Republic of Congo
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all travel to Boko, Kindamba, Kinkala, Mayama and Mindouli districts of the Pool region, the Mouyondzi district of Bouenza region and all areas within 50km of the Central African Republic. Click here for more information.
A land of steamy jungles hiding half the world's lowland gorillas, masses of forest elephants, and hooting, swinging troops of chimpanzees, the Republic of Congo is on the cusp of becoming one of the finest ecotourism destinations in Africa.
Boasting three excellent and little-visited national parks where everything from luxurious safaris to bush camping is possible, the main attraction to this alluring slice of West Africa is the unbridled natural beauty. However, Congo-Brazzaville (as it's often called to distinguish it from the Democratic Republic of Congo, south of the Congo River) also enjoys a pleasantly laid-back capital city in Brazzaville, some decent beaches on its Atlantic coastline.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Republic of Congo.
One of the oldest national parks in Africa, the Parc National d’Odzala is Congo's calling card, a massive slice of the Guineo-Congolian rainforest that's also one of earth's last strongholds for lowland gorillas and forest elephants. Odzala also offers one of Congo's few luxurious travel experiences for those who can afford it, with three excellent camps currently operating within its vast expanse.
A Unesco World Heritage Site since 2012, Nouabalé-Ndoki is home to important populations of forest elephants, western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees and many other endangered mammals. The park also boasts over 300 bird species and is a rare example of an intact forest wilderness, completely uninhabited by human settlers. If wilderness is what you seek, Nouabalé-Ndoki is the place for you.
The newest of the three national parks in Congo, Conkouati-Douli was inaugurated in 1999 and is the most biodiverse of the country's national parks. The range of habitat – ranging from beaches and mangrove swamps, to savannah, to rainforest – makes this park home to a huge number of species, including gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants, mandrills and dolphins.
This wonderful modernised embankment is a great place for a stroll, and affords fantastic views over the Congo River to Kinshasa, looming in the distance. La Corniche ends at the massive Pont du 15 août 1960, a brand-new, Chinese-built, cable-stayed bridge connecting central Brazzaville to the presidential palace. The bridge is lit up at night and looks spectacular.
Pointe-Noire's best and most popular beaches are located to the south of the city and are known locally as 'the wild coast'. There are lots of stalls serving fresh fish and cold beers, as well as plenty of room to escape the crowds. A taxi from Pointe-Noire should be around CFA3000.
These wide and powerful rapids on the Congo River can be viewed on the outskirts of Brazzaville. Most people observe the rapids from the nearby bar Site Touristique Les Rapides, but the best viewing is at the other end, down the sandy track after the bridge. A taxi from the city centre costs CFA2000, or you can take a minibus to Pont Djoué from next to Institut Français du Congo.
This lovely stretch of sandy beach 19km north of Pointe-Noire is a great place for a day trip out of the city. It's popular with locals at weekends, and there are several hotels and restaurants here, though during the week you'll have the place almost entirely to yourself.
Half an hour north of Pointe-Noire, just outside the dusty village of Diosso, is the remarkable scenery of Diosso Gorge, which tears through the otherwise ordinary landscape between the village and the coast in a blaze of pinks, yellows and oranges. It's quite a sight to behold, and some locals will even offer to guide you on a hike down to the bottom (CFA3000, one hour). A taxi from Pointe-Noire should cost around CFA10,000 to CFA15,000 return.
Some way north of Pointe-Noire in the village of Diosso is this rather surprisingly located history museum, which covers the history of Congo and its colonisation. It's a small and rather unusual collection, but it's passionately run and – mainly due to an almost total lack of competition – is Congo's best museum. A return taxi from Pointe-Noire should cost around 15,000-20,000CFA.