Saturday, 1 April 2017

DR CONGO: Discover Kisangani The City On The Island In The Democratic Republic Of Congo

Kisangani formerly Stanleyville is the third largest city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is the capital and largest city of the vast Orientale Province which is about the size of Spain, in the Congo Basin.

The city is found at the furthest navigable point on the Congo River upstream of Kinshasa/Brazzaville at the end of the Boyoma Falls, a series of cataracts along a 100 km stretch of the river.

The city's name comes from Swahili for "the city on the island" due to the number of tributaries in the area that almost completely separate Kisangani as an island.

Kisangani was a former port known as Stanleyville after its founder Henry Morton Stanley.

It traded palm oil and nuts throughout the Congo.

After the Congo gained it's independence and years later was ruled by President Mobutu Sese Seko he renamed he town Kisangani in order to Africanise his country.

Since then Kisangani has remained a major port for the tribes in the northern region in the country.

Being very near the equator and in the middle of the jungle, you might suspect the city has a wet, tropical climate and yes it does!

Humidity is high year-round, averaging 86%! Temperatures are fairly stable year-round, too, averaging 31/20 (88F/68F). The record low is just 16 (61 F).

Rains are heavy throughout much of the year, with a relatively dry season from December to early March.

Total rainfall for the year is 1620mm (63.78 inches) with the rainiest month being October (218mm/8.58in) while the driest is January (53mm/2.09in).

Kisangani is served by Bangoka International Airport. It has one international flight with Kenya Airways to Nairobi. Domestic flights to Goma and Kinshasa on CAA & FlyCongo along with service to Kindu on CAA.

As the end of the navigable stretch of the Congo River, Kisangani was formed largely to unload cargo and transfer it to train to bypass the cataracts.

There are irregular ferry services running between Kisangani and Kinshasa which take about 2-3 weeks. Most of these are old barges tied together and crowded with people riding atop cargo, although a few steamer vessels run this route too.

Overcrowded ferries are common and there have been a few instances of them capsizing, so choose carefully.

If you are lucky, you can negotiate with the captain for a private room or a bedroom.

Many of these ferries are supplied with food from people who bring boats from shore full of goods to trade or barter. A unique and classic trip, it's only for the hearty, experienced traveller, though still preferable to traveling overland.

Kisangani is difficult to reach by road. The only relatively "easy" route into the city is the newly rehabilitated National Route 4 which runs to Bukavu and the Rwandan border.

Much of the road is sealed, but slow-moving trucks and pedestrians & people on bikes keep the speed of vehicles down.

You should expect to encounter a handful of military or police checkpoints where you will likely be harassed for a bribe.

The route isn't terribly safe, with frequent reports of bandits setting up roadblocks and robbing motorists.

Additionally, safety in North/South Kivu is still shaky. You are best off traveling with a trucker or other local vehicle.

If traveling in your own vehicle especially a non-DRC vehicle, try to travel with a local or convoy for safety and to avoid excessive harassment at checkpoints.

Other roads in/out of the city are mostly muddy tracks only suitable for large 4x4 or 6x6 trucks. Travel from other major cities in the DRC can take weeks and isn't a very pleasant experience!

A train line runs south to Ubundu, mainly to haul freight traveling by boat around the cataracts. You should inquire at the train station for tickets and the next train as the trains run on erratic schedules.

Very few taxis and cars in general are available in Kisangani, but there's an easy and fun way to get around.

Stretch out an arm to any passing little motorbike and they'll take you to any place in the city. Normal price is around 1,5 USD. Same goes for natives on bicycles: they are an even cheaper alternative to motorbikes. Slower and less exciting though.

Boyoma Falls. On the edge of Kisangani, these are the last cataracts on the Congo until Kinshasa/Brazzaville.

Fishermen set up conical traps for fish and can be seen tending to these traps. Some have realized that tourists want to see them and there are reports that they will charge dollars to see them,stopping you before reaching the river and/or photographing them.

Congo boat rides. A trip by boat along the Congo is one of the world's greatest wild adventures. Trips by pirogue for a few hours or a few days can be arranged in most cities along the river.

Only a couple tour operators in the country offer these rides, but if you speak good enough French or Swahili, you can probably talk a pirogue owner into a short trip,make sure you understand what you're doing & where you're going.

Also you could head to the City Center and visit the bustling Central Market or even opposite Avenues de Atelier, you could have cheap but top quality lunch at La Bourgeoise.

Finally on Avenue Lumumba you could take photos of Lumumba stadium, it is not much but something to keep in memory.

Buy yourself a ride on the great Congo River. You'll really enjoy it. Also see if you can find any traditional souvenirs to remind of the journey.

Expect to eat what's eaten around most of the Congo; rice, maize and fish.

Drink the popular Congolese beer and european wines.

There are a handful of Hotels in Kisangani that are of an Alright standard these would include:

- Hotel Le Renaissance on Route Batwaboli
- Les Chalets on Boulevard du 30 Juin
- Hotel de Canon on Boulevard de 30 Juin
- Hotel Palm Beach on N7
- Grand Ramela below R408

Leaving is easy. Head to the port and get on a boat heading straight to Kinshasa, and from there get to the Ndjili Airport in Ndjili, Kinshasa and board a plane that goes to Europe.
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