Les mangroves

Not many people get to go to the beach on Easter weekend, but then not many people generally drive 400 miles to get there either. On Good Friday I set out with some friends to Muanda, the western most part of Congo and its only coastline. Yes Congo really does have a beach! I wasn’t convinced either but after hearing some reports but we set off to explore.

route

This was not going to be a one day expedition, so we planned to stop off one night in Matadi, the main port for Congo and en route to the beach. As a city it wasn’t bad, there was a nice hotel and a couple of international restaurants. We went exploring late afternoon and found the old train station that used to convey colonial travellers up and down the Congo River. It was completely deserted now, I felt like I was stepping back in time with its First class and Second class entrances!

train station

For dinner we found a great restaurant called fiesta that had a brilliant view of the river and port. Considering the size of Congo it wasn’t a massive port, but still we had a nice view of it at sunset.

poprt

The next morning we were off again and bizarrely had to cross the Congo River to get to our next stop: Boma. The bridge was actually quite impressive.

bridge

At our next destination we met our guide for the weekend and said bye to our cars for the next part of the journey. We took a speed boat away from civilisation downstream into the national marine park to see the renowned mangrove forest. We were trying to spot hippos but only saw a few birds.

river

For one night we were invited to stay in one of the villages in the park. Now this village was a bit special. It was an island of about 70 inhabitants that was covered in shells. Here we had dinner and met the villagers. It was certainly pretty but not the easiest or quietest to walk on!

shells

After some food we went out again on the boat for a sunset cruise and our guide took us right into the depths of the forest. Once the sun had gone down it was quite spooky, like something out of Indiana Jones!

mangroves use

We were treated to a beautiful full moon that evening which lit up the island like a shiny pearl. Despite having had a long day, an early night was not an option as the village children were so excited by our visit they all crowded round us and despite few being able to speak French, they continued to chat away to us and watch as we talked and played cards. Finally though bed called and we slipped into our wooden huts.

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