Africa is a truly vast continent, spanning many cultures and climates for miles to come. No matter where you choose to go, you are sure to find something wholly unique that makes your experience memorable, and few places exemplify this like Cameroon. Nestled in between Nigeria at its west, the Central African Republic to the east, Chad to the Northeast, and the Republic of the Congo to the south, Cameroon has become somewhat of a melting pot of unique African wildlife and shared cultures.
The country boasts incredibly diverse geography. Featuring 5 unique regions all mainly consisting of different climates and inhabitants, these being beaches, deserts, mountains, rainforests and savannas. The coastal plains are filled with dense forests and humid climates while the southern plateau crawls thousands of feet to the sky, being dominated by an equatorial rainforest that features distinct wet and dry seasons. The incredible diversity on display makes Cameroon a veritable banquet of beautiful natural biomes, few places can match its appeal as a one-stop-shop for witnessing many of the most impressive members of Africa’s animal kingdom. With 409 different species of mammals, 143 of reptiles, 849 of birds, and 190 of amphibians, you’ll be hard pressed to leave without discovering a new favourite creature! If you find yourself spoiled for choice and are considering a visit but don’t know where to start, then you’re in luck! We’re going to break down some of the most enticing national parks across the country that you can’t afford to miss.
Waza National Park
When talking about Cameroon national parks, you have to talk about Waza. By far the most famous collection of landscapes and wildlife that the country has to offer, Waza national park has attained legendary status for having the densest concentration of iconic African animals you can find. It’s 1,700 square kilometres of that land that houses elephants, hippos, giraffes, hyenas, gazelle, cheetahs and the mighty lion. Starting out as a hunting reserve for much of its life before becoming a national park in 1968 and later a UNESCO-recognised biosphere reserve. The park exists now as an untamed wilderness where the various inhabitants live out their lives, all looking to feast on the incredibly nutrient rich variations of vegetation. The quality of this land is so great that it lays claim to one of the best-preserved rainforest areas in Africa. It is impossible to experience Waza without a guide as nature truly rules the roost across the area, witnessing the sights, from herds of elephants to lion prides, with anything less than a professional would be foolish.
Lobeke National Park
If Waza is missing anything emblematic of Africa across its influence, it’s the grand Gorilla. This is where Lobeke national park comes into play. Located in the Southeastern Congo, it is the stretch of land that the Western Lowland Gorilla calls its home. If spotting one of these jungle giants is on your bucket list, then your best bet is to head here and book a safari that will take you up a watch tower, where you are most likely to see these majestic beasts from up on high. The whole experience really puts you in a position where you can feel what it’s like to be on the same level as many of these creatures, from the over 300 species of birds nesting in the tallest trees to the cicadas crying out from the thickets. The monkey screams add to this to create a chaotic cacophony of nature’s songs that you get a front row seat to.
The surrounding waters are also filled to the brim with fish and reptiles, many of which are food for the various mammals and birds, but also to some select locals. The Baka Pygmies are a native conservative community that have shirked civilization for a more natural way of living. They use the area as their hunting grounds, wielding weapons such as bows and poisoned arrows, to quickly catch prey to take back to their tribe. They also offer this service to any interested in learning their ways of hunting, or simply looking to tag along and witness them tracking down their next meals and tricking them by mimicking distress calls used by the wildlife.
Limbe Botanical Garden & Wildlife Centre
While we’ve talked at length about the allure of witnessing the denizens of the African wilderness survive and thrive in these vast expanses, it shouldn’t be understated just how much the luscious fauna that can be found throughout Cameroon plays a big part in making the country so magical. One of the best places to get acquainted with this side of the wild is at Limbe Botanical Gardens. Established in 1983 and spanning 48 hectares, it offers an incredibly relaxing ambiance with its beautiful landscape composed of natural tropical vegetation and diverse endemic exotic trees and makes for a delightful reminder of how beautiful nature can be.
It really speaks to the vastness of cultural diversity throughout Cameroon that in the very same country as the aforementioned indigenous people that rely on hunting to survive can also exist Limbe Wildlife Centre. This conservative education centre situated in Limbe, works with local and international bodies to rescue, rehabilitate and reintroduce animals that have been targeted by illegal wildlife trades. From African Grey Parrots to Drill Preuss Monkeys, the centre houses hundreds of different animals while doing their utmost to see to their needs with the goals of reintroducing them to the wild under greater protection from the law than they were found with.
This establishment is used to seeing up to 50,000 Cameroonian visitors a year and takes pride in dispensing its extensive conservation education program to around 1400 children in schools a year, covering topics like primates, ecology, and human influence on the environment. With the incredible biodiversity on display throughout this beautiful country and the indelible sense of naturalistic harmony that can be observed throughout these parks, it’s hard to imagine a lesson more worth teaching to the future leaders of this nation.