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The beautiful country of Cameroon is situated on the Gulf of Guinea on the west coast of Africa, sandwiched between Nigeria to the north and Equatorial Guinea to the south. Cameroon is often proudly called 'Africa in Miniature' or 'Africa in One Country' due to the incredible variety of its natural landscapes, which include tropical rainforests, beaches, mountains, and deserts.
The area was a German protectorate until after World War I, when it was divided between the British and the French, with the French receiving the larger share and Britain controlling the northernmost strip along the Nigerian border.
French Cameroon achieved independence in 1960, and the largely Christian southern third of British Cameroon voted to join the Republic of Cameroon the following year. The mainly Muslim northern two-thirds of British Cameroon eventually joined Nigeria.
In recent years Cameroon has performed well economically, and today the country enjoys more political and social stability than most African countries. But many people still live in dire poverty and the country is run by an authoritarian president.
Tourism in Cameroon is limited but has been steadily increasing as people discover the charm and remarkable diversity of the country. Cameroon's relative stability and above average infrastructure make it a good choice for those tourists keen to travel off the beaten track in Africa. Moreover, visitors are attracted by the friendliness and hospitality of the locals as well as the fascinating cultural traditions.
The national parks and reserves in Cameroon lay claim to some of the richest flora and fauna in Africa. Southwest Cameroon is a mountainous region dominated by the highest mountain in West Africa, and Africa's highest active volcano, Mount Cameroon, which sits on the edge of the Gulf of Guinea and is a popular mountaineering destination.
On the coast there are lovely beaches around Limbe and at Kribi, while the north of the country boasts Cameroon's most famous national park, Waza National Park, with its huge numbers of elephant, giraffe, lion, antelope, and birdlife.
Yaounde, the capital city, is situated on seven hills and has modern hotels, shops and markets. However, Douala is the biggest city and Cameroon's economic capital, positioned on the Wouri River a few miles from the coast.
Cameroon is a great destination for adventurous travellers keen to experience an African paradise that has a wealth of natural attractions. As the name 'Africa in One Country' promises, a holiday in Cameroon is rewarding in its variety.
Cameroon has a lot to offer tourists and the country has comparatively good infrastructure, making getting around easier than it is in much of West and Central Africa. The country is also considered comparatively safe for travellers, but the serious unrest in neighbouring Nigeria has led travel authorities to advise against travel to the extreme north of Cameroon and areas along the Nigerian border.
Unfortunately, many of Cameroon's best tourist attractions are in the north, including the Waza National Park with its wealth of wildlife, and the scenic splendour of the Mandara Mountains, a great favourite with hikers. Tourists intent on exploring the north of Cameroon will therefore have to take every possible safety precaution.
The cities of Yaounde and Douala are still popular with visitors and each offers a string of sightseeing opportunities and some good restaurants and hotels. The coastal getaway of Limbe is probably the most popular destination with foreigners in Cameroon and, apart from the lovely beaches, the town has an old-world colonial atmosphere that enchants visitors.
Cameroon deserves the affectionate adage of 'Africa in One Country' and is one of the gems of the African tourism scene, with beaches, mountains, wildlife, and rolling savanna enough to delight almost anybody.
A popular tourist haunt, Limbe is a gorgeous seaside city located on Cameroon's west coast. Set within a beautiful bay, against the backdrop of an imposing mountain range, Limbe was an important port city in colonial times and retains vestiges of this history, most notably in the form of a magnificent German-built Bismarck Tower overlooking Down Beach. With its black sand and warm sea temperatures, Down Beach is a favourite place for tourists to kick back and relax, while the nearby Limbe Wildlife Centre and Botanical Gardens are also worthwhile day trips. The tourism infrastructure is comparatively good in this little city and the people are friendly and interesting.
The capital Yaounde is situated almost in the centre of Cameroon, and is well positioned as a travel hub. It enjoys a higher standard of living and security than the rest of the country and has a number of decent hotels and restaurants, as well as some interesting landmarks and tourist attractions. Those interested in churches should visit the Cathedrale Notre Dame des Victoires, and the beautiful Basilique Marie-Reine-des-Apotres, said to be built on the site of the first missionary church in Cameroon. The city also has a wonderful art museum, the Musee d'Art Camerounais, which is housed in a former Benedictine monastery and showcases a valuable collection of masks, bronzes, and pottery.
Waza National Park is one of Cameroon's greatest draws for tourists; it is the country's most famous wildlife reserve and the most easily accessible one. The park is in the Logone-et-Chari department in the far north of Cameroon. It is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and renowned for its wealth of wildlife. Visitors can expect to see elephants, giraffes, hippos, a variety of antelopes, monkeys and abundant birdlife, including ostriches. Although the park is known for its lions, poachers have sadly wiped out a large portion of the population. These majestic animals are still present but are now harder to find and sightings are considered lucky.
The Mandara Mountains are a volcanic range extending about 125 miles (200km) in northern Cameroon, along the border with Nigeria. Hiking in the remarkably beautiful landscapes of the Mandara Mountains is one of the most popular activities for tourists exploring Cameroon. The spectacular rock formations and lush valleys and hills are interspersed with traditional villages with round huts, where visitors can experience authentic local culture. The Mofu ethnic group dominates the region and the hillside villages subsist mainly through terrace farming, with sorghum the principal crop. One of the most famous of these villages is Rhumsiki, which is stunningly situated in rugged mountain scenery. Other notable villages worth a visit include Djingliya, Tourou, Koza, Maga, and Mora.
The climate in Cameroon varies according to the region. In the south, the dry season runs from November to February; there is a short rainy season from March to June and the big rains come between August and September.
The average temperature in the south of Cameroon is 79°F (26°C). The climate on the coast is tropical and extremely wet; coastal areas sometimes receive rain in excess of 30ft (9m).
On the other extreme, the north is very dry with a rainy season that technically lasts from May to the end of September, but which brings little rain; drought is a way of life in the far north. Both the semi-arid north and the tropical coastal belt can get very hot and the coast tends to be humid.
The best time to visit Cameroon is the dry months between November and February. At this time of year it can be hot and windy but it is the best time to view wildlife and to hit the beautiful beaches. Travellers should note that during the wet season many of the roads become very difficult to negotiate due to mud and flooding, which is why most of the national parks close during this period.
The official currency is the Central Africa CFA Franc (XAF), which is divided into 100 centimes. Cash is fairly easy to exchange, and Euros are by far the easiest currency to change for CFA francs. Credit cards have limited acceptance in Cameroon, though most major hotels accept them. Most towns have ATMS; money transfer agencies can be found throughout Cameroon.
French and English are the official languages, although French is more commonly spoken and is the language of business. There are also numerous other African dialects.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin attachment plugs are in use.
US nationals: US nationals require a valid passport and a visa to enter Cameroon.
UK nationals: UK nationals require a valid passport and a visa to enter Cameroon.
CA nationals: Canadians require a valid passport and a visa to enter Cameroon.
AU nationals: Australians require a valid passport and a visa to enter Cameroon.
ZA nationals: South Africans require a valid passport and a visa to enter Cameroon.
IR nationals: Irish nationals require a valid passport and a visa to enter Cameroon.
NZ nationals: New Zealand nationals require a valid passport and a visa to enter Cameroon.
All travellers require confirmed onward or return tickets and all necessary documents for next destination, as well as proof of sufficient funds for their stay. Passengers can obtain a visa on arrival if they have a confirmation letter stating that a visa has been approved. All other visas must be acquired before travel to Cameroon. It's recommended that passports be valid for six months after the intended period of travel.
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for all travellers older than one year of age to Cameroon. There is a risk of malaria throughout the country and prophylaxis is recommended for all travellers. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A, typhoid, polio (booster), and hepatitis B.
A meningococcus vaccination may also be recommended for those travelling to Cameroon during the dry season, which runs from November to June. Cholera outbreaks do occur in Cameroon, particularly between the months of December and June. Travellers should drink only boiled or bottled water.
Medical facilities are very limited with frequent shortages of medication and outdated equipment; visitors should ensure they have comprehensive medical insurance, which includes emergency air evacuation. Doctors and hospitals generally expect immediate cash payment.
If visitors require prescription medication, it is best to bring it with them into Cameroon. They should also make sure they have all the relevant documents from their doctor to get the medication through customs.
If service charges are not included a tip of about 10 percent is customary.
Travellers should be wary of petty and violent crime, as they occur throughout the country. Theft is common on public transport and travellers should try and avoid travelling alone in taxis, especially at night. The safety and reliability of internal flights in Cameroon cannot be vouched for. Women should dress conservatively as Cameroon, while generally friendly, is strongly patriarchal and violence towards women is not unheard of.
If visitors are travelling in the north it is advisable to do so in a convoy and to limit travel to daylight hours. Many foreign governments advise against travel to the areas bordering the Central African Republic and Chad, as well as to the area bordering Nigeria in the region of the Bakassi Peninsula.
Greetings in Cameroon may be extended and elaborate, and it's important to greet elders first. If travellers are eating communally with their hands, they should always use their right hand. Law requires that everyone carry identification at all times, and it is forbidden to take photographs of ports, airports, government buildings, and military sites. Homosexuality is illegal.
Cameroon is ranked higher than most Central African countries for ease of doing business and the comparatively good infrastructure is a big help in this regard. For meetings, lightweight suits are appropriate and handshakes are a common method of greeting for men and women.
Greetings often take time and it is important to enquire about health and family and exchange business cards. Office hours are generally 7.30am until 6pm, Monday to Friday, with a one to two hour lunch break. Most businesses are also open on Saturdays between 8am and 1pm.
The international dialling code for Cameroon is +237. Visitors can purchase local SIM cards for unlocked phones; WiFi coverage is available in most regions.
Travellers to Cameroon do not have to pay duty on 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 5 packs tobacco; 1 bottle of alcohol; and 5 bottles perfume. Entry to the country with sporting guns requires a licence.
Cameroon Ministry of Tourism, Yaounde: +202 265 8790 or www.tourisminformationcameroon.net
Cameroon Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 265 8790.
Cameroon Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7727 0771.
Cameroon High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 236 1522 ext. 221
Cameroon Consulate, Sydney, Australia: +61 2 9989 8414.
Cameroon High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 460 0341.
Cameroon Consulate, Dublin, Ireland: +353 83 031 2631
United States Embassy, Yaoundé: +237 2220 1500.
British High Commission, Yaoundé: +237 222 22 07 96.
Canadian High Commission, Yaoundé (also responsible for Australia): +237 222 50 39 00.
South African High Commission, Yaoundé: +237 2220 0440.
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