The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly known as Zaire, is one of the last great frontiers for exploration. It’s also one of the most challenging places to visit.

This lumbering giant at the heart of Africa holds vast swathes of rain forest inaccessible even to locals. Beset by an ongoing civil unrest and lawlessness in some parts of the country, even aid agencies and missionary societies think twice before establishing a presence. Nonetheless, the allure of seeing the gorillas in their mountain hideaways at Virunga and the chance to meet the Pygmies is irresistible for some.

What the DRC offers is a chance to set foot in a place less traveled by outsiders. To experience an altered state of life only the Congolese have lived through is a reward in itself.

The majority of the DRC’s 71-million population is Christian, while 10 percent is Muslim.

While bringing electronic gadgets, even cameras, is strongly discouraged, it’s still worth noting that electricity in this country runs on 220 volts and that the Europlug CEE 7/16 is widely used. Also, a converter may become a necessity if you’re coming from other parts of the world.

So pack your bags and learn some French phrases – Congo is the largest Francophone country in the world in terms of population. Or go loco dancing the soukous, and drink some of the world’s strongest alcoholic beverages.

This article is also available in: Spanish