Two states, a name, a people, a powerful local kingdom that is lost in the echoes of time, and above all a river, the second longest and most imposing in all of Africa, the Congo. When one mentions the Congo, one is actually talking about a vast region and its backbone, the river of the same name, around which a common identity developed over the centuries, whose geopolitical subdivisions were imposed by the slave trade and the interests of European colonisation.
The Republic of Congo, or more simply Congo-Brazzaville (formerly French Congo), to distinguish it from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, or Congo-Kinshasa (formerly Belgian Congo), whose common borders run along the waters of the mighty shared river, is today considered one of the world’s last equatorial green lungs, second in extent only to the Amazon. Needless to say, a visit to this densely forested country, where the first inhabitants to adapt were, not surprisingly, the Pygmies, who are still far from the most popular tourist routes due to its impenetrability, is a real adventure. A mainly virgin land, inhabited by chimpanzees, elephants, mandrills, gorillas and lute tortoises, it is ideal for ecotourism enthusiasts in search of surprising contact with primeval nature, protected within three main national parks, but explosive everywhere, whether in the intricate equatorial forest, the aquatic mangrove tunnels, the wild beaches of the coast, the fertile tropical banks of the Congo River and its tributaries, or the subtropical plains. While the exploration of the Nouabale-Ndoki, Conkouati-Douli and D’Odzala parks and the approach of the gorillas in the Lesio-Louna reserve is a thrilling experience, an integral part of the adventure will be travelling up the river in local boats, encountering only remote fishing and farming villages, or taking the train along the old colonial railway between the capital, Brazzaville, and the industrial city of Pointe Noire, the hub of oil extraction and an old outpost of the slave trade.
A note of warmth and colour will come from the impeccable Congolese welcome and the meeting with the “Sapeurs” in Brazzaville’s Bacongo district, members of the internationally renowned SAPE popular movement, based on fashion and dandy elegance “made in Congo”, but which is actually a true philosophy of life identity, of a people aspiring to redemption, through a symbolic and eccentric “beautiful presence”. Kinshasa is right in front of you, on the other side of the river, and if you have any doubts about being in the Congo “en face”, it will be the spectacular 1960 Bridge and the Nabemba Tower that will remind you that you are in Brazaville.