The Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) is the third largest country in Africa, after Sudan and Algeria. Located in south-central Africa, it is roughly one-quarter the size of Canada. Congo is bordered by the Central African Republic and Sudan to the north, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to the east, Zambia and Angola to the south, the Angolan enclave of Cabinda to the southwest, and the Republic of Congo to the west. The country has a narrow strip of coastline, only 37 kilometres long, where the Congo River flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
Three-quarters of the country is covered by forest. Only 3% of the land is under cultivation; another 7% is devoted to pasture. The tropical rain forest that covers most of the northern part of Congo is one of the world's largest and thickest. It is so dense that, in some parts, sunlight cannot reach the forest floor.

 Most of southern Congo, as well as an area north of the rain forest, is covered by savannah, or grasslands. Small groups of trees are scattered throughout the savannahs, and forests grow in some valleys. The savannahs get little or no rainfall for several months each year.

  Did you know?
The okapi, a forest-dwelling animal related to the giraffe, is unique to Congo.
Lake Tanganyika, the deepest lake in Africa, lies along Congo's eastern border. Three other countries also border this lake: Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia. Nearby are the Virunga, a chain of volcanic mountains, some of which are still active. Congo's eastern and southeastern borders are highland areas. The highest point in Congo is Margherita Peak, which rises to 5,109 metres.

 Congo straddles the equator: one-third of the country is to the north and two-thirds to the south. The climate is tropical: hot and humid in the equatorial basin, cooler and drier in the southern highlands, and cooler and wetter in the eastern highlands. North of the equator, the rainy season runs from April to October, and the dry season from December to February. South of the equator, the rainy season is from November to March, and the dry season from April to October.

The Congo River is the nation's most important waterway. At the capital city of Kinshasa, the Congo River forms a lakelike expanse, 33 km long by 23 km wide, called Pool Malebo. The pool separates Kinshasa from Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo. Below Kinshasa, the Congo River turns into violent rapids for most of the remaining journey to the sea.
  Did you know?
Kahuzi-Biega Park, west of Lake Kivu, near the eastern border of Congo, is one of the last refuges of the endangered mountain gorilla.