• DRC - a revealing journey to the Congo

    Text and Images by Alastair Kilpin

DRC – a revealing journey to the Congo

Text and Images by Alastair Kilpin, 28 August 2017

Congo. Say it again… the word alone conjures up images of misty green swathes of rainforest.  In it are elusive forest animals rarely seen by humans, gaudy birds more often heard than seen and anything else from giant earthworms to bush vipers and exquisite flowers.  The trees reach to the skies and the lakes plumb the depths of the earth.  And the people themselves are dangerous.  Much of this is true, but I have found the people of the Congo to be as friendly and inviting as any and made all the more amazing when you consider the everlasting trauma that world has inflicted on the DRC.  Why go to the Congo?
The simple answer is for a breath of fresh air and new perspective. All this whilst trekking to spend time with endangered Mountain Gorillas, hiking up steep volcanoes, gliding over enormous lakes and visiting parts not seen by too many foreigners.  The Congo, DRC to be precise, is exciting and moving. It rains a lot of the time, so the shifting clouds and dramatic landscapes make for great photography. Here is a small selection of images from another Mammoth Safaris adventure to this incredible country earlier this year.
Thankfully many of the mountain gorilla families have survived the years of turmoil in the region, thanks in no small part to the dedicated Virunga NP team who have sacrificed much to save these amazing apes. The forest hike is beautiful, but the highlight will always be the hour that you get to spend in the gorillas’ presence.
Many habituated gorilla families have been wiped out in the conflicts in DRC, so the opportunity to see wild, relaxed gorillas is simply amazing. This is one of the newborns from a family close to Bukima Tented Camp.
The forest is full of surprises. I found this large colourful chafer beetle right next to the Mikeno Lodge restaurant deck!
The prize after the hike is the lava lake (and some hot spicy soup if you are lucky!). As impressive and awe-inspiring as this scene is, nothing can prepare you for the show that is on at night!
One can stare into the lava lake on Mt Nyiragongo all night. It can be very cold, so we dress warmly and make the most of the opportunity to be perched at over 11,000ft on an active volcano! The hike up is steep and not for the unfit, but worth every step.
The upper reaches of the volcano are almost devoid of vegetation and apparently lifeless, but the large White-necked Raven makes a living up here.
Lake Kivu has many islands, all inhabited
The population density around Lake Kivu is in the order of 2 million people! Many rely on the lake’s fishery for survival. From the lake, the high mountain forest that the gorillas call home can be seen. So too can the sprawling city of Bukavu which is home to many people displaced during all the civil unrest.
We visit another World Heritage Site in Kahuzi-Biega NP. Very few tourists venture out here, but the rewards of hiking dense untrammelled jungle to spend time with the Grauer’s Gorilla subspecies are fantastic. No caption needed for this image!

These gorilla species that share 97% of our DNA journey through the trees of the forests of the Virunga National Park.

How to make this gorilla trek and volcano safari of a lifetime a reality…
For more information on how to book your Mammoth Safari to search for wilderness, adventure, to “meet” our ancestors and to stare into the bowels of the earth, contact a member of our sales team by sending an email to info@mammothsafaris.com.  Please also visit www.mammothsafaris.com for more destinations and journeys.

For more on the DRC and a sample itinerary of a Congo safari, please visit here