The Congo River
The Congo is one of the largest and most full-flowing rivers in Africa. The jungle on its banks allows you to get closer to the world of wildlife.
If you are planning a tour of wild Africa, it is worth finding out where the Congo River is located – the most full and deep water artery of the “black” continent. On the mainland it is inferior in length only to the famous Nile: its length is just over 4370 km.
The Congo is famous for being the only river in the world which crosses the equator twice. In some places, the depth of the river exceeds 200 m, which has given rise to numerous legends of mythical monsters allegedly living in it.
The basin area of the famous wild river exceeds 4,000,000 km2 . The water flow of this largest waterway in Africa is more than 41,000 m 3 /s. It is located mostly on the territory of the state of the same name. However, a more detailed study of the location of the Congo River on the map shows that in a certain area it flows on the border with Angola.
Information about the origins of the river is quite contradictory. Researchers can not come to a definite conclusion where the river originates. At present, there are two officially accepted versions:
- The source is the Lualaba River, which forms in the southeastern part of the Republic of the Congo on a plateau directly bordering the territory of Zambia.
- The second popular version of where the Congo river begins in Africa looks like this: its beginning is considered the Chambezi, which waters originate between lakes Nyasa and Tanganyika, located at an altitude of about 1600 m. At the outlet of the natural reservoir Mweru, the Chambezi flows into the Lualaba.
Among the interesting facts about the Congo, it is worth mentioning that the water artery has two names. Its upper course (up to the locality of Kisangani) is called by the locals the same as its possible source – Lualaba.
The upper course of the Congo has many rapids and waterfalls, seriously complicating navigation. The largest waterfall (height about 500 m) it forms in the Nzilo Gorge, located in the southern foothills of the Mitumba Mountains. It alternates between rough stretches and leisurely flows, and after Stanley Falls, near the equator, it carries its waters smoothly and evenly. Here its banks are rather low and marshy, and in some places the distance between them is up to 10-15 km, which allows speaking about the formation of natural lakes.
In the lower reaches of the river flows through the territory of the South Guinea Plateau, and the banks are rocky and precipitous (their height up to 500 m). Between settlements Kinshasa and Matadi Congo forms the famous Livingstone Falls, the considerable depth of which earned her fame as the most full-flowing river in Africa.
The most important right tributaries of the waterway are:
- in the upper part: the Lukuga, Luwua, Lufira;
- in the middle: Ubangi, Aruwimi, Sanga, Mongala, Itimbiri;
- in the lower reaches: Alima.
Left tributaries of the Congo include the Kasai, Lulongo, Ruki, Lomami (in the middle part), and Inkisi (in the lower parts). It is intuitively clear where the river flows into: its streams mix with the waters of the Atlantic.
The entire Congo Basin has a tropical equatorial climate. The average annual temperature is +25-28 ° C, but during the summer months the thermometer often rises to +30 ° C. The rainy season is in March-April and October-December and the total amount of precipitation reaches 2000 mm a year.
Almost everywhere the Congo coast is covered with equatorial forests. In the jungle you can find such unique representatives of African flora, as mahogany, guava, eucalyptus, ebony. Many evergreen shrubs grow here, and the height of some trees reaches 70 m.
The river basin is home to herds of gazelles, zebras and giraffes, which are often hunted by nimble cheetahs. Elephants, hippos, and hairy wild boars often come to the waterhole, while anthropomorphic gorillas can be found in the jungle. The world of reptiles and insects on the banks of the Congo is impressive, with crocodiles, poisonous spiders, water pythons, and cobras. The depths of the river are also inhabitable: while fishing, you can catch predatory tiger fish of enormous size, catfish, Nile perch, barbel, freshwater herring, and mormerops.
Tiger fish can be up to 2 meters long and weigh as much as 70-80 kilograms, so caution should be exercised when hunting them.
You can choose Congo River tours in two different directions:
- A civilized trip through the country’s cities in the basin of this waterway: Brazzaville, Congolo, Kisangani, Kinshasa, Kindu, Matadi, Boma and others. This will give you a closer look at the culture and economy of the country, and you can travel between localities by ferry.
- Exciting excursion into the unknown world of the jungle in a traditional Congolese canoe with visits to villages of native tribes and overnight stays in hotels on the shore. Such a trip usually takes 7-8 days and costs approximately $3,000 per person (including accommodation).
You can get to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and see the natural beauty of the river by buying a ticket for a transit flight to Kinshasa. There are no direct flights to Moscow, so you must change planes in Zurich, Paris, Rome, Lisbon or Brussels. Flying cost is quite high – 1000 USD – 1500 USD round trip.
After arriving, you can go straight to the state capital, Brazzaville, by buying a ferry ticket for 5 USD – 15 USD. The trip will not take more than 20 minutes, but you should arrive about an hour before the departure of the ship to go through passport and customs control.
There are also ferries from Kinshasa to Bangui (Central African Republic). They run only 2-3 times a month, covering a huge distance of over 1,000 km upriver and stopping at all the major population centers. This is a great opportunity to explore the geography of the Congo more closely. A ferry ticket will cost from 9,000 CFA (seat on deck) to 70,000 CFA (first class cabin).
The Congo River is one of Africa’s most amazing natural attractions, so it deserves detailed study by true travel connoisseurs.
The World’s Deepest Congo River in Africa
The continent “Without Cold,” as the ancient Greeks called Africa, is second in size after Eurasia and is home to the full-flowing and deepest rivers on Earth. One of these was the water artery flowing in the heart of Africa, the Congo River. It has acquired many honorary titles:
- The deepest river in the world (up to 230 meters).
- The most full-flowing after the Amazon.
- The longest river of the continent after the Nile.
- The only stream in the world that crosses the equator twice.
The pioneer of the famous river in the XV century was the explorer of the “black continent” Diogo Can – a native of Portugal.
The river flows through Central Africa and spills over the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and forms the irrevocable boundary between the Republic and Angola.
Evidence of the origins of the Congo is ambiguous. Today, there are two versions of the origin of the river:
- The point of origin is thought to be the waters of the Chambezi River between Lakes Nyasa and Tanganyika at 1,500 feet.
- The Lualaba River, originating on the eastern plateau of the Republic of Congo, becomes the source of the Congo.
For more than 4,700 km the river makes its way through the mountain ranges and plateaus before reaching the Atlantic Ocean. It is customary to divide the course of the Congo into upper, middle and lower reaches:
- In the upper Congo, the water rushes violently through close crevasses, forming waterfalls and overflows.
- In the flat part of Africa, the water stream overflows and creates a wide valley with many lakes and channels.
- The South Guinean highlands hinder the river’s path downstream, enclosing the raging stream in a gorge not more than 220 m wide and about 230 m deep. This circumstance determines a special characteristic of the river as the deepest on the planet. Here, at the threshold of 270 meters, there is a drop of water flow, known throughout the world – it is called the Livingstone Falls. Seventy drops and waterfalls decorate the landscape in this section of the stream.
The deep river flows into the Atlantic Ocean near the settlement of Banana and forms a flooded estuary, extending up to 11 kilometers. The flow of the Congo in the ocean water can be felt 17 km away from the place where the fresh and salt water meet.
The most significant tributaries of the Congo River are:
- Right: A tributary of the Congo, the Aruvimi, the Ubangi, the Sanga.
- On the left: Lulonga, Ruki, Kasai, Lomami.
Characteristics of the Congo River in numbers
The deepest river in the world has a steep temperament and expresses the admirable power and beauty of the world. The numerical information about its geographical parameters is impressive and paints a more complete picture of the Congo:
- The total length of the water courses is 4,700 kilometers, and considering the river’s tributaries, it is twenty thousand kilometers, which is equal to half the length of the circumference of the Earth.
- The river carries 42450 cubic meters of water per second into the ocean, giving first place only to the Amazon.
- The flow rate at its mouth is from 23 000 to 75 000 cubic meters per second and the average annual flow is 1450 km³.
- The water saturation of the river is held at the same level throughout the year, due to the successive rainy seasons. The Congo ranks second in the world after its South American sister in basin area at 3,680,000 km².
- The Congo is not only the deepest river in the world, it is also one of the widest – the distance from one bank to the other is 15 kilometers.
- The Congo River has enormous potential for hydropower. Its energy potential is estimated at 390 GW – an impressive figure that would eclipse Russia’s energy production in 2007, for example.
- Several thousand cargo ships pass through the river every day, and a complex, branched out system provides the settlements with everything they need. The length of the shipping lanes is about twenty thousand kilometers.
The navigable system includes the whole basin of the river, making its branched structure. The total length of the tracks is more than 20 thousand kilometers. Thousands of transport ships pass through the shipping lanes every day.
The animal and plant life of the Congo River
Central Africa’s long waterway is stunning in its splendor and diversity of fauna and flora: its banks are covered by tropical jungle, home to more than 600 species of trees and more than ten thousand classes of animals.
Despite the mass extermination of animals of the African continent, the fauna of the Congo Basin is rich in species of wild animals:
- Primates – gorillas and other species.
- Feline – leopards.
- The mongrels – buffalo.
Variety of birds and reptiles, especially reptiles. In the warm waters of the Congo are crocodiles.
The Blue Highway of Africa is famous for its unique fishing, because its character varies along the way: in the beginning – it is shallow and narrow, further – rough and rushing, below – the formation of lakes and leisurely flowing stream.
Water temperature reaches thirty degrees Celsius, which contributes to the development of a large number of river microorganisms, which are excellent food for fish.
Here you can catch catfish, mormirops, Nile perch, but most of all fishermen are eager to pull a unique fish out of the water – the Tiger Goliath. The Latin name characterizes this creature best – a giant water dog with sharp fangs, size up to one and a half meters and weighing up to seventy kilograms. This “dog” is characterized by beautiful shimmering silver-gold scales. Its meat tastes, according to fishermen, like pike-perch.
The vegetation of the Congo forms a strong block of rain forests with a tree canopy of about 35 meters, with pinnacles trees reaching the 60-meter mark. They do not shed their leaves and are characterized by the presence of evergreen crowns. The jungles of the Congo are called the “lungs of the planet.” The main large trees are astonishing in their power, uncommonness and exotic beauty:
- Entandophragmus of the Meliaceae family, a tall plant with a powerful, thick trunk and a flat-roof-like crown.
- Guarees or mahogany, distinguished by its rare beauty wood.
- Maranthes naked from the Chrysobalanum family with fruit hanging in bunches.
- Legumes are parkia bicolor and others.
Herbaceous species of vegetation prevail in swampy flooded areas, the most numerous of which is papyrus.
The dry sandy valleys of the Congo River are covered with thickets of stunted trees and cereal grasses.
The Congo River on a Map of Africa
A map of Africa shows the path that the Congo River takes across the expanse of the equatorial part of the continent: from the East African Plateau to the Atlantic Ocean.
- Thanks to its smooth bend in the central part it crosses the equator twice, which distinguishes it from all the rivers of the world.
- The river has become the natural boundary of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with the country of Congo.
- The largest tributary of the Congo, the Ubangi continues to delineate African states. It marks the border zone between the DRC and the Congo, as well as the Central African Republic.
Environmental issues of the Congo River
The environmental deterioration of the river basin is due to several circumstances: