Often referred to as “Africa in Miniature,” this California-size country offers plenty to do within its borders. Cameroon's largest city, Douala, is one of the most important economic centers in Central Africa, and Yaoundé, Cameroon's capital, is over 100 years old and full of stories. In addition, Cameroon has a diverse landscape ranging from gorgeous tropical beaches to breathtaking mountain vistas. Cameroon's Atlantic coast alone has been an important and scenic sailing destination for hundreds of years. The country is not only rich in wildlife and flora; with more than 200 ethnic groups living under one flag, Cameroon is steeped in cultural heritage, arts, crafts, and history.
1. Musée de Douala: A must-see for art aficionados, this museum is located inside Douala City Hall, also known as the Hôtel de Ville de Douala. Featuring collections of Bamoun and Bamileke art, the Musée de Douala contains thrones, statues, and more relics from the country’s precolonial period. The building also has a shopping area with wood and brass sculptures available for purchase.
2. Limbe Botanical Garden: Founded by a group of Germans in 1892, the Limbe Botanic Garden served initially as a test center for crop species foreign to Cameroon, among them coffee, cocoa, rubber, and sugarcane. A 1988 renovation of the garden brought a new focus on conservation to the organization, encouraging the protection of Cameroonian forests and sustainable agricultural practices. It makes for a peaceful escape from bustling Limbe and features thematic gardens, large trees, and picturesque views of nearby Mount Cameroon.
3. Mile Six Beach: In the Southwest province, along the coast of the South Atlantic Ocean, lies Mile Six Beach, renowned for its perfect surfing waves. Not too crowded but close enough to be convenient, Mile Six offers a calm setting for picnicking, sunbathing, and other beach activities. Nearby Korup National Park has more than 50 species of mammals and three forest reserves.
4. Mangrove Swamps: One of the most easily accessible West African bird-watching locations, Cameroon’s mangrove swamps are also some of the richest. Because of its 900-some species of birds, we recommend covering a combination of both highland and lowland areas for the best mixture of specialty and endemic species.
5. Hike Mount Cameroon: Mount Cameroon, at 13,353 feet (4,070 meters,) is the highest point in Cameroon. It rises almost straight out of the coast, through a tropical rain forest, and has a bare summit that is sometimes dusted with snow. An active volcano, Mount Cameroon trickles lava down almost all the way to the sea, although it’s difficult to see the peak of the mountain because of cloud cover. Debuncha, at the southwestern corner of the mountain, is said to be the second-wettest place in the world.
6. Korup National Park: Recognized as Africa’s oldest and most diverse rain forest, Korup National Park is located in the Southwest province of Cameroon at the base of Mount Cameroon. The park features more than 620 species of trees and shrubs, 480 species of herbs, 400 species of birds, and an astonishing 1,000 species of butterflies. Known for its large selection of primates, Korup contains a variety of rare and endangered monkeys like the chimpanzee, red-capped mangabey, and red-eared monkey. Over 160 types of mammals live in the park, along with 130 kinds of fish. Mangrove swamp tours by boat around the Pelican Islands afford a peek into the fishing villages situated on the riverbanks.
7. Ring Road: The path that connects the most well-known attractions of Cameroon is known as Ring Road. Located in Bamenda in the Northwest province of Cameroon, the area has a picturesque, hilly horizon and an English-speaking population. Ring Road makes for an easily accessible (but slightly bumpy) way of seeing a number of attractions in a defined setting.
8. Parc National de Waza: Open from November until June, Waza National Park can claim the prize as Cameroon’s most famous national park. Featuring snapshot-worthy animals, the park can be viewed by automobile (a park guide is required for each vehicle). While camping isn’t allowed within the confines of the park, accommodations are available in the nearby village of Waza.
9. Kribi: A relaxing beach resort and seaport on the Gulf of Guinea coast, Kribi is located near the mouth of the Kienké River, approximately 49.5 miles (80 kilometers) south of Doula. Among the nearby attractions are the Lobé Waterfalls, and roads inland extend as far as Lolodorf, through the Littoral Evergreen Forest. A great spot for tanning and relaxing on sandy beaches, Kribi is a good halfway point to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea via the border town of Ebolowa.
10. Dja Faunal Reserve: Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dja Faunal is a protected rain forest with an assortment of flora and fauna. Ninety percent of the area having been left undisturbed, the reserve is guarded by the Dja River, which creates a natural barrier against the outside world. With its 107 mammalian species, this area protects five endangered ones.
The best months for travel to Cameroon are January through April, when temperatures are moderate and the climate is dry. Luckily for you, the lowest airfares can also be found during that time. Be mindful of your terrain. Often, the mountains and plateaus can register a significant drop in temperature or a change in weather, while the coast is often warmer and more humid.
Visas: In most cases, you will need a visa to enter Cameroon. If you’re flying into the country, arrange your visa with your local embassy before your trip. If you’re traveling by land, it might be possible to arrange a visa with Cameroon’s neighboring countries, but we do advise taking care of this matter before you hit the road.
Recommended immunizations include yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and meningitis. Plan to pack antimalarial medications, insect repellent, and loose, long-sleeved clothing to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Transportation: There are three major airports in Cameroon: Douala International Airport (DLA), Nsimalen International Airport (NSI), and Yaounde International Airport (YAO). The one you are most likely to use is the Doula International Airport, as it is located in the economic capital of the country and is the busiest in the nation. Domestically, there is regular daily service between Douala, Yaounde, and other smaller towns.
Among the international carriers are British Airways, Delta, KLM, Northwest, Lufthansa, and United Airlines. Most flights arrive via Europe or other major African cities.
Cameroon’s train system, CamRail, travels from Douala to Yaounde, Yaounde to Ngaoundere (we recommend this route as a great way to travel between the northern region and the southern), Douala to Kumba, and more. You may travel by minibus or bush taxi from Yaoundé and Douala to most neighboring countries unless a particular border is closed. Once you get to the border, you might have to change buses, so check schedules before traveling.
Cabs are common in most cities; cab sharing is often encouraged as a way to save money, but be alert and aware if you decide to travel with strangers. A taxi can also be hired for the day without sharing for about $100 in American currency.
As one should always do while traveling, be aware of your surroundings and use your best judgment. Be alert when traveling at night or in crowded areas and when traveling near the borders of Chad and the Central African Republic. Keep an eye on political and social developments: elections are scheduled for 2011, and in the past some public demonstrations have turned violent. For information on travel advisories, check the U.S. Department of State’s travel page on Cameroon.
Would-be photographers should note that the photographing of government or military buildings could lead to camera confiscation. If you’re taking photos for a professional purpose, obtain permits before or upon entering the country.
Cameroon’s modern-day history dates back to the early 1400s, when Portuguese explorers became the first Europeans to reach the area. Seeking a share of the slave trade profits, many Europeans began migrating to the region around the late 1700s and early 1800s, eventually causing a struggle for powerbetween Germany, England, and France. Germany came out on top when it signed a treaty with two local chiefs that split control between the locals in Douala and the Germans.
During World War II, Germany lost control of the country to England and France, which divided the country into two parts. The British called its portion of the country British Cameroons, and the French called the rest of the country French Cameroun; each region spoke the language of its colonizing ruler. It wasn’t until 1946 that both England and France vowed to restore independence one day to the native inhabitants of Cameroon.
In the early 1960s, political life changed in Cameroon. French Cameroun became known as the Republic of Cameroon, and British Cameroon had split into two parts. Those living in British Cameroon had the choice to join either with the recently independent Republic of Cameroon or with their neighboring country Nigeria. The northern section decided to join Nigeria, while the southerners joined the republic. From October 1961, when these unions took place, the country was known as West Cameroon and East Cameroon. In 1972, a new constitution joined the two states and formed the Republic of Cameroon as we know it today.
1. Cameroon is bordered to the northwest by Nigeria, to the northeast by Chad, to the east by the Central African Republic, to the south by the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon, and to the southwest by nearly 250 miles (402 kilometers) of coastline along the Bight of Biafra.
2. The most prevalent religions in Cameroon are Christianity, Islam, and indigenous faiths.
3. French and English are the official languages of Cameroon. Several native languages are spoken as well.
4. The country is broken up into ten regions: Adamaoua, Centre, East, Extrême-Nord (Extreme North), Littoral, North, Northwest, West, South, and Southwest.
5. The official currency of Cameroon is the Communauté Financière Africaine franc (CFA). One CFA is equivalent to 100 centimes. Credit and debit cards are accepted in some airports and larger hotels. We’ve noticed that Visa is the credit card most commonly used. ATMs are readily found in cities and towns; you might be charged extra by shop owners if you use a traveler’s check.