The Republic of the Congo (the Congo, or Congo-Brazzaville) is a small country near the west coast of Africa. Rivers such as the Sangha, Mambili and the mighty Congo drain this basin and provide a means of exploration through dense forests and access to remote national parks such as Odzala-Kokoua. In these regions, more than any other, wilderness is a highlight and traditional cultures persist. Swamps, bais, and rivers characterize the heavily forested landscape, and make it prime western lowland gorilla habitat – and it’s the extraordinary wildlife interactions available here that make the Congo a growing tourist destination. Gorilla trekking is the highlight for travelers here and not to be missed.

A former French colony, Congo-Brazzaville has had a troubled past but is now considered calm, stable, and rapidly developing. Dubbed the ‘Little Paris of Africa’, its French history is most felt in the capital city of Brazzaville with its vibrant streets lined with art, fabric stalls, flower markets, cafés and the smell of freshly baked baguettes from one of its many boulangeries.

That said, tourism is still relatively new. Travelers should not expect five-star amenities in the cities, but because it has been off-the-radar for so long, its wilderness areas and wildlife encounters are truly unforgettable adventures. If you can stand to get your hands a little dirty, the Congo won’t disappoint.