What’s in a name?
To the confusion of geography students everywhere, there are actually two Congos, and that’s before we even get onto the river. The word Congo possibly comes from the mediaeval Kingdom of Kongo, and it’s a word that has echoed through the ages, inspiring explorers and adventurers of all stripes.
Even today, say the word Congo to yourself and your imagination will be instantly filled with steamy tropical forests, mighty rivers, gorillas and colourful birds. All this and more awaits you in Odzala, which has helped put Congo on the ecotourism map.
Say the word again, and try and deny its irresistible power. A bucket list that doesn’t feature Congo is not worth kicking!
Odzala is located in the Republic of Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville after its peaceful and fascinating capital. On the southern bank of the Congo River lies the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, also known as Congo-Kinshasa.
While the history of the two nations is inevitably linked, more recently they have taken different paths. ‘Our Congo’ is now a peaceful, orderly country which is beginning to embrace the opportunities offered by ecotourism, while the DRC is still a more troubled nation.
The DRC also used to be known as Zaïre, from a local phrase meaning ‘the river that swallows rivers’. As ever, the names given by Africans to their own landmarks were far more eloquent than those superimposed by Europeans.