Sitting on the Gulf of Guinea, Cameroon is a country that surprises many with its diverse geographical visions. With dramatic landscapes, enchanting wildlife, and a vibrant culture influenced heavily by the former British and French colonies, Cameroon is a country that leaves its visitors astonished they didn’t visit sooner. From the stark and captivating northern region to the tropical seaside resorts, Cameroon has breathtaking landscapes for everyone.
For animal lovers venturing to Cameroon, there are several game reserves to visit where one can spend time observing majestic creatures such as lions, elephants, and a plethora of birds. In addition, the famed Limbe Wildlife Center provides visitors with special viewing of rescued animals from the region.
A country rich with history, when a Portuguese navigator, Fernando Pô, reached the area in the 1470s he found himself astonished at the number of prawns living in a river. He ended up naming the river “Rios dos Camaroes” or River of Prawns. From this, the word “Camaroes” evolved and resulted in the current name for the country, Cameroon. The country's primary languages are English and French, as well as the many African dialects throughout the regions.
Sharing its borders with Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic and other countries, the influence of its neighbors can be seen not only in the political climates but in the affect it has on traveling to the country. Be sure to stay abreast of any travel tips or warnings issued by your government.
WHEN TO TRAVEL
Due to the extreme differences in landscapes found in Cameroon, there is also quite the variance in weather and seasons. On a whole, there is a rainy season and dry season. The rainy season usually runs from June to October and the dry season is seen from November to June. However, rainfall is still irregular throughout the country. In general you will find cooler temperatures in the inland parts of the country compared to the coastline or northernmost regions.
To find the best balance between the dry season and rainy season, the best months to visit Cameroon generally fall between January and April when the temperatures run a little more tolerable and rainfall should be a bit lighter.
However, when traveling to Cameroon be sure to bring a variety of clothing that can keep you comfortable in all kinds of weather. For example, the coastal regions of the country can often have a tropical feel to the air leaving one muggy and warm. While there may be rainfall it may still be warm in temperature, so be sure to bring lightweight waterproof items to help make the adventure more comfortable. Adequate shoes that can serve you in both rain and heat are vital to helping you navigate the country.
For the athletically inclined the “Race of Hope” is a footrace held at Mount Cameroon every year. Taking place at the very end of January or beginning of February, the race finds its footing at the highest mountain in West Africa. The number of participants increases with every year and participants find themselves pushing along a challenging 26 mile course. Festivities that include dancers, sporting tournaments, and local artists are held in the city of Buea where the race begins and ends.
CAMEROON CUISINE AND DRINKS
Due to the dramatic variation of landscapes throughout the country of Cameroon, the most popular dishes vary from region to region. The landscapes and climates heavily affect what is capable of being grown. However, it is not uncommon to find the cuisine based in starches, meats, curries, and fragrant sauces. A great deal of root vegetables, such as yams and cassava, are used in traditional meals where they are often mashed and formed into spheres, or fufu and eaten with flavorful sauces.
Fruit is also found throughout the country. There is a wide variety of tropical fruits to be found, such as papayas, bananas, pineapples, and mangoes. These decadent fruits are grown by locals and available in food markets. The influence of this fresh fruit can be seen in popular dishes such as banana bread, fried plantains, and beef served with pineapple.
It is custom for meals to be shared communally, with everyone sharing from the same bowls.
With three meals a day, often with the lunch and dinner containing a time-consuming starch like fufu, meal preparation can take up a great deal of time.
When it comes to beverages, coffee is a popular choice among the country. You may also encounter a beer made from millet or corn, called bil-bil, which is often a homemade beverage.
It’s easy to see the influence of outside countries in the cuisine of Cameroon. When the Portuguese first explored Cameroon they came along with foods such as corn and tomatoes. French bread can also be found, a leftover staple from the French colonists.
- Limbe Wildlife Center: in Limbe – a place where animal rescue, conservation, and education is embraced to the fullest. The Limbe Wildlife Center not only has a rich history in rescuing primates from around Cameroon, but has also expanded to rescue an assortment of other animals such as mammals, reptiles and birds.
- Mandara Mountains: in Maroua. A dramatic volcanic mountain range in the northern region of Cameroon, near the country’s border with Nigeria. These mountains can be seen spearing the sky as high as 3,500 feet.
- Kribi: If you’re looking for some of the best beaches in Cameroon, then Kribi is the beach resort for you. With silky sand beaches, wind-swept palm trees, and clear water, Kribi is an ideal place for relaxation before exploring more of the country.
- Parc National du Waza: One of the best opportunities for natural wildlife viewing is the national park of Parc National du Waza. Located in the Far North Region of Cameroon, the park offers a home to creatures ranging from ostriches to giraffes, lions and elephants. With a natural landscape of grasses and forests, this park is an authentic wildlife experience.
- Waterfalls of Lobé: Located about 300km south-west of Yaoundé. A World Heritage site. Clusters of small and large streams that create a number of waterfalls tumbling over the edge – the largest of the waterfalls is a breathtaking 20meters high and crashes into the Atlantic Ocean below. A place of cultural and spiritual significance to a variety of different groups, the Waterfalls of Lobé have long been part of the area’s history.
A Visa will be required in order to travel to Cameroon and can be obtained in the United States prior to the visit to the country. In order to obtain the visa you will need to complete an application, have a current passport, 2 passport photos, bank statements, confirmed round trip tickets, as well as certification that you have received a Yellow Fever vaccination.
Banks and Currency
As ATMs and banks might be scarce in certain areas of the country – especially in more remote regions – it is important to have printed money. It is advisable to bring travelers cheques with you, however be advised that not all banks will change travelers cheques and may charge a commission if they do. Due to the cash-based nature of many transactions in Cameroon, be sure to invest in a discreet money carrier that can be concealed beneath your clothing.
While they can be rare in certain areas, the ATMs that can be found in Cameroon will be connected to the VISA network and thus should be used accordingly. The Central Bank for the country is the Bank of Central African States.
The currency of Cameroon is the Central African CFA franc. The currency comes in both bill and coin form, with coins ranging from 1 franc coins to 500 franc coins and bills ranging from 500 francs to 10,000. CFA stands for “Coopération financiére en Afrique centrale.”
Service charges will sometimes be included with a transaction, however, it not then an approximate 10% tip can be provided for a service. You will see tipping most common in hotel, restaurants, and organized tours.
As always when traveling, stay alert and aware of ones surroundings. When traveling in certain areas of the country it is advised to travel in larger groups or in convoy during daytime hours. In addition, be conscious of what borders of other countries you are nearing and research the safety information for these individual countries. If visiting Cameroon from the United States, be sure to check the Department of State website for up-to-date travel warnings.