Is it safe to visit the Congo?

Despite being scarred by decades of poor governance and civil wars, the Congo is hugely appealing and visitor numbers are on the increase.

As recently as May 2012 rebel activity forced the Virunga NP to close to tourism and while a peace agreement was reached at the end of 2013 the tourist facilities in the Park were not fully operational again until late 2014. By mid-2015 Goma, Bukavu, Virunga and Kahuzi-Biéga were considered reasonably safe.

Many government travel advisories explicitly warn against visiting the Congo and you should be aware that this invalidates many travel insurance policies and specific insurance cover will be required from a specialist travel company.

That said, the rebel activity in the eastern Congo is not anti-Western or anti-Christian and tourists have not been a target, their primary preoccupation would appear to be evading justice and continuing to operate their illegal fishing and charcoal smuggling syndicates.

In 2015 approximately Vurunga NP had approximately 3,000 and this number is increasing exponentially, happily no one has come to any harm - and this is obviously imperative to the future of the Park which relies on a combination of custom, interest and exposure.

Our colleagues on the ground in both Goma and the Virunga NP take visitor security exceedingly seriously - they have access to an extensive intelligence network that monitors conditions on the ground in the region. Ultimately we take our lead from them, and if they tell us not to travel we will not travel as they have a vested interest in ensuring that there are no incidents with their visitors.

What about the volcano?

It may appear absurdly counter-intuitive to spend one's leisure time hiking up and active volcano that devastated parts of Goma town in 2002. Nyiragongo has an unusually high silica content which means the molten lava moves particularly quickly, that's the bad news. The good news is that the region's volcanoes are closely monitored once again (the specialist equipment that was looted pre-2002 has been replaced and is functional) and there are typically strong signs given off in the weeks and months before an eruption.

Posted by: Rod Tether

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