Sorry it’s taken so long to get this post up. There were a bajillion photos to sort through and it seems like we’ve been hardly able to catch our collective breaths. That said, Cameroon was quite an experience. We were there for two full weeks and there’s nowhere near enough room for me to record our experience here, so I’ll just try to hit some of the highlights and you can look at the photos to get some additional idea of our visit there.

Cameroon is a developing nation of about 18 million people founded in 1960. It has two major cities – Douala, which is the commercial capital of the country, and Yaounde which is the political capital of the country. You can read here if you want to learn more about Cameroon. We chose Cameroon for a few reasons:

  1. It is stable and peaceful
  2. It is fairly unique among African countries in having both jungle (the southeast which is part of the Congo basin) and classic savannah (the northeast). Because of this, Cameroon’s advertising slogan is “Africa in miniature” and it lives up to this promise.
  3. It hasn’t (yet) been overrun with mass tourism like Botswana and some other countries, which we thought would give us a better chance to get an authentic look at a piece of Africa and its people.

Most of our stay in Cameroon was enjoyable, but we felt that the operator of the tour company we chose (Victor Awasung at Equatorial Tours) cheated us. The rest of the Equatorial Tours staff was fantastic. I don’t want to make this part of our trip the focus of this post, so you can read about it here if you want.

Most of our stay was spent in the rural areas in the Northeast and Southeast of the country en route to two of Cameroon’s national parks (Waza and Lobeke). Waza is a park in the northeast, accessible over a paved road, of the savannah type that most people associate with an African safari. The best time to see wildlife here is in the dry season (Jan. – Mar.) when animals congregate around watering holes. It’s still the wet season here which means the grass is still very tall and animals are hard to see. However, we did get very close to a large group of giraffes. Lobeke, in the southeast is accessible only by a long 2 or 3-day drive over dirt roads and is not frequently visited by tourists. Lobeke is part of the jungle of the Congo basin and is famous for its gorillas and other large mammals. We stayed at an observation post for viewing the animals but didn’t see the gorillas – possibly because it was too wet. We did get glimpses of a black panther, some small deer, a large boar and several small animals. We also saw tracks for numerous large animals such as water buffalo and elephants.

The time we spent traveling through the rural areas in the east of the country was fantastic. Cameroon is a truly beautiful country and the people are extremely friendly. Southeast Cameroon doesn’t get very many white visitors (we only saw white people only once in our six days of traveling around the southeast). When a white person drives by, pretty much everyone turns to gape. But the stares we drew weren’t unfriendly stares. To the contrary, one of the defining characteristics of Cameroon was the friendliness of the people – especially compared to US standards. People would often spontaneously wave and smile and a wave from us was almost guaranteed to generate a smile and a wave back. I was also struck by how helpful people were in assisting travelers with problems. Anywhere a road problem developed, a swarm of locals quickly developed to fix the problem – whether it was repairing a bridge or creating an alternate route for an impassible road. And we would frequently encounter travelers walking by the side of the road who would hail vehicles for a lift to the next village. It is a kind of community friendship that has vanished from most of the US.

Of all the friendly people we met, the children were the best. I’ve never considered myself someone who had a particular talent for working with children, but you’d have to be a sociopath to not fall in love with the children here. I’ll keep a lot of memories of the children here – huge beautiful toothy smiles and full-arm waves, groups of children who see us (“Les Blancs”) and try to run beside our vehicle waving, children who will come running and give you a fifty-thousand volt smile for a piece of candy, children who entertain themselves with games like Cat’s Cradle and other pre-Playstation inventions. For me, Cameroon was worth it just for the children.

Of course, Cameroon has challenges similar to other developing nations – the ongoing struggle against corruption, people living in rural areas on subsistence farming without modern equipment, the slow progress of a modern road system, the dominance of raw materials such as timber and agriculture in a developing economy, and so on. However, we saw good progress in many areas. We were never harassed by the police or asked to pay bribes for example. 

Again, I can’t possibly cover our whole stay there. Despite the challenges we experienced with our tour operator, I truly loved our visit to Cameroon and I hope I can return someday.

5 Responses to “Cameroon”
  1. Megan says:

    It makes me miss Africa. I hope to go back someday. Cameroon sounds very similar to Ghana, except less developed. I remember in one of the places where we stayed we had a toilet, but we had to go out to the well to get water to pour in it so it would work. Sorry you had such a horrible experience with Victor. Don’t let it ruin your other memories of Cameroon. And sorry I accidentally sent $45 extra. I didn’t realize I sent that much extra. I thought (foolishly) he would refund it. I thought that was on my first moneygram and not the second. How’s Turkey?

  2. Kathy says:

    A little more adventure (especially the room accommodations) than I could handle, although I did stay in a motel in Kansas in 1960 that looked a little like your hotel room, except over zealous bed bugs replaced the rat droppings.

    The photographs, once again, are beautiful and capture the “feel” of your experiences. What stories you can tell your posterity one day!

    Looking forward to the next intallment, although after the recent resolution in Congress, I cannot say I would want to be in Turkey right now. Then again, I have a good friend who was visiting Russia when Yeltsin toppled the government there. She survived with many exciting stories to tell. Nothing like being in the thick of things. Be safe. Have fun.

  3. Dane says:

    I have been keeping up silently with your travels. I met a few young men in Russia who were from the Cameroon. They were investigators and students both. They arrived with expectations of attending a university and found out after arriving they they could not attend (political reasons) and could not leave to go back because they had not the money. We took them to see Swan Lake and they attended several activities with us. They were some of the nicest people I have ever met. Just sincere people. He gave me a pair of handmade leather sandals as a parting gift. Anyway, it was a great experience for me as it sounds like it was for you minus Victor. I am glad you got to go and were able to share your experiences with us. I left a message on your satellite phone thinking you took it with you. If not, I just wanted let you know that Caleb Reese Harr was born Sept 26 at 8:05 am weighing 10lbs 10oz and 22″ long. You can look at my website for more.
    Stay safe you guys and we look forward to hearing more.

  4. Natalie says:

    I finally found out that you had a blog going-I’m a little slow!! Anyway, you’ll have to tell me about Thailand when you get a chance. I remember when I was there and they always charged tourist about 4-5 times the native price. However, I had a Thai friend with me that always bargained the price down. Just a hint, if you have’t left yet, they will bargain with Americans and usually you can get the price you want because they are desprate to sell. I generally found that the Thai people are very friendly and also very beautiful. The north part of the country is also very beautiful, although you probably won’t go there-they have the 6th largest water fall in the world. Hey, if you buy ice cream in the street-don’t forget to get corn on it-one of the major ice cream toppings there.
    It’s been fun to read your blog-keep having fun!!!
    Natalie

  5. Global Bush Travel and Tourism Agency says:

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