Brazzaville City Tour
Being the capital, and likely entry point by air, it's worth spending a couple of days in the Brazzaville to cover off the main points of interest. I'd recommend Basilica of Saint Anne due to the beautiful architecture both inside and outside with it's green roof. Next up is Nabemba Tower, which is within easy walking distance from the basilica. The tower holds the title of the tallest building in the country at 106 meters. The Pierre Savorgan Memorial is worth a quick 10 minute stop, although the museum is very basic and the mausoleum on the lower level is currently off limits to tourists. In the same area there's the train station which has the Congolese Statue of Liberty adjacent. Towards the opposite end of the city you have the "I Heart Brazzaville Sign" and the Independence Bridge.
Congo River Rapids
On the outskirts of Brazzaville you can view the Congo Rapids in all their glory. This wide stretch of water separates Brazzaville and Kinshasa (the two closest capital cities in the world). I stood in awe when looking at the rapids! Despite travelling all around the globe, I was still standing in amazement from the water power.
There's a relaxed bar by the name of "Les Rapids" which is a great starting spot for a drink, before walking along the beach to see local fishermen, before crossing the boulders to reach the rapids.
A 100km drive north of the capital and you'll reach Lesio Louna, which is a natural reserve and home to many western lowland gorillas. The reserve is used as a habitat to rehabilitate gorillas before releasing them into the wild. The gorillas themselves are in the open wilderness and simply monitored by the reserve workers. You will take a motorised canoe along the river, which is an experience in itself, before reaching various points to admire the gorillas from a distance. For photography lowers, a 200-350mm lens will work well.
For those wishing to stay overnight, there's a lodging facility at the reserve. This truly is a spectacular opportunity to see this beautiful species!
Blue Lake is a popular spot for both tourists and locals, and it's evident to see why. The lake has the nickname "Saturn Ring" due to the spectacular colours that reflect off the water. You can jump in for a swim in the crystal clear water, or just relax and sunbathe along the jetty. This is a peaceful spot just off the dirt track road which takes you to Lesio Louna, so very easy to combine the two.
An 80km drive south west of the capital will take you to Loufoulakari Falls, which is a stunning waterfall at the confluence of the Loufoulakari River and Congo River. There's a small entrance fee of 3 Euro per person, which helps support the local village. You can view the falls from various points, whilst feeling completely secure on large stone blocks. No matter what time of year, this waterfall won't disappoint. My visit was in he dry season, but the waterfall was still very powerful! There's also a nearby walking trail which will take you down to a small beach on the river bank in around 15 minutes.
The Cliffs of Manguengue
A worthwhile half day trip from Brazzaville is hopping onto a boat and heading to the picturesque landscape of The Cliffs of Manguengue. For clarity, this is not a daily boat route, so you'll to hire a local boat owner. It will take around 1 hour each way, whilst passing some local river communities en route. The cliffs are white limestone and tower above the river surface. There's a sand bank to stop and have a picnic, as well as this being a calm spot to kayak along the river. For photographers, it's also a great opportunity en route to take some shots of Brazzaville from the water.
The sapeurs are an elegantly dressed community combining long standing values with modern day fashionista style. The sapeurs are often referred to as "Africa's most extravagant and stylish people" and for good reason. These performers meet every Saturday late afternoon at a set spot in Brazzaville and turn the streets into an open air fashion show as they ooze swagger in their freshly pressed suits. This is a tradition that's continued since the 1930's from it's origin of smartly dressed servants working for high class families. I would definitely recommend including this unique experience into your itinerary. If you speak to locals, you might find that the sapeurs meet on selected weekdays too.
I chose Hotel Hippocampe in Brazzaville as my accommodation choice. Located in the heart of the capital and a great base to use for multiple day trips. The rooms are a good standard in a clean environment. There's a great on site restaurant too, which is popular with the locals midweek.
Only downside is that the WiFi connection isn't great inside the rooms. If this is important to you, see if you can be placed in room 1, 2, or 3 for the strongest connection.
There was a handful of very well respected restaurants in the capital for food lovers, with Le Concept stealing the show for me. Very welcoming vibe with a relaxed ambiance, as well as an extensive menu. All dishes are well presented and very tasty! The salmon and vegetables were a top pick for me, with the chicken topping the list of my accompanying travel buddy. There are also vegetarian options available. Price point is mid-range by European standards, but on the higher side compared to other local alternatives.
Based on the numerous day trips packed into my itinerary, I felt it was worthwhile using a local guide company. I was surprised by the limited options, but one name was consistently mentioned within my travel community. Lawanda Tours is locally run by Kiki and Gilles, who speak great english and have extensive knowledge of the region. Both are well travelled globally, so fully understand the needs of tourists. Providing me with a kayak for the Cliffs of Manguengue trip was a very nice gesture.
You can reach Lawanda Tours via Whatsapp on either +242 05 653 2323 or +242 06 879 2020.