congo Brazzaville is extremely varied, particularly in the forest where the environment has remained very wild. The area is home to common and widespread species as well as much rarer species, some of which are even endangered.
On a Congo Safari, you can see African elephants, chimpanzees, bongos, lowland gorillas, okapis, bonobos, buffalo, hippos, fish, crocodiles, hundreds of different species of birds and much more. All these species live together in a great diversity of wildlife, preserved thanks to its many ecosystems (Baï, forest, savannah).
6 - The Congo River and the Sangha River
Congo Brazzaville is also rich in rivers, starting with the Congo River. At 4,700 km (2,922 miles) long, it is the second longest river in Africa after the Nile, and the 8th longest in the world. It rises in the highlands of the Democratic Republic of Congo and flows through three countries before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. It is this river and its many tributaries that feed the world’s second largest tropical rainforest.
The Livingstone Falls in the DRC prevent navigation on the river from the sea. But the river remains navigable in sections, and in particular between Kinshasa and Kisangani, which represents a navigable corridor of 2,495 km, ideal for exploring on a safari or cruise. Much of Central Africa’s trade flows via the river and the surrounding railways.
The river provides running water and food for the people living along its banks on a daily basis. With its large flow, the river is also a source of hydroelectric power, exploited by a number of dams.
The Sangha River is 790 km long. It rises in Cameroon and flows into the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo. Easily navigable, the river flows through the forest of the Congo Basin, and its banks can be explored on the Expéditions Ducret cruises from Brazzaville to Ouesso.
7 - Dive into the immensity of the Loufoulakari Falls
Loufoulakari and Bela are waterfalls located in the south-west of the country, 75km south of Brazzaville. They are the most impressive waterfalls in the country and offer a beautiful view of the Congolese rainforest. An exceptional landscape, the falls are 291m above sea level. In a grandiose setting, the power of nature is revealed in a pool of greenery.
8 - Discover the breathtaking scenery of the Gorge de Diosso
Also known as the “Grand Canyon of the Congo”. An ideal stop-off point on a Congo safari, this natural curiosity was carved out by the rains of the Atlantic coast. The gorge is decorated by rocky ridges and red rock cliffs up to 50 m high, overlooking a valley with abundant vegetation.
9 - The Atlantic coast
To the west, on the Atlantic coast, lies the country’s second city, Pointe-Noire, the economic capital. Its deep-water port and oil reserves have helped to make the city a center of entertainment, business opportunities, fashion and cultural exchange.
The wild coastline close to the city boasts a number of heavenly beaches that attract families, including the Pointe Indienne beach, an ideal day trip away from the city. The Atlantic coast offers waves that will delight surfers.
You can also spot migrating whales between July and September. The whales migrate from the Antarctic to the Gulf of Guinea in July to give birth and then return to the cool waters of the south until the end of September. It is also possible to observe turtles laying their eggs between September and April.
The waters of the region are extremely well-stocked with fish, and fishing enthusiasts will be delighted.
10 - The enigmatic Trou de Nguela
The Trou de Nguela, or God’s Hole, 80 kilometers from Brazzaville, is a large basin with steep slopes covered in grass and shrubs, with a small relief in the center. While the reasons for this atypical formation remain a mystery, the landscape remains a unique and atypical place and is home to a ‘sacred’ site for pilgrims.