Or: How to slip through hellish geo-political context to explore volcanic natural wonders.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has earned its reputation as Africa’s deepest, darkest core.
The country is rich in natural resources that have led both the land and the people to be exploited and ravaged throughout the centuries. Horror has taken place within these borders, from King Leopold II’s brutal colonial regime to the home grown horror of Mobutu to genocidal civil war. All of which left scars on the DRC that are yet to fully heal.
The civil war officially ended in 2003, but even now the government has limited control over the Eastern provinces where local war lords call the shots. Sexual violence, practised by militia to oppress the population, has become a vicious norm in society. In 2017, humanitarian crisis struck again as violence erupted in the Kasai region – one of the poorest regions of an already poor country.
There is Little Doubt that DRC is Africa at its Cruellest and Most Unforgiving.
But there’s still a shred of hope. One natural resource that promises sustainability rather than exploitation: Virunga National Park.
A safe distance from the active Nyiragongo volcano. Let’s get closer…
Virunga is the second oldest national park in the world and a UNESCO heritage site. It’s home to many endangered species, including 400 mountain gorillas, and the world’s largest lava lake – Nyiragongo volcano (3,470m).
During the conflict, the park itself became a battleground as park rangers laid down their lives to protect the gorillas. Now that peace has been restored to the Virunga area, the park is once again open to tourists who can provide a much needed revenue stream to the project and local area.
With a little courage and a large helping of common sense, Virunga National Park may well be one of the most extraordinary places you’ll ever visit.