By Samuel Colin Walugembe
The Democratic Republic of Congo has recently been admitted within the East African Community (EAC), which is now composed of six country members. The admission of DRC does not only represent good opportunities in terms of trade, integration or connectivity. The integration of the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa to the bloc is also a considerable asset for tourism.
We expect East Africa’s international exposure and touristic competitiveness to be boosted, thanks to the expansion of the tourist offer and the relaxation on travel restrictions for East African citizens between the EAC countries.
Indeed, citizens from Burundi, DRC, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, can travel within the bloc without a visa, making the regional tourism easier and cheaper. With a surface equivalent to Western Europe, DR Congo’s territory offers a rich biodiversity, many endemic animal species, indigenous cultures, eco-tourism perspectives and much more. The tourist offer is almost infinite: all tastes, all interests and all budgets can be pleased. Here are some of the wonders that the country.
Fauna and Flora
Saying that the fauna of DRC is rich and unique is an understatement. The country is home to many endemic species, such as the emblematic Okapi, Bonobo, Mountain Gorilla, Lowland Gorilla, Congolese Peacock or the White Rhinoceros.
The floristic richness is impressive too: more than 10’000 species can be found in DRC, including more than 1’300 endemic flora species. These rare species can be observed in 8 national parks and 63 natural reserves, such as Virunga Park (UNESCO World Heritage since 1979), Kahuzi-Biega National Park (third best destination for ecotourism in Africa according to the Berlin Exhibition), Garamba National Park, Kundelungu National Park, Upemba National Park, Salonga National Park, Maiko National Park, or Lomani National Park.
Also, 47% of the Africa’s tropical forest is located in DRC, which represents 6% of the world’s tropical reserves.
Mountains and volcanos
DRC is home of the third largest summit in Africa (after Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya): Marguerite Peak (5’119 metres high) that is part of Rwenzori Mountains (shared with Uganda). With its 1.2 km wide crater, the Nyiragongo volcano is one of the most beautiful and most active in the world. It is located in the Grant Rift Valley, close to Lake Kivu and in the Virunga National Park (also home of the famous mountain gorillas).
The Democratic Republic of Congo is home of around 450 different ethnic groups. Most of them have kept their ancestral cultural practices such as dances, music, housing, craft, or art, forming a very unique and diverse cultural heritage. For instance, remote tribes such as the pigmies can be visited for a very traditional and immersive experience.
Lake and Rivers
DRC’s hydrographic network is impressive: it covers around 78’000 km2 and is made up of many lakes and rivers. The most famous are the Great Lakes (Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Eduard and Lake Kivu), which are shared with its neighbours, and the majestic Congo River, the world’s second most powerful river (after the Amazon) and world’s fifth longest river (with 4’700 km).
The capital Kinshasa is a vibrant city, which hosts more than 12 million inhabitants. The city is considered a crossroads of the numerous Congolese cultures and offers an interesting vibe with unique features: lively nightlife, sapology culture, voodoo wrestling, etc. Kinshasa offers many sightseeing such as the sanctuary for bonobos (Lola ya Bonobo), historical monuments, botanical garden, etc.
Despite all these assets, the DR Congo remains a sensitive country when it comes to stability, security and infrastructures.
However, regional friends such as Uganda are doing the best to ensure security is restored in the eastern part of DRC. It should also be noted that sharing of intelligence and other useful information among regional states will now improve for the common good of the bloc.
Also, Uganda is already engaging on the construction of roads inside DRC and this will further improve the infrastructure there. Visitors from the DRC will also be able to cross freely into Uganda and enjoy the vast menu of tourism in here.
The writer a tourism expert, founder and director of Laba Africa Expeditions