Congo River Expedition
Congo River ExpeditionStyle: PioneerGroundbreaking tours to unique destinations
Duration: 27 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers
The ultimate Congo experience - a 1,000 kilometre voyage on the mighty Congo River from the city of Mbandaka to Kisangani or vice versa. Travel is split into two separate 16 day legs; Mbandaka to Lisala and Lisala to Kisangani, with the opportunity to do the complete trip. The expedition takes in remote villages, some of the country’s important historical sights, rain forests and of course a chance to meet the local people. Experience the different sights and sounds of the real Africa as you travel through a land so few travellers have yet discovered.
We travel using an 18-meter long, wooden boat, equipped with two powerful outboard engines. The boat is further equipped with safety equipment, sanitary installation, a generator, lighting and freezers. It is operated by a licensed and experienced captain, a mechanic and a sailor. A cook and a tourist guide are present throughout. Evenings and nights are spent ashore, enabling cultural exchanges with the local population.
This is an incredible journey through one of the world’s least explored areas – for us this is the very essence of adventure, and we are proud to offer this iconic trip to our clients.
Day 1 - Kinshasa
Arrive in Kinshasa and transfer to the hotel. Overnight Hotel Ixoras or similar.
Day 2 – Kinshasa City Tour
The capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa (formerly known as Leopoldville) is an enormous city, and some say the largest francophone city in the world, beating Paris. From its humble beginnings as a small village, Nshasa, it was identified by Stanley as an important base for the development of the Congo Free State and began to attract both European and Congolese settlers, expanding quickly to become a goliath among African cities. Although previous years have seen many troubles in Kinshasa, it never lost its place as a cultural hub of Central Africa, spawning the renowned Congolese rumba music which remains popular today. In the 1960’s it was the site of the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ boxing match between Mohammed Ali and George Foreman, the largest sporting event in Africa then and ever since. Situated on the banks of the Congo River, it faces the capital of Republic of Congo, Brazzaville, a unique location for a capital city. Kinshasa is recovering from its chequered past in the 21st century, with infrastructure continually improving and investors returning. Kinshasa is hectic, it is brash, it can be at times intimidating, but one cannot understand the history of this intriguing country without a visit here.
Day 3 - Kinshasa to Mbandaka
Fly to Mbandaka, capital of the Equator Province, and the starting point of river expedition. We camp overnight in the city, ready to leave shortly on our 11 day voyage bound for Lisala. Overnight tented camp in Mbandaka. (BLD)
Mbandaka, formerly known as Coquilhatville until Mobutu’s ‘authenticite’ campaign, sits on the edge of the Congo River and is perhaps the most important city between Kinshasa and Kisangani. A busy, bustling city and important river port, it is endowed with few actual sights but gives a fantastic snapshot of central Congo and the trade that plies the river. Founded in 1883 by the explorer HM Stanley and originally named simply ‘Equator’, the large stone that Stanley placed near the river bank, to mark the spot where he believed the river to cross the equator remains there today. During the era of Belgian rule, efforts were made to modernise the city with factories and infrastructure being built, but subsequent conflict left the city neglected.
Days 4 to 13 – Congo River Expedition: First Leg
The first leg of our voyage, up river from Mbandaka to Lisala is expected to take 9 nights. We will be travelling through a vast area, without roads or airports. The river is a vital-life line for the communities we visit en-route. We will see how they go about their every day lives, buying and selling produce from small boats that criss-cross the river. The people we meet have little, if any contact with the outside world, and certainly no concept of tourism. It is the genuinely spontaneous encounters which makes the trip so pioneering and a must for intrepid travellers. There are few places left on earth where such encounters are possible. It is a special experience shared by only an elite group of travellers a year. (BLD)
Each night will be spent ashore at or close to a village where we can buy fresh produce, prepare dinner and set-up our tented camp for the night. Tents are large and comfortable, 2m in height. Each tent is equipped with a camp bed, self-inflating mattress and cotton mattress covers and pillows. Travellers should bring their sleeping bag or sleeping sheet, as well as a towel and toiletries.
Our transport is aboard a 34m long wooden boat, equipped with two powerful outboard engines. Although a traditional boat it is of course equipped with full safety equipment, toilet facilities, a generator, lighting and freezers for food and drinks. A cook and an English speaking guide accompany the trip throughout.
The Congo River
The Congo is central Africa’s greatest geographical feature, an enormous body of water snaking its way through the rainforest to disgorge its contents into the Atlantic Ocean. Acting as a massive drainage channel for the rainforests of the Congo Basin, it is measures almost 3000 miles in length, is the second most powerful river in the world after the Amazon and is also the deepest river in the world. The Congo is fed by a number of other rivers, each giants in their own right but which pale into insignificance in comparison – the Lualaba and the Oubangi among others. The river was first discovered by Europeans in the 15th century when Portuguese sailors noticed that the water was fresh some miles out into sea, prompting them to investigate and so ‘discover’ the river. The river was however unexplored for many centuries, largely due to unnavigable rapids not far into the interior. A British expedition sent in the 19th century explored 150 miles further than had been done before but failed to make further progress. The first known European to chart the course of the river was the famous explorer HM Stanley. Setting out with a caravan provided by Arab slave traders, Stanley and his men faced warlike and cannibalistic tribes, sickness, lack of supplies and exhaustion, and often had to carry their boats through the jungle when they came to rapids and waterfalls. Despite huge difficulties, Stanley eventually emerged at the Atlantic Ocean. Travelling on the river today is of course nowhere near as hard as it was then, but make no mistake, this is still a challenging journey where few western travellers have trod. Those lucky enough to travel through this region will discover cultures largely untouched by the outside world – a rare thing in this day and age.
Day 14 – Lisala
We expect to arrive in Lisala today. Lisala is the home town of the former President Mobutu and the half way point between Mbandaka to Kisangani. Some of your fellow travellers will be returning to Kinshasa, taking a plane back to the capital the following day. At the same time other travellers will fly from Kinshasa to Lisala, in order to travel on the second leg of the expedition to Kisangani. Overnight tented camp in Lisala. (BLD)
Days 15 to 25 – Congo River Expedition: Second Leg
The second leg of our voyage will take us further up river from Lisala, to our final destination, the city of Kisangani. The trip is expected to take 10 nights and as with the first leg, each night will be spent ashore at or close to a village where we can buy fresh produce, prepare dinner and set-up our tented camp for the night.
Highlights of the second leg of the expedition include Bumba, where the river is at its widest, some 20 kilometres across and covered with water hyacinths. Closer to Kisangani we will
travel through Yangambi, an important Biosphere Reserve which hosts 32,000 tree species. Wildlife in the reserve includes elephant, river hog and monkeys. (BLD)
Day 26 – Kisangani
There will be time to explore the city before we return to Kinshasa later in the day. Founded by Stanley in 1877, highlights include the Tshopo River Falls and the Wagenia fisheries, set-up in the middle of the rapids. Fishing is carried out by means of a complex structure set amongst the rocks to trap the fish. Transfer to Kisangani’s airport for a scheduled flight back to Kinshasa. Hotel Ixoras or similar. (B)
Day 27 - Kinshasa
Tour ends. (B)
Tour style: Pioneer
Travel in the DR Congo can be very challenging. It is not an ordinary holiday destination and all clients must be prepared for testing conditions and facilities. Corruption is endemic and petty theft common.
Due to unforeseen situations, we cannot always guarantee the contents of the programme. Your tour will almost certainly be affected by flight delays or possible last minute cancellations. It should also be noted that Congolese airlines do not operate to the same standards as those in Europe. In the event that changes must be made to your tour, our local operator will always endeavour to make suitable arrangements, which meet with the agreement of the client(s). However, we do not accept liability for such changes and compensation will not be offered. Your booking will only be accepted on this basis.
Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation on twin share basis
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
Any airport taxes
Please note that this tour is operated and sold in conjunction with our local partner, and so you may be travelling with people of different nationalities.
Please note that you should also read the Country Notes in association with this itinerary for practical information about your trip and the destination you will be visiting.
The itinerary and supplementary information has been compiled with care and provided in good faith. However it may be subject to change, and does not form part of a contract between the client and Undiscovered Destinations.