Welcome to Mbandaka, a city located on the Congo River in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Formerly known as Coquilhatville, Mbandaka is the capital of Équateur Province and is home to the Fourth Naval Region of the Navy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Despite years of war and neglect, Mbandaka remains a fascinating destination for travelers seeking adventure and a glimpse into the history and culture of the Congo.
Geographically, Mbandaka lies on the east bank of the Congo River below the mouth of the Ruki River, a tributary of the Congo. It is located at the center of the Tumba-Ngiri-Maindombe Ramsar wetland, making it a prime destination for nature lovers and birdwatchers. The city is largely populated by people of the Mongo ethnic group, although people from many different tribes and regions live in the city. The main languages spoken in Mbandaka are Lingala, French, and Mongo.
Mbandaka was founded in 1883 by British explorer Henry Morton Stanley, who named it Équateurville. The town hall is about 4 km (2.5 miles) north of the equator, making it one of the closest to the equator of any substantial city in the world. Stanley placed a large Equator Stone near the riverbank south of the city to mark the point where he believed the equator crossed the river. It remains there today. Due to its symbolic location close to the equator and the Congo River, there were early plans to locate the capital of the Congo Free State in Coquilhatville, as the city was then called, but they never came off the drawing board.
Today, Mbandaka is a bustling city with a rich history and culture. Visitors can explore the Catholic Mission station and Central African history research centre of Bamanya, a large research centre for Central African history, originally set up by Fathers Gustaaf Hulstaert and Honoré Vinck. The Eala Botanical Garden, founded in 1900, is one of the finest botanical gardens of central Africa and contains between 4,000 and 5,000 species. It covers approximately 370 hectares with special collections, forest, marsh, and savanna Euobe. Mbandaka is also the home of the world’s first project of Habitat for Humanity International, founded by Millard Fuller in 1973.
Mbandaka has a tropical rainforest climate under the Köppen climate classification. Although precipitation in the city does vary considerably, it does not have a dry season; the driest month is January, averaging around 3.2 inches or 81.3 millimetres of precipitation. The wettest is October with 8.4 inches or 213.4 millimetres. Temperatures are relatively constant throughout the course of the year, with median temperatures ranging from 74.0 to 79.0 °F (23.3 to 26.1 °C).
Despite its challenges, Mbandaka remains a unique and fascinating destination for travelers seeking adventure and a glimpse into the history and culture of the Congo. Come explore this hidden gem and discover all that Mbandaka has to offer!