Announce you’re heading off on a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and you might get a few raised eyebrows… I mean, what is there to do in the DRC? While most head to the heart of Africa for the phenomenal gorilla trekking opportunities in Virunga National Park, we’ve come up with a few more equally as thrilling activities to get your teeth into on a DRC safari. Pack your sense of adventure and let’s go!
Meet the Congo bloodhounds
Those clever chaps in the DRC’s Virunga National Park are doing something different in their fight against poaching – they’ve got themselves some bloodhounds. Famous for their sense of smell, the dogs are being trained to ‘man trail’ in the Democratic Republic of Congo by foremost bloodhound expert Dr Marlene Zahner. They’ll be used to protect Virunga’s critically endangered mountain gorilla from poachers, and also to aid the search for injured rangers in the challenging terrain. Currently based at the Virunga National Park headquarters, lucky guests can visit the bloodhounds, hear a little about the incredible training program, and even watch a practise sniff.
Visit the orphaned gorillas at Senkwekwe
Currently the only centre in the world caring for orphaned mountain gorilla, the Senkwekwe Mountain Gorilla Centre in the DRC was built in 2010 as a result of donations from around the world. The site at Rumangabo, Virunga National Park’s headquarters, was deemed perfect with its lush forest and abundance of wildlife, and the first orphaned gorilla arrived soon after. Today, the extraordinary caregivers at the centre look after gorilla that have been victimised by poachers and animal traffickers, calling on the fabulous Gorilla Doctors of the DRC when they need to.
Hike in the Rwenzori Mountains
If active volcanoes aren’t really your thing, how about trekking in the Rwenzori instead? Located on the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the highest peak of the ‘Mountains of the Moon’ is a dizzying 5109 metres, and the range is home to the only glaciers on the African continent. A climb to Margherita Peak will take you through swirling mists and glorious alpine meadows, past weird and wonderful plants and even forest elephant and okapi. Currently, the park isn’t able to supply climbing gear or food for trekkers so you’ll need to come prepared, but you will be accompanied by a Virunga ranger and local porter.
Relax at Tchegera Island
If you’ve managed to tick off all these DRC activities (or even a few!), then firstly, we’re impressed, and secondly, it’s time you had some well-deserved R&R. And we’ve got just the place – Tchegera Island. An emerald-green oasis, just off the northern shore of Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the only sign of human habitation is the eight tents of Tchegera Island Camp. Book in for a night or two and wander around the island keeping your eyes peeled for the multi-coloured birdlife, swim in the croc-free waters, or just relax and watch the twinkling stars, beer in hand.
Hike to the top of Nyiragongo Volcano
The gorillas might be the star attraction in the DRC, but Nyiragongo Volcano definitely comes a very close second. The active volcano will be the first thing you see upon arrival in Goma, a rosy glow boiling mysteriously at its conical top. And it’s that molten glow you’ll be heading for on a hike to the summit. Starting from the Kibati ranger station, just outside Goma, you’ll climb through tangled tropical forest and scramble over craggy rocks on the five-hour climb, before arriving at the lava lake at the top. When darkness falls, watch the molten liquid bubble and spurt, before falling asleep in a small camping hut on the crater rim. Now that’s a night that won’t be forgotten in a hurry!