The 10 best places to visit in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Built in 2002 in the countries capital, Kinshasa, is the statue of Laurent-Desire Kabila, the former leader who was assassinated a year earlier in 2001. Created by a group of North Koreans who work for the Mansudae Overseas Project, it has a familiar North Korean style about it, with some suggestion the body is a recycled piece from a Kim Jong Il statue. Standing 7.6 metres (25 ft) high, it is the largest statue in the country.
South west of the capital, Kinshasa, within the Bas Congo's equatorial forest is the Zongo Fall's, an easily reachable and easily accessible powerful waterfall. With a drop of 65 metres (213 ft), this beautiful natural landmark is undoubtedly the prime attraction in the west of the country.
9. Zongo Falls
In the extreme south east of the country, covering some 7,600 square kilometres (2,934 square miles) is Kundelungu National Park. The parks most notable feature is the beautiful Lofoi Falls, also known as Chutes Kaloba. With its unbroken drop of 165 metres (541 ft) it is one of the largest waterfalls in Africa.
8. Kundelungu National Park
In the far north east of the country, covering an area of some 14,000 square kilometres (5,405 square miles) is the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, encompassing approximately one fifth of the Ituri Forest. The forest is home to Nomadic Mbuti pygmies and indigenous Bantu farmers who share the terrain with a large number of okapis, elephants, leopards, chimpanzees and crocodiles among a large number of other mammal and reptile species. Important to ancient tribes, a huge number of wildlife species and one of the most important locations for bird conservation in Africa, Okapi Wildlife Reserve has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
7. Okapi Wildlife Reserve
In the western centre of the country, within the Congo river basin is an enormous area of some 36,000 square kilometres (13,899 square miles) is Salonga National Park, home to Africa's largest tropical rainforest. The main human population within the park comes in the shape of the Iyaelima people who live in harmony with the parks wildlife. Among the large number of species, the most notable include hippopotamus, Dryas monkey, leopard, forest elephant, Thollon's red colobus, African crocodile among many more, including the parks emblematic species, the pygmy chimpanzee, better known as the bonobo. Due to the ongoing civil war in the country, Salonga National Park has been declared the unenviable title of UNESCO World Heritage Site in danger.
6. Salonga National Park
In the east of the country, covering some 10,885 square kilometres (4,203 square miles) is Maiko National Park, lying within one of the most remote forest and marshland areas of the Congo. Though the landscape and its wildlife is highly threatened from hunters and Simba rebels, the park is home to some incredible animal species, including the Grauer's gorilla, the okapi, African forest elephant and chimpanzees among many more.
5. Maiko National Park
In the extreme north east of the country, straddling the border with South Sudan is the 5,200 square kilometre (2008 square mile) Garamba National Park, among the oldest protected areas in Africa. Supporting a large variety of wildlife on the Congolian-Sudanese savanna, the park is home to elephants, hyenas, giant forest hogs, lions, hippopotamus, buffalo and the last remaining population of the Congolese giraffe subspecies, to name but a few of the 138 mammal species. Once home to the last wild population of the northern white rhinoceros, poaching is a major threat to every animal in the park, making Garamba a UNESCO World Heritage Site in danger
4. Garamba National Park
In the extreme east of the country, close to the border with Rwanda is the 6,000 square kilometre (2,317 square mile) Kahuzi Biega National Park, named after the two dormant volcanoes that lie within its limits. Set within mountainous and lowland terrain, the park encompasses part of the Mitumba Mountain range and the Albertine Rift, a branch of the Great Rift Valley, creating one of the regions most superb and rugged landscapes. A haven for wildlife, the rich diversity of animal species includes 138 mammals, including one of the last refuges of the rare species of Eastern lowland gorilla. For its unique biodiversity of rainforest habitat and its Eastern lowland gorilla population, the entire Kahuzi Biega National Park has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
3. Kahuzi-Biega National Park
In the extreme east of the country, at the southern end of Virunga National Park, along the border with Rwanda within the Albertine Rift is Mount Nyiragongo, an active stratovolcano that has often been described as the most dangerous volcano in the world, responsible for forty percent of Africa's historical eruptions. Reaching an elevation of 3,470 metres (11,384 ft) above sea level, the main crater is around 2 kilometres wide and contains a lava lake, one of only a handful on the planet. The hike to the crater is roughly 8 kilometres (5 miles) straight up, taking between 4 to 6 hours, with the downhill return taking slightly less time. The best piece of advice for this trek is to avoid booking a tour. Instead, contact Virunga National Park through its website and someone will meet you on your arrival.
2. Nyiragongo Volcano
In the north east of the country, along the border with Uganda and Rwanda, encompassing mountains and forests within the Albertine Rift Valley is the 8,090 square kilometre (3,121 square mile) Virunga National Park, among the oldest protected areas in Africa. The park ranges from 680 metres (2,230 ft) above sea level in the Puemba River Valley to the peak of Mount Stanley in the Rwenzori Mountains, 5,109 metres (16,762 ft) above sea level, the highest mountain in both the Democratic Republic Of Congo and Uganda, as well as being the third highest peak on the African continent. From wetlands, grasslands, river forests, primary tropical forests to steep glaciated mountain peaks and rugged valleys, Virunga covers a diverse landscape home to a large number of rare and endemic species. There are 109 reptile, 65 amphibian and 196 mammal species, with the parks most famous inhabitants being the primate species, including common chimpanzee, red tailed monkey, Dent's mona monkey, blue monkey, Central African red colobus, olive baboon and the most famous of them all, the mountain gorilla. Supporting a wealth of wildlife in one of the continents most impressive natural terrains, the entire Virunga National Park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.