The Equator Province is the greenest swath on the map of the Congo. The Province does not have the diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt and other rare metals of the eastern, central and southern provinces. It is the poorest and least developed of the Congo’s provinces. It is the Congo’s Mississiippi.
Dense tropical rain forest covers much of the Province. One flying into Mbandaka for the first time might wonder if anyone lives along the great river pilots follow on their way to Mbandaka, the provincial capital. Congo’s rain forest of the Equator Province was described unforgettably by Joseph Conrad in The Heart of Darkness after his Congo travels in 1890:
“Going up that river was like travelling back in the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings.” (The Heart of Darkness and The Congo Diary, Penguin edition, p.59)
After his own travel up the Congo River in 1925, French writer Andre Gide wrote, “I am rereading The Heart of Darkness for the fourth time. It is only after having seen the country that I realize how good it is.” (Travels in the Congo University of California Press, 1962, pp. 292-293) Forty years into Belgian rule in Congo, Gide was concerned about the effects of deforestation in Equator Province. “I am inclined to think that this continual deforestation, whether it be systematic and deliberate or accidental, may bring about a complete modification of the rain system.” (p. 58)
The following gallery of photos were taken in the rainforest of Equator Province during my Congo visit last summer.