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Cameroon is Africa in One Country
by Jerry W. Bird

"If you dance, you vibrate - and he who vibrates lives."
Popular quotation.

Mount Cameroon, West Africa's highest peak, stands like a giant sentinel, gazing out over the Gulf of Guinea on Africa's Atlantic Coast. Among it's legendary names is "Throne of Thunder," a fitting tribute to the powerful gods that are said to inhabit the mountain's inner core. Our group of travel agents and journalists approached the 'throne' shortly after one of its frequent volcanic eruptions, and the ribbons of cooled lava resembled grey frosting oozing from an enormous layer cake. The lava beds are evident from the main highway to Kribi and a hiking trail winds up and over them. The warning signs advised us to pay respect and to tread gently in this eco- sensitive area. Mount Cameroon's rugged peak is the crown jewel of a chain of volcanic mountains that are strung like a giant pearl necklace along the Cameroon Nigeria border. The range stretches from here all the way to the northern plains of Maroua, gateway to Waza National Park - and that's just part of the "Grand Tour of Cameroon, Africa in One Country" a prestige edition of Africa Travel Magazine making its debut in fall 2004.

Cameroon's Minister of Tourism (at the time) , Hon. Pierre Helé, puts "ecology first" in his country's efforts to win an important share of the tourist trade from North America and other markets. Each February the popular ' Course of Hope.' attracts aspiring climbers to the area and we're told that, while the ascent is challenging, it's not dangerous or overly strenuous. Many other sights would amaze and impress us that day and in the week to follow. Speaking personally, this trip was by far the most complete tour of any ATA- African host country I had experienced to date. At its conclusion most travelers in our group were tired - and somewhat bedazzled - yet I enjoyed a feeling of solid accomplishment. As a result I will never forget Cameroon and always hunger for more.

Road to economic success
This progressive country is already high on the preferred list in terms of business travel. Scan the financial pages, or dig a little deeper in the Internet, and you'll see what I mean - the country is rich with potential in terms of agriculture, forestry, marine life, minerals and natural resources. And a word to the wise, "Where business goes, tourism flows" - and vice versa. Europeans discovered long ago what most North Americans have yet to learn - that Cameroon is a Tourism Mecca in the raw. Ministry officials agree with with the popular expression that their land is Africa in One country." In other words Cameroon is a little bit of everything, or as my Grade 9 Spanish textbook said in its title, "de todo un poco."

Located on the West coast of Africa,Cameroon (population 15,000,00) is bordered by Nigeria, Gabon, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo and Equatorial Guinea. While there are over 200 tribal groups, the main languages of commerce are French and English. Much of the architecture remains from the country's days as a German colony. Cameroon's Atlantic Ocean coastline extends 400 km, offering long stretches of beach. The varied climate ranges from tropical rain forest to open Savannah, with high mountain ranges on the North West border. Throughout Cameroon there are areas of thermal springs for those who like an outdoor health spa retreat. As they say, "A little bit of everything."

Waza National Park. Visitors can observe elephant, giraffe, ostrich, antelope, gazelle and lion - and a variety of birds. Lions are best observed during April.

Yaounde, Cameroon's Visitor- friendly Capital with seven hills

\After spending several fun weeks in Yaounde. Cameroon's capital city, the place really started to feel like home. Almost everyone we encountered knew who we were and made us welcome, and the local print and broadcast media were anxious to record and publish our views on the country and its potential for trade and tourism. To say that I am yearning to return at the drop of a hat is truly an understatement - the Yaounde experience stands out as one of the most uforgettable periods of my life. Our book of memories is full to the brim with images of Cameroon and its people, and our magazine's photo library is loaded with great scenes. Having a background in audio visual writing and production, one facet I remember most vividly about Yaounde was the endless number of superb cinemascopic vistas, starting with the view from the Hilton Yaounde's penthouse. Cruising the winding road to the Mount Febé Hotel is awesome, and the impressive route that leads to the modern government complex makes you think you're on the Riviera. After all, like Rome, this emerging Africa capital incorporates seven charming hills, and each offers a different set of perspectives.

As time marches on, say another decade or so, I can envision the city growing even more attractive, liveable and cosmopolitan. We stayed long enough to pick some favorite places to dine, and one of mine is simply called the "Cafe Yaounde." It's an Italian style restaurant that resembles a Roman villa, perched on a hillside and surrounded by lush gardens - with a live monkey guarding the entrance. As a matter of fact, a garden party was in progress on our second visit. We spent several delightful candlelit evenings there, taking our time learning about Cameroon, gazing out over the city. Of course the food and wines were superb. Before our next edition of Africa Travel Magazine, I will add more impressions of Yaounde and area, but for the moment, here is some information on how we at ATA presented our impressions of Cameroon to the world.

Another highlight was the huge outdoor marketplace we encountered on the way to a baptism ceremony, that included everything from fresh pineapples to a bustling lumber yard, where individuals sell building product direct - one of the best examples of free enterprise I've seen anywhere. Living in an area of Canada that's dependent upon forestry, this was of particular interest. The city offers a wide variety of interesting shops, and we spent several days going back and forth to the tailors having purchased bolts of colorful fabric for custom made African Clothing. It's really a buyers' paradise.

ATA's Cameroon message on BBC
Ever since returning from Cameroon, we've been spreading the word that here's a country that's truly ready to welcome visitors and doing everything to pave the way. That's why we are so pleased with response from other media, such as the prestgious British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

The Africa Travel Association was featured on BBC World Service in London. A BBC World Service Radio interview featured the ATA 5th Ecotourism, Commerce & Investment Symposium in Yaounde, Cameroon in December, 2001. Executive Director Mira Berman was interviewed at BBC's New York studios prior to the event. The second part of the program took included a telephone interview with the Secretary General of the Cameroon Ministry of Tourism during the Ecotourism Symposium. Cameroon hosted a highly successful Ecotourism, Commerce and Investment Symposium in 2001, which we enjoyed to the fullest as a learning experience and an example of African hospitality at its best.

On behalf of my ATA colleagues, I encourage you to visit this fascinating country during 2003 - the climate is superb.

Editor's Comment: In addition to the Hon. Minister Hele, we thank our tour supervisors Ebenezer Elimbi, Jean Npombo and Boniface Piga. They were great companions throughout my 30 days in the country. Our travels in Cameroon will eventually be compiled in a book that will help future travelers from North America enjoy this fascinating country to the fullest. It was a month we will treasure forever, and even as time passes, the images and voices of Cameroon have not faded one iota - they've become even more vivid in the theater of my mind. What I truly love about the many Cameroonians whom I've come to know - is that to a person, they "Accentuate the Positive."

About Cameroon
With a population comprising more than two hundred and fifty ethnic groups having traditions dating a thousand years back, a biodiversity characterized by forest, savannah and mountains, the richest and most diversified fauna, Cameroon has an enormous ecotourist potential. There are four sites which are really worth mentioning : the Dja Forest Reserve, the Korup National Park, the Limbe Botanic Garden and Ebodje.

Situated in the South Province of Cameroon and declared since 1987 a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Dja Forest Reserve covers a surface area of 5,260 km2. More than 1,500 plant species have been identified there. With regard to fauna, there are more than 107 mammals and some 320 bird species found in and around the forest reserve. This fauna comprises notably: Elephants, gorillas and chimpanzees. Cameroon

As for the Korup National Park, it is situated in the South West Province of Cameroon. It has a surface area of 1 259 km2 and is considered to be one of the oldest and most beautiful tropical rain forests in the world. Its rich flora and fauna result from a unique fact :the site of the Korup Park, in fact survived the ice age!

Today, Korup can be compared to a museum which is more than 60 million years old. Studies carried out there have led to the discovery of more than 400 tree species, many of which are medicinal. The park's present popularity stems from the fact that a creeper has been discovered there. This plant (aucistroclaudus Korupensis) is believed to have constituents useful in the cure of some forms of cancer and HIV, Aids. As for the fauna, there are more than 300 bird species inside the park and 100 others in the neighboring zones, 174 reptiles and amphibians and 140 fish species living in several streams which flow across the park.

The Korup National Park is developed as a natural fauna reserve where one can still find elephants, buffalos, antelopes, leopards, chimpanzees, drills and a variety of other small animals.

Visitors to the park who generally leave Douala arrive Mundemba, the headquarters of the park, by passing through Kumba and Ekondo Titi, through a distance of 250 km of which 115 (Kumba-Mundemba) is untarred one could also get to Korup by boat from Limbe through the Rio del Rey into the Ndian river.

USEFUL INFORMATION: A tourist attraction center known as 'jungle village' has been developed. Tourists are advised to carry equipment, (appropriate clothes and shoes) in order to protect themselves notably from insect bites and ants. Entry fees are paid to the Park Officials who provide tourist guides on hire basis.

Shelter is provided inside the park for tourists who wish to spend the night. Tourists are advised to bring along mosquito tents and insecticides. Mundemba, the headquarters of the Korup project is the departure point for all excursions into the mangrove forest, the park, the river Ndian and neighboring Nigeria. The town has a few lodging facilities.
ADDRESS: The Conservator, Korup National Park
P.O Box 303 Buea, WWF Cameroon
P.O Box 2417 Douala, Tel/Fax : (237) 343 21 71

Created in 1892 by German horticulturists to acclimatize economic and medicinal plants such as quinine, coffee, rubber, cocoa and banana, the botanic garden in Limbe also served as a training center for Cameroonians in the field of agriculture, horticulture and forestry. Today, it has become the greatest tourist attraction in the South West Province after Mount Cameroon. It is also an international research center in the area of bio-diversity.

A tourist attraction center known as "jungle village" has been developed in the garden. Here, popular cultural activities take place during certain events or simply for the pleasure of tourists. Several routes have been mapped out to enable tourists to visit the garden such as :

- the coastal trail, which enables tourists to have a good view of the western part of the garden ;

- the biodiversity trail, which enables the tourist to get a picture of the biodiversity found in the garden ;

- the Bota adventure trail, where big trees and some wild animals can be seen;

- the riverside trail, where trees and creepers more than 100 years old etc. are found.

ADDRESS: Limbe Botanic Garden
P.O Box 437, Limbe, Cameroon
Tel. (237) 333 26 20
Tel / Fax : (237) 343 18 76/343 18 72
E-mail : mcplbg @iccnet.cm

Ebodje village is found on the banks of the Atlantic Ocean, some 50 km from Kribi, on the road to Campo : This village, whose inhabitants have as their main occupation fishing, has beautiful beaches propitious to walks and swimming.

Excursions by boat on the sea or the river Likodo are also possible. You can also take a walk to the "Rocher du Loup" or go by car and be accompanied by a guide to tell the myth of the village. Ebodje was recently chosen as the site for the protection of sea tortoises by a regional project, Protomac. Tortoises usually come to the beach from November-January to lay eggs.

Tourists visiting Ebodje are advised to take along:
- a pair of additional bed sheets
- a mosquito tent and anti-mosquito products
- bottles of mineral water.

ADDRESS: Campo-Ma'an Project
SNV eco-development section,
BP. 219 Kribi, Tel/Fax : (237) 346 21 37
Cel : (237) 990 90 38, E-mail Campo-maan@ genet.cm

Masks are a key part of the Cameroon Culture
Whether they are of wood, beads or animal skins, masks perpetuate over all the country; shapes and ideas that have come down from the dawn of time. In the area of ecotourism, one may also mention: - the site of the dinosaur in Manangia, North Province (Mayo Rey). This site which dates back to 120 million years was first discovered in 1988. Two hundred and fifty footprints and some fifty tracks of the dinosaur have been fossilized.

Douala and The Cameroon Story

Douala, Cameroon's largest city with over 2 million inhabitants, has hosted two major events sponsored by the Africa Travel Association since 2001. During post tours, we had many opportunities to sample the hospitality and feel the true spirit of the people, who make up this land they call Africa in One country. Nowhere was this feeling more evident than in Douala during the Ngondo Festival, a spectacle unlike anything I've ever seen in Africa. Annual festivals and gala events abound throughout West Africa, but this one tops them all as a simply outstanding spectacle that has deep spiritual significance. Having read Wilbur Smith's great book "The River God," concerning life on the Nile and Blue Nile in ancient times, I have been keenly interested in the rivers of Central Africa and the mysteries they hold. In this case, the Wouri River, focal point of the Ngondo Festival in Douala, has its own River Gods, it's a ceremony involving the "water spirits," who communicate their message in an unusual way.

Ngondo Festival and the River God: For starters, one could not have asked for a nicer day, as our delegates descended from the Ministry's tour buses and the ATA members took their seats in a specially reserved, tented area. Speaking of the weather, this occasion was typical of most days during our month long stay in Cameroon, deep blue skies, puffy cotton candy clouds, and just the right measure of sun shine to make it comfortable. This was one of my biggest surprises, perhaps being located on the Wouri River, 24 km (15 miles) from the Atlantic Coast is the reason. In a coming edition we will write at length about this great event and why its story is so significant in the local customs and culture. There are many more other reasons to visit Douala, and from here, you will enjoy good transportation links to all of Cameroon. Contact us anytime: mailto:africa@dowco.com.


Douala, Cameroon's largest city, main hub for air travel and industrial center is located on the Wouri River, a few miles from the Atlantic Coast, with its tourist attractions such as Kribi and Limbe. Mount Cameroon, Africa's second highest peak,is also within a few hours' drive from Douala. The landmark Hôtel Akwa Palace, located in the city center, is an ideal meeting place with its popular terrace.

Nearby is the Musée de Douala, located in the hôtel de ville (town hall), featuring Bamoun and Bamiléké craftwork. Visitors can purchase artifacts at Artisianal Camerounais, an open-air crafts market. The city is 120 miles west of Yaoundé, Cameroon's capital.

While Douala is not the capital of Cameroon, it is the most significant city in terms of population, and the economic role it plays in the overall economy. It is said to be named after the Douala, a black African ethnic group that originally settled in the area. The chief commercial center, Douala has an airport and extensive docks, and is a terminus for two railway lines extending into the interior. Industries include the manufacture of aluminum products, beer, soft drinks, textiles, and the processing of timber and cacao beans. Douala's port handles some 95 percent of the country's maritime traffic, and is second only to Kinshasa as Central Africa's largest city. Douala is divided into quarters or quarters: Aqua, is the center of the city, the Stand Municipal Artisans, and Banjo the administrative district.

Currency:1 Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFAF) = 100 centimes
Popular quotation: "Life is music and the beat of the heart is its rhythm
If you dance, you vibrate and he who vibrates lives."

Cameroon is a living tradition and each region has its own style
It is a country where you can still be Tarzan. In the last ten years ago, ecotourism has become a major feature in tour operator's itineraries.

Hospitality Plus: When tourists arrive in Cameroon they are not left to themselves because according to local custom, the visitor is full-fledged member of the Cameroon family. A pleasant welcome is a golden rule in this hospitable country. We have the proof during our stay during the entire month of December 2001.

Climbing Mount Cameroun: Mount Cameroun, which we visited during a trip to the beach area at Kribi, is West Africa's highest mountain. In spite of its height, the climb is much less strenuous than Mt. Kilimanjaro or Mt. Kenya. You will not need to bring any special equipment to climb this mountain. A number of hikers' huts are located at convenient points, so you can stay overnight en route. This mountain is renowned for the ' Course of Hope.' an international sporting event held in February.

Editor's Comment: We thank our tour supervisors Ebenezer Elimbi, Jean Npombo and Boniface Piga. They were great companions throughout my 30 days in the country. Our travels in Cameroon will eventually be compiled in a book that will help future travelers from North America enjoy this fascinating country to the fullest. It was a month we will treasure forever, and even as time passes, the images and voices of Cameroon have not faded one iota - they've become even more vivid in the theater of my mind. What I truly love about the many Cameroonians whom I've come to know - is that to a person, they "Accentuate the Positive."

Jerry W. Bird is President of ATA Canada Chapter, Editor and Publisher of Africa Travel Magazine, and Webmaster for the ATA site www.africa-ata.org/. He is also Publisher of Air Highways Magazine, the Journal of Open Skies, featuring aviation, tourism, transportation and business worldwide. His career began with the Edmonton Journal Daily Newspaper, and expanded into the full spectrum of media - radio, television, magazines and Internet. He has won international awards for creativity in audio visual and print production.