Brief History of Congo

Congo possesses a disturbing and complicated history; too complex for a detailed account on this travel guide. What is certain though, is around 1482, a Portuguese Naval Captain named Diego Cão (Diogo Cao/ Diego Cam/Diogo Cam) significantly impacted the course of African history.

Funded by King John of Portugal to seek new lands and trade routes, especially a direct route to India, Cão ventured along the western coast of the African continent, eventually making his way to the Kongo River. Due to the Treaty of Alcacovas, Portugal controlled trade and exploration on Africa’s west coast.

Cão located the mouth of the Kongo River around August 1482, leaving a stone pillar as a marker. His arrival at the Kongo River would mark the beginning of a new era of interactions, both positive and negative, between the African continent and Europe.

Eager to establish diplomatic relations and trade partnerships, Cão forged a relationship with the local king, which enabled the exchange of knowledge, culture, and goods between the two worlds. As a result of this relationship, European influence grew, shaping the region’s religious, social, and political landscape for centuries to come.

It also opened the door for exploitation, leading to the tragic transatlantic slave trade that has left profound scars and consequences for the people of Congo and the wider African continent. In 1506, the king of Congo (christianized as John) died and his son, King Affonso became the ruler.

If you saw the recent remake of Tarzan, clearly the king is based on King Affonso, albeit 300 years later. The very short and blunt is that Affonso raided other tribes and traded the prisoners as slaves to the Portuguese for guns, silks, and spices.

Despite Portugal’s early dominance in the region, their control over the Congo was challenged in the late 17th century when the Omani Empire began to expand its influence. Oman would occupy one of the most powerful navies in the world, if not the most powerful.

In a series of conflicts and battles, Oman proved to be a formidable opponent, eventually defeating the Portuguese and establishing their presence in the area. This shift in power marked yet another significant turning point in Congo’s tumultuous history, as the Omani Empire altered the dynamics of trade and politics in the region.

Consequently, the people of Congo found themselves subject to new influences and struggles, further shaping the cultural and historical narrative of their nation. Skipping ahead a couple centuries, the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 significantly impacted the future of Congo and the African continent as a whole.

Regarded as a pivotal event in the European scramble for Africa, it aimed to resolve conflicting claims of European colonial powers and establish the territorial boundaries of their respective territories. Consequently, Congo, rich in natural resources, became a major point of contention among various European nations, vying for control over its vast territory.

The outcomes of this conference (namely Belgium getting control of Katanga state where the majority of diamonds come from), radically altered both the political and geographic landscape of Africa. It further entrenched colonial rule and left a complex legacy that continues to shape the modern-day Congo.

Approximately 75 years later, a notable event in Congo’s tumultuous history occurred in 1961, with the infamous Siege of Jadotville. This six-day conflict transpired during the Congo Crisis, a period marked by political instability following the nation’s independence from Belgium. The siege, fought between Irish United Nations peacekeepers and a force of Congolese and European-supported mercenaries known as the Katangese Gendarmerie, came to symbolize the wider struggle of the newly-formed nation to redefine its identity and reassert its sovereignty in the face of external pressures.

Jadotville remains a pertinent historical event, shedding light on the complexities of Congo’s turbulent past and its ongoing quest for self-determination. Commanding a company of 155 UN peacekeepers, Captain Quinlan faced overwhelming odds against a force of thousands of well-armed mercenaries and militiamen.

Despite the severe challenges, Quinlan and his men demonstrated exceptional courage and resourcefulness, holding their ground for several days until a truce was ultimately negotiated. Their bravery in these circumstances has come to symbolize the resilience and determination required to overcome adversity throughout the multifaceted journey of Congo’s storied history. The Katangese Gendarmerie emerged as a significant player in Congo’s ongoing struggle for independence and control. Formed during the secession of the mineral-rich province of Katanga from the newly independent Congo, the Katangese Armed Forces, as they were also known, played a crucial role in maintaining law and order within the breakaway territory.

As a paramilitary organization, they not only engaged in armed conflict with the central government but also other factions vying for power in the chaotic post-independence era. Ultimately, their involvement added another layer of complexity to the already turbulent period in Congo’s history, underscoring the challenging road to nation-building and stability in the African state.

About Congo

Country Code: +243.

Crime: In recent years, the Democratic Republic of Congo has experienced a surge in criminal activity, posing a great challenge to the stability and growth of the nation. This rise in crime can be attributed to various factors such as political instability, weak law enforcement, and rampant corruption. It is imperative that the Congolese government address these issues in order to combat this alarming trend and ensure the safety of its citizens. 

Moreover, the international community must also step in to provide support and resources to help the country overcome this pressing issue. Poaching in the Democratic Republic of Congo has further exacerbated the growing crime rate and poses a significant threat to the environment and wildlife populations. Armed groups have been known to fund their violent activities through illegal poaching and the subsequent sale of valuable animal parts on the black market. 

The Congolese government, with the support of international organizations, must take urgent action to strengthen anti-poaching measures and crack down on these illicit trades. By addressing this element of criminal activity, the DRC can move closer toward achieving stability and ensuring the protection of its valuable natural resources.

Currency: Congolese Franc.

Electricity: Type C (2-pin round), Type D (India 3-pin round, triangular pattern), Type E (2-pin round with hole for male socket).

Language: French is the official language but there are four national languages; Swahili, Kituba, Lingala, and Tshiluba.

Latitude and Longitude: 4.0383° S, 21.7587° E.

LGBTQ: Same-sex relationships are legal in Democratic Republic of Congo, but homosexuality is considered to be immoral by the majority of the population. Same-sex marriages and civil unions are not recognized. WARNING: Same-sex relationships are technically legal, but the government is known to prosecute under public indecency statutes.

Population: 99.01 million (2022).

President: Felix Tshisekedi.

National Parks

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is known for its rich biodiversity and is home to some of the most unique ecosystems on the planet. 

Virunga National Park: Established in 1925, Virunga is Africa’s oldest national park. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to diverse landscapes, including savannas, lava plains, swamps, erosion valleys, forests, active volcanoes, and the glaciated peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains.

It’s notably home to about a quarter of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas.

Kahuzi-Biega National Park: This is another UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s named after two extinct volcanoes, Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega.

The park is known for its population of eastern lowland gorillas, also known as Grauer’s gorillas.

Salonga National Park: This is the largest tropical rainforest reserve in Africa and another UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s located in the Congo Basin, the second-largest rainforest in the world after the Amazon.

It is home to many endemic endangered species, such as the bonobo, Congo peafowl, forest elephant, and African slender-snouted crocodile.

Garamba National Park: One of Africa’s oldest national parks, Garamba is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its population of elephants, giraffes, and hippos. However, it has been severely affected by poaching and civil unrest.

Okapi Wildlife Reserve: Located in the northeast of the DRC, the Okapi Wildlife Reserve is home to about a fifth of the Okapi population, a species related to the giraffe that’s only found in the DRC. The park also hosts other wildlife, including forest elephants, leopards, and numerous bird species.

Upemba National Park: Once one of the most important conservation areas in Africa, Upemba National Park has been affected by political instability and poaching. It spans a large area and includes diverse ecosystems.

Lola Ya Bonobo: Lola Ya Bonobo National Park, situated just outside of Kinshasa, serves as a sanctuary for orphaned bonobos, one of the closest living relatives to humans. The park’s primary mission is to rehabilitate and reintegrate these primates into protected areas within the wild. 
As a prominent advocate for conservation and species protection, Lola ya Bonobo National Park educates visitors on the importance of preserving these endangered animals and their natural habitats. By fostering both public awareness and ecotourism, the park plays a key role in supporting the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability and wildlife preservation.
Maiko National Park: Located in the heart of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Maiko National Park covers over 10,800 square kilometers and offers a refuge for rare and endangered wildlife, such as the okapi, the Congo peafowl, and the eastern lowland gorilla. Established in 1970, this remote park faces numerous challenges, including limited infrastructure and ongoing conflicts in the region. 
Despite these hurdles, conservation efforts and international support continue to play a pivotal role in safeguarding the park’s unique biodiversity. By raising awareness of the ecological importance and vulnerability of Maiko National Park, both the park and its supporters contribute to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s commitment to conservation and environmental sustainability.
Mount Nyiragingo Volcano: Nyiragongo Volcano, an active stratovolcano located in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, stands as a testament to the awe-inspiring power and beauty of nature. With an elevation of 3,470 meters, the volcano is famous for its distinct lava lake that draws scientists, tourists, and adventurers alike. 
Visiting this magnificent geological wonder provides a unique opportunity to learn about volcanic activity and its impacts on local ecosystems, while also fostering an appreciation for the natural world. Responsible eco-tourism and safety measures surrounding the Nyiragongo Volcano contribute to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s dedication to balancing environmental preservation and sustainable development.

Top Tourist Attractions

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a country with a wide array of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and historic sites. However, tourism in the DRC has been hampered due to longstanding conflicts and instability in certain regions.

Zongo Falls: These falls, located near the city of Kinshasa, are one of the country’s natural wonders. The waterfall is about 65 meters high and is surrounded by lush rainforest.

Livingstone Falls: Named after the famous explorer David Livingstone, these falls are a series of massive rapids on the lower course of the Congo River.

Lake Kivu: One of the African Great Lakes, Lake Kivu lies on the border between the DRC and Rwanda. It’s a beautiful place for relaxation, with opportunities for boating and hiking.


The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is crossed by the Equator, so its climate is equatorial. It is  characterized by high temperatures and humidity throughout the year, with very little variation.

However, due to its vast size and varying topography, there can be some regional variations in climate.

Equatorial Rainforest Region: The central basin region around the Congo River is covered by a large rainforest and has an equatorial climate. This region experiences heavy rainfall throughout the year, with no dry season.

The amount of rainfall varies from about 1,700 to 2,000 millimeters (67 to 79 inches) per year. The temperature is consistently high, with average highs around 30-32 degrees Celsius (86-90 degrees Fahrenheit).

Eastern Highlands: In the eastern highlands, which include large portions of the Kivu and Maniema provinces and the eastern part of Tshopo and Haut-Uele, the climate varies from tropical rainforest to tropical savanna. The area includes the Mitumba Mountain range, and the altitude moderates the otherwise high tropical temperatures.

The region has a relatively long dry season from May to September.

Coastal Region: In the small coastal region, where the capital, Kinshasa, is located, there’s a dry season from May to September and a rainy season from October to May, with a short dry spell in January. Annual rainfall is about 1,400 millimeters (55 inches).

Temperatures in this region are quite stable, with average highs around 30-32 degrees Celsius (86-90 degrees Fahrenheit) and lows around 20-22 degrees Celsius (68-72 degrees Fahrenheit).

Southern Region: In the southern part of the country, there’s a dry season usually from April to October, and a rainy season from November to March. Rainfall decreases as you move further south, with the far south of the country experiencing a tropical savanna climate, with a pronounced dry season in the winter months.

Despite the regional variations, the DRC is generally hot and humid, particularly in rainforest areas. The country does not have the traditional seasons—spring, summer, fall, and winter. Instead, the seasons are divided into rainy and dry periods.