The next morning we sailed downstream and visited a palm tree farmer who lived on another island on the river with his wife and children. He collected the palm fruits that the trees produced and pressed them for their oil. Palm oil is commonly used in Congo for cooking and you can buy it by the barrel on the side of the road in most towns.
We continued downstream and almost out to sea. Muanda is near the military town Banana (yes that is its real name) and surrounded by oil rigs so we weren’t sure how picturesque the beach was going to be but we were pleasantly surprised. There is a section of the beach that is kept clean and there are guys selling beer, plastic chairs and tables placed under the shade of huge trees where you can nibble on fish wrapped in banana leaves and even a volley ball net.
There are a few hotels in Muanda but thanks to our host and trip organiser, a Belgian ecologist who had grown up in Congo and was now campaigning for the protection of the marine park, we stayed in a guesthouse run by the nuns. It was on a huge complex near the beach including a school, guesthouse and church. The nuns were in full swing with celebrations for Easter and many guests who like us had come to enjoy the delights of the coast over the long weekend.
Time was running out and with heavy hearts we had to make our way back to Kinshasa the next day. We did have time however to stop off in Boma and visit the infamous baobab tree where legend has it the explorer Henry Morton Stanley (who claimed most of Congo for the Belgian King) slept one night on his voyage. The guide reckoned it was over 700 years old. One of Congo’s few ‘tourist’ spots that was certainly interesting.
After that we got back in the cars for the 12 hour drive back to Kinshasa…long but worth it.