The Congo Rainforest is the largest rainforest in Africa and the second largest in the world after the Amazon. Crisscrossed with many rivers and waterways, the heart of the rainforest is the namesake Congo River, one of the longest on the continent. The Congo, once referred to as the ‘Dark Heart of Africa’, was the epitome of exotic adventure to the European mind during the colonial era. Today it is home to one of the world’s most important ecosystems.
The jungles of Central Africa have been inhabited for as long as eighty thousand years. More advanced peoples began immigrating into the area from eastern and southern Africa sometime around the 5th century. Europeans avoided the area until the late 19th century. The first explorer to open up the Congo Rainforest was Henry Morton Stanley in the 1870s. The rainforest has been an important source of wealth (lumber, agriculture and minerals) for over a century.
The Congo is still very extensive, accounting for nearly one-fourth of the world’s surviving tropical rainforest. It sprawls across both Congo states blus a large chunk of southern Cameroon. It ranges from dense lowland forests to swamps to lightly forested grasslands in the north. Amazingly, after decades of exploitation and despite current issues, there is little net deforestation in the Congo today. Neverthless, much of the forest has a long way to go in recovering its larger animal populations.
The Congo Rainforest is still, in some ways, the height of adventure. The most popular and traditional way of exploring the jungle is by riverboat up the Congo River (a journey notoriously recounted in Joseph Conrad’s book, Heart of Darkness). Unfortunately violence in the area has seriously curtailed this activity over the last twenty years or so. Web: N/A.