Katako Kombe — Fulcrum of the Congo Basin

Are you in front of a map of Congo?  Look down to the south east corner of the Basin (and see inset below). Look for the river that makes a tight full circle – almost – before flowing east into the Lomami.  Very  “Through the Looking Glass” – yes? That’s the Unia River.

Katako Kombe_1962 map
This is cut from a 1962 Russian flight map and shows the “Top” of the Congo Basin.

Then go to the most northern edge of that circle.  Barely fifteen km north east is the headwaters of the Tshuapa flowing north.  Barely ten km northwest is the headwaters of the Lukenie flowing west.  Both are major rivers.  Even more otherworldly – yes?

Katako_view from Rev Ben's House
Looking mainly west from the Top of the World or at least the Top of the Congo Basin = Katako Kombe.

And what is in the middle?  A relatively small rounded hill with a tiny town on top that is frozen in time.   Katako Kombe, is the capital of the Territory of Katako Kombe on the south west edge of the TL2 landscape.  I set out to visit it with the Chef from Kahodi, chief of the Arabisés.

preparing for trip to Katako
Getting ready to go to Katako. I was on the AG and he was on the TVS.

I made the necessary visit to the Territorial Administrator, but my real tour of Katako Kombe was from a very kind, very  friendly pastor who stopped at any point in our tour to raise his hands and intone  for the people who came to ask his blessing. They were frequent.

Katako Kombe - the AT and me
With the Territorial Administrator. The gray wall paper is from colonial times.

Reverend Ben and I crossed the little hill-top of Katako Kombe going from his church to his home and back again.  I met his family, his goats, members of his congregation and he convinced me that Katako Kombe is truly the high point of the basin, just as is shown on the map.

Katako_rev Ben at home
Reverend Ben in his home above and with his family below.
Katako_Rev Ben family

From this little hill some of the most musical songsters of Congo sing out over the basin.

Katako_choir leader
Psalm 150 is his favorite : Sing out the praises! Dance and blow the trumpet.

We passed at least 10 lads with homemade guitars over their shoulders, each and everyone singing a song to himself or in harmony with a companion.

At one point we were surrounded by drummers and singers.  They were celebrating the arrival of a local dignitary, but why not celebrate us too?

Katako Kombe
At least 25 men of all ages were singing with gusto, and mighty well besides.
welcoming a local dignitary

Katako Kombe may be a peak most of us had not heard of, but the Katako Kombians would not be surprised to know that they are indeed at the top of the basin…if not the world.


  1. Posted 2008-12-16 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    A wonderful account that made me wish I could visit this place. Would be great to hear what these songsmiths sound like! Is that an artificial reservoir on the Unia River shown on the map?

  2. Terese Hart
    Posted 2008-12-16 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    No, Its not an artificial reservoir. I have never visited it but I imagine that it is rather like Lake Njale on the Kasuku river in Maniema, about 150 km WNW (post on Sept 8th). Lac Njale is a natural widening of the river, but the geology that produces these lakes I really don’t understand.

  3. dewintermg
    Posted 2009-06-11 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    Terese,nice job!

    I found this excellent site trough irazoo.com

    Could you please send me pictures so I can prepare my trip to the area of Katako-kombe.


  4. Brian O'Boyle
    Posted 2010-03-10 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    It has recently been discovered that there is a large impact crater in this area – the Unia River actually follows the outline of the ring.


  5. dewinter mg
    Posted 2010-04-21 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Just to say hello…And….to thank you so much for the great work you are doing by helping to preserve the beautiful nature of that area of DRC.

    See you soon.
    Please do us a favor by post some picts about sandy river benches where water flows so peacefully slowly .Places where one encounters a lot of DRAGONFLIES (odonatopters ).

    And…Well ,concerning the crater stuff:I had alreday seen it on google map long long ago…

    Have a nice day!

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