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The Democratic Republic of the Congo (also known as the DRC) is located in equatorial West Africa. Dominated by the planet’s second-largest rainforest, which sprawls across 500 million acres of Congo River Basin, with glacial mountains and savannah elsewhere, the DRC is enormous and supports a staggering range of wildlife and cultures.
It’s no secret, of course, that the DRC has suffered tumultuous ups and down over the course of its long history - a history that stretches back some 80,000 years. Fortunately, the DRC is enjoying a period of considerable peace and stability, even in the historically volatile east, and the growth of tourism is only helping to consolidate, its economic and cultural benefits clear. This is great news as DRC really is a stunning country.
From the vast urban sprawl of Kinshasa, with its high-end hotels and restaurants, to smaller conurbations like Goma in the east, as well as the fact that much of Africa’s most popular music comes from the country, there’s plenty of proof that the DRC isn’t only for nature-lovers.
Culturally, the Congolese have rich traditions that remain important in their modern day world and a real sense of character and charm owing to their French colonial heritage. French is also the national language, but there is a strong sense of African identity that coexists alongside this, no more evident than in the capital city of Brazzaville, where the hustle and bustle of market life prevails. Nearly 150 distinct ethnic groups exist and the region’s Ba’Aka people are among the most well-known representatives of an ancient hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
The jungles and the foothills of the volcanic peaks are famous for their primate population, as well as okapi, giraffe, and elephant, and the forests also offer an abundance of birdlife. There’s a different type of battle being fought, where rebel insurgents and the hunt for oil threaten the precious mountain gorillas.
Emmanuel de Merode, director of Virunga National Park, is helping to save one of the planet’s most extraordinary ecosystems, by inviting the world in.