Republic of the Congo Travel Guide
Despite its medium size, the Republic of the Congo is one of Africa’s sparser populated countries, with 85% of its population squeezed into its coastal plain in the urbanized south. The larger northern portion of the country is carpeted in thick equatorial rainforest, with the mighty Congo River and its tributaries serving as the only highway for many communities in this remote part of the country.
Whether you are just passing through on a trans-African journey, or you are looking to discover a lesser-seen part of Africa by getting into its less developed parts, the Republic of the Congo will have plenty to offer you.
Currency: Central African CFA Francs
Languages: French, Lingala, Monokutuba, various indigenous languages
What To Do
Soon after your arrival in Brazzaville (which is the capital of the Republic of the Congo), make your way over to the Musee National du Congo. Home to a collection of priceless art treasures and historical artifacts collected from this nation’s various corners, spending a few hours here will properly introduce you to this part of Africa.
Although small in size, it makes up for this through the quality of its collection and its lack of an entrance fee. In addition to telling the story of this nation, a considerable portion of this institution chronicles the history of Brazzaville, as well as the life and times of Pietro de Brazza, who was the explorer that founded it.
Although you won’t find grand cathedrals here that people take for granted throughout Europe, the capital city of the Republic of the Congo is home to a unique church that is worth a look, if only for fifteen minutes.
Finished in 1949, the Basilique Sainte-Anne-du-Congo de Brazzaville was built in a modernist style, making it quite unlike any church for many hundreds of kilometers around. This unique attraction will grant you an opportunity to mingle with ordinary Congolese, as well as a chance to get some truly magnificent pictures.
As with many aspects of African current affairs, there is much that the average person is aware of when it comes to this continent. As a result, those that learn of the existence of the Congo Tank Graveyard are usually quite surprised by the presence of dozens of rusting war machines in this sleepy nation.
However, digging back into the history books will enlighten you on the Great War of Africa, or the second Congo War as it is officially known. Breaking out in the late 1990s, this conflict would eventually drag nations from as far afield as Libya into the fracas, although the principal combatants were the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Angola, and Chad.
Raging on for more than five years, it would eventually claim over five million lives, making it the deadliest armed conflict since World War II. As cool as the twisted and charred metal at this unique attraction looks, remember the horrible toll that these machines of death wrought on the people of central Africa as you walk amongst these defunct pieces of mechanized armor.
While you are traveling along the coast of the Republic of the Congo, make a point to check out the Gorges of Diosso. Created by millions of years of wind and water erosion, it is locally known as the Grand Canyon of the Congo.
Consisting of rocks that take on a red to pink hue, these cliffs reach heights of up to 165 feet above the river below. Combine that with the green equatorial jungle that drapes its sides and base, and there are some amazing pictures waiting for you here.
If you have plenty of time and a serious taste for adventure travel, consider going on a Congo River boat trip. With cargo ships regularly plying the length of the world’s deepest river to service the many communities located along its sparsely inhabited banks, jumping aboard one of these barges will give you a chance to see how Congolese locals live in this remote part of the world.
Be warned, however: a journey of this magnitude is not for the faint of heart, as you will be living aboard an open-faced boat for a month or longer, depending on the circumstances.
Food is not available on board, so you will need to take everything that you will need to eat, drink, and ward off malaria for that period of time (pack more provisions than you think you’ll need, just to be sure).
What to Eat
Fufu is a commonplace staple that you will find on dinner tables across the Republic of the Congo. A firm porridge made from cassava flour, it is a key source of starch for many hard-working Congolese, so be sure to try it as a side with one of your main dishes during your time here.
Those looking for a dish that is uniquely Congolese will want to try some Makobe when they are out at a local restaurant. A fish that is common to the Congo River and other freshwater bodies throughout the country, it is cooked by steaming it in leaves with chili seasoning.
If seafood isn’t your thing, be sure to have some Goat Stew. Simmered in a pot for more than an hour with tomatoes, onions, spices, and chili peppers, this meal is pure comfort food, making it a great go-to meal if you just had a tough day traveling the Republic of the Congo.