Republic of the Congo
Congo-Brazzaville (as it is fondly called to distinguish it from its neighbour, the Democratic Republic of the Congo) also enjoys a pleasantly laid-back capital city in Brazzaville, idyllic beaches on its Atlantic coastline and a warm and welcoming Congolese culture.
La Sape, an abbreviation of Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (Society of Ambience-Makers and Elegant People), is a social movement that goes back to the early 1920s when well-dressed men would spend large sums of money on designer clothes to wear at social gatherings. Its members are called Sapeurs, and they are affectionately known as the most fashionable people in all of Africa.
Sapeurism can be traced all the way back to the colonial period in Brazzaville and Kinshasa when house slaves were given clothing instead of money as compensation for their work. This inspired Congolese workers to combat inferiority levelled at them by their French and Belgian colonial masters, and made the workers adapt to their masters' styles but with a hint of their very own exaggerated high-fashion styles.
Suave suits, colourful bow ties, scarves - this is a subculture that has been passed on from generation to generation, and a visit to meet some Sapeurs in Brazzaville is a highlight of any trip here.
The northern rainforests in the heart of the Congo Basin comprise the world’s second-largest expanse of tropical rainforest. The mighty Congo and other large rivers drain this basin and provide a means of exploration through dense forests and access to remote national parks where endemic wildlife flourishes and traditional cultures persist.
For the ultimate African rainforest safari, we recommend continuing on to the Dzangha Sangha Special Reserve in southwestern Central African Republic. Within this reserve lies Dzanga Bai, also known as the “village of elephants”, a large clearing in the rainforest where up to 400 forest elephants gather every day to drink at mineral-rich springs.
For those ready to heed the call of the wild – and are not afraid of adventure – the Congo awaits.
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