Virunga © Cai Tjeenk Willink
Ignored by all but the most intrepid travellers, the Democratic Republic of Congo is an undiscovered adventure in the heart of Africa. Decades of civil war and corruption after the end of colonialism brought the central African Democratic Republic of Congo to its knees economically, politically, and socially, although the country has the potential of being the richest in Africa. This vast country (third largest on the continent) currently exists in a state of fragile peace after decades of civil war, still plagued by occasional outbreaks of violence. Despite the tensions, investors are keeping tabs on this battle-worn equatorial enclave, which has enormous mineral wealth, including copper and cobalt.
To the north east, bordering Uganda's Rwenzori Mountains and the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, lies the Virunga National Park that was established in 1925 as Africa's first national park. It became well known for its mountain gorillas (although these are now extremely rare due to poaching and the ongoing civil war), and is close in proximity to beautiful Lake Kivu.
The capital, Kinshasa, is a transportation hub on the Congo River, one of Africa's main arteries, sited opposite Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of the Congo. The city is no backwater, despite the collapse of its economy due to political turmoil; it sports a university and several other important academic institutions, including a research centre for tropical medicine, some worthy historic buildings, monuments and museums. Just outside of Kinshasa is the Lola y Bonobo sanctuary for orphaned bonobo monkeys, as well as a few lovely lakes for swimming and watersports.
Visiting the DRC is risky and recreational tourism is not advised; however, businessmen, diplomats, aid workers and others with essential business are well-catered for in some good hotels and restaurants, chiefly in Kinshasa's affluent Gombe district.