jungle cruise

A True-Life Jungle Cruise with National Geographic: The Congo River

By Justin Arthur and the National Geographic Image Collection

In celebration of the “gnu” excitement coming to the Jungle Cruise attractions at Disneyland Park and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom this summer, along with the Disney’s Jungle Cruise film, in theaters and on Disney+ Premiere Access on July 30, D23 is teaming up with the National Geographic Image Collection to explore some of the real-life rivers that have inspired Adventureland over the years! If you missed our first adventure on the Mekong River, be sure to check it out here!

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A boat passes the front side of water at Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise, August 1960. Photo from the Walt Disney Archives Collection.

Our next photo safari takes us to the Congo River, which flows into the heart of the African continent. In Adventureland, it is home to bellowing hippos, safari camps overrun with gorillas, and snapping crocodiles!

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An elephant stands alert at Walt Disney World’s Jungle Cruise, 1978. Photo from the Walt Disney Archives Collection.
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A pair of hungry, hungry hippos at Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise, June 1962. Photo from the Walt Disney Archives Collection.

The National Geographic Image Collection archives began in 1919 as an illustration library, and contains over 64.5 million still images dating back to the 1860s. This ever-growing Image collection is carefully preserved, curated and digitized, with amazing photos from the pages of National Geographic magazine constantly added, making it one of the most significant photo collections in the world. D23 is pleased to partner with the expert team at the Image Collection to offer a glimpse into this vast archive and celebrate the Jungle Cruise!

The real-world Congo, the most powerful river in Africa, spans almost 3,000 miles into the heart of the continent. Beginning in the highlands of the East Africa Rift, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Mweru, the Congo flows through savannah, swamp, thick tropical rainforest, and over several epic waterfalls, such as Stanley Falls, Livingstone Falls, and Inga Falls. (Sadly, not Schweitzer Falls!) The second longest river in Africa (unless you’re in de-Nile), the Congo crosses the equator twice before reaching the Atlantic Ocean. A variety of incredible wildlife call the Congo Basin home, including chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, elephants, and buffalo. Humans have even populated this area for more than 50,000 years, and it now is home to over 150 distinct ethnic groups who depend on these rich ecosystems for their survival.

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Smile! A hippo opens its mouth wide inside the Garamba river, Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2019. Photo by Brent Strirton/Getty Image/National Geographic Image Collection.
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A chimpanzee perches in a treetop with her baby in the Goualougo Triangle, Republic of the Congo, 2000. Photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic Image Collection.
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The Congo River provides a distinct divide between the habitats of chimpanzees and their cousins, bonobos, 2011. Photo by Christian Ziegler/National Geographic Image Collection.
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Bonobos are native only to the forest on the left bank of the Congo river. Unlike their cousins the chimpanzees, they live in matriarchal societies. A rare glimpse at these endangered animals from inside Kokolopori Bonobo Reserve, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2011. Photo by Christian Ziegler/National Geographic Image Collection.
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A real-life Jungle Cruise as an underway stern-wheeler reflects in the placid water of the Congo River, Democratic Republic of the Congo, circa 1951. Photo by W. Robert Moore/National Geographic Image Collection.
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A group of forest buffalos splashing through a river, Republic of the Congo, 2000. Photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic Image Collection.
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A rare “snap” of a crocodilian on the Zambezi River, 1996. Photo by Chris Johns/National Geographic Image Collection.
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Dugout canoes along the shoreline beside a village in a forest clearing, Democratic Republic of the Congo, circa 1951. Photo by W. Robert Moore/National Geographic Image Collection.
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“Speak!” A herd of forest elephants crossing a river, Republic of the Congo, 2000. Photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic Image Collection.
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Canoe spot it? A watercraft crosses a river in the dense rainforest, Republic of the Congo, 2000. Photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic Image Collection.
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A sleeping chameleon shows his true colors, Kokolopori, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2011. Photo by Christian Ziegler/National Geographic Image Collection.
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Clouds reflect on the Congo River, so vast that it is the second largest river in the world by discharge volume, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2000. Photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic Image Collection.

Thanks for joining our true-life Jungle Cruise on the Congo River, and be sure to join us next week as we explore another incredible destination with National Geographic. Now everyone, please watch your head and your step as you exit the boat. If you miss your step and hit your head, please watch your language!