The Zongo River and waterfall is possibly my favorite tourist site in DRC so far…Check out Bottytrekks on Youtube for the video or click the link at the end of this post!
The Zongo Waterfall is located about 3-4 hours from Kinshasa and about an hour and a half from Kisantu. From Kinshasa you will spend most of the journey on the main road, the last stretch of about an hour and a half to 2 hours is off road, from Kisantu, it’s mostly off-road.
On your way to Zongo, you will pass some sort of installation for hydro energy. It looks very cool (to me) but it is military protected so please please don’t take photos or videos and definitely don’t do it obviously, the trouble you will get won’t be worth it.
The Hotel/Lodge is called Seli Safari Resort. The first time I came here, we drove from Kinshasa so spent the night. There are several different types of rooms for different budgets, from apartments for multiple people/couples, to individual rooms in various shapes and sizes. In my opinion, this particular resort is ideal for couples looking for a romantic getaway, or several couples. It’s also very nice for families with small children, they have a playground and little car-cycles (I don’t know the proper name, see photo). However, the river is literally right there, so if you are visiting with children please be careful. It’s also important to note that the staff are strict about your safety…Each time I went near the river to take photos or videos I had a ‘bodyguard’ follow me and stay close to me. It’s completely for your own safety because if you happen to slip, trip, fall…that’s it for you, you are going over the falls…It sounds dramatic but having seen the force of the river and waterfall I have no doubt that if you fall in the water, you cannot be saved. I don’t know if this is an over-dramatization, but better safe than sorry.
From the resort, you can get a guide to take you down to the various waterfall viewpoints; there is a fee per person or per camera. This walk is worth the visit…you will hike from the resort to two main spots where you have a really beautiful view of the main waterfall as well as the little falls next to it. At the second viewpoint I would advise you to put your electronics away, you will be showered by the waterfall…It is a veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery nice feeling after the hike through trees and forest in about 38 degree (Celsius) weather. In general I wouldn’t say you need to be particularly fit to enjoy the hike, however, if you have pain or an injury, it may be a bit tough, but worth it.
In addition to the walking tour of the waterfall, seli safari resort has a very nice swimming pool, the food is very nice and they have all the drinks you want; Soda, wine, beer etc.. Oh, and several staff members speak some English, I know how that sounds, but when you are in a place you don’t know where everyone speaks a language you don’t speak, and you find 1 person who knows 10 words of English, it’s nice!
In addition to the Zongo Waterfall and river at Seli Safari Resort, there is a very special site nearby called the Chute de massage or massage waterfall located near the Zongo ‘Beach’. While you are at the lodge, you can request to visit this waterfall and someone will come with you as a guide. .It isn’t a walking distance, you have to drive and the road there is a special adventure, but so so so worth it. On arrival, you will see what they call the beach, on the other side of the water is Congo Brazzaville. You are not allowed to swim at this beach, for your own safety! However, you will do a short hike to the chute de massage, where you can swim, its relatively shallow so if you are like me and very uncomfortable in deep unfamiliar water, this is perfect. We spent much more time there than planned…there is a smooth rock that you can sit/stand on as the little waterfall pours on you, it legit feels like a Swedish massage…a bit aggressive but the moment you step out of the water your ‘muscles’ feel good. And in general, don’t worry yourself too much about what’s in the water and all, the gentlemen who attend to this place and work as guides (In my opinion) are proud of this site and want you to enjoy it.
In general I will always want to visit Zongo when in Congo, I have visited twice and it doesn’t get less majestic. Oh it might be important to note the season you are visiting, because the experience can be different. For example, when I visited in 2014 it was the dry season, the waterfall and river level was lower so you could go to the edge of the waterfall, this time we couldn’t because there was a lot of water. Also with the chute de massage, the last time I was there, there wasn’t enough water to swim, but this time there was…so maybe check out the season before you go but either way go…its been worth it each time!