Book Review Double - Canoeing the Congo and Facing the Congo

This post comprises a double Congo River book review.  Two short reviews on books I read before I started "officially" writing reviews.

Facing the Congo (2000) by Jeffrey Tayler

Facing an existential dilemma and dissatisfied with his western lifestyle, Tayler attempts to paddle close to 1,800 km down Africa’s second longest river, the Congo.

Tayler’s journey and story, divides itself neatly into two. The first comprises his trip by boat up the Congo and he wonderfully describes the dangers he faces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, both on land and on the river itself. During the second part of his journey by pirogue/dugout down the Congo, Tayler vividly describes the difficulties he faces with his companion Desi, evoking steaming images of the surrounding jungle countryside for which Africa’s heart of darkness is known.

Taking place in 1995, after which Zaire was still recovering from Les Pillages du Zaire and about to enter the First Congo War, that resulted in the overthrow of the despot Mobutu Sese Seko, Tayler’s journey was audacious to say the least and he has presented us with a great adventure story.

3.5 stars out of 5

Canoeing the Congo (2012) by Phil Harwood

An amazing five-month adventure story detailing the first ever canoeing descent of the Congo River from its true source of the Chambeshi in northeast Zambia to the Atlantic Ocean.

Harwood provides a good amount of background history to the Democratic Republic of Congo and its many travails. Where this book really stands out, is the well research information on the Congo River itself.  A true adventurer and a journey for which Harwood was awarded the Mike Jones Canoeing Award, Harwood is a real-life Bear Grylls without the make-up.

Of most interest to someone interested in the underlying mechanics of the journey (and of course the Congo River), Harwood has also produced a documentary of the trip which is available for purchase on his website at

3.5 stars out of 5

Credit: Banner photo by Julien Harneis