Cameroon is a paradise for the experienced traveler. Still very virgin, you can spend the whole trip without seeing groups of tourists, extremely varied (they call Cameroon ‘Africa in Miniature’), authentic and with some 'highlights' that deserve a trip there. Powerful cultural festival in the Western Highlands, nomadic Baka pygmies in the Eastern jungles, incredible white sand beaches in the South, and the last naked tribes in West-Central Africa in Northern Cameroon. Joan Riera, co-founder of Last Places spend part of his childhood in Cameroon and we can state that it is where ‘everything started’.
Cameroon’s main travel highlight is its natural and cultural diversity. Some of the greatest a less explored National Parks in Central Africa can be found in Cameroon.
When you travel to South Cameroon you can visit the following protected areas such as Lobeke National Park, one of Cameroon’s best places to observe western lowland gorillas, is a member of the Tri-National Sangha complex, currently in the process to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Roundtrips to the other National Parks (Dzanga-Ndoki in C.A.R. and Nouabalé-Ndoki in Congo) can be organized with ease. Boumba Bek & Nki National Parks represent one of Cameroon’s less explored jungle areas. Its mountainous terrain has preserved this natural paradise from logging and forest elephants, buffaloes, bongos, and western lowland gorillas can be spotted all along the Boumba and Nki Rivers. Korup National Park is Cameroons oldest park and one of the world’s oldest tropical forests. Korup ancient forests host Africa’s last drill populations, Goliath frogs, and many endemic reptile and bird species. Dja Wildlife Reserve is Cameroon’s sole UNESCO site and the best spot to meet the Baka pygmy tribe, great jungle trails, and the enigmatic volcanic rocks in the middle of the Dja Reserve from where you have amazing jungle panoramic views. North Cameroon also offers great nature travel experiences. In the Sahel area of Cameroon Middle-Africa offers safaris to Waza National Park, famous for its giraffes, lions, and elephant herds, also to Rey Bouba National Park, in the Chad border, where the last Cameroonian black rhinos are thought to survive. North Cameroon offers great travel experiences aside from its parks. Rhumsiki is Cameroon’s most beautiful and iconic panoramic view, and probably one of Africa’s greatest natural landscapes. We also find the tiny Mafa tribe stone and mud villages on the way to Rhumsiki, the colourful markets of Pouss, Tourou, Maroua, Mindif, and Poli, and welcoming hospitality of the Cameroonian people. Travelling to Cameroon also means encountering some of Africa’s most traditional cultural groups. In South-Eastern Cameroon you will find the Baka pygmies, one of the last hunter and gatherer ethnic groups in the World. Middle-Africa organises trips to Eastern Cameroon to meet the Baka pygmies and get to know them in their forest habitat. In Northern Cameroon we organise travel experiences to the remote Vokre Mountains and Alantika Mountains and Faro plain to visit the Dupa and Koma naked mountain tribes and the Mbororo nomads, known for their beauty and tattooed faces. To round up your travel experience in Cameroon, you can end the last days in Limbe’s volcanic beaches, near active volcano Mount Cameroon (4.080mts.-great trekkings) or in the beautiful white-sand beaches of Kribi. Kribi, an ancient German colonial town, offers the traveller in Cameroon a great opportunity to enjoy the famous Cameroonian shrimps, also known as ‘camarones’, from where the word Cameroon derives from.
Also known as Kadam, Kompana, Beya, Ndamti, Vomni or Verre.
Population & Ecosystem
60.000 Koma is a relatively isolated hill-dwelling ethnic group in Faro DEpartment, in the Alantika Mountains, which shares a border with Nigeria.
Economy & Society
Hill-dwellers are spread through the south and southwest of these mountains, including many on the Nigerian side. There are 21 Koma villages in the Cameroonian side of the Alantika Mountains and 17 villages on the Nigerian side. Alantika means where ‘Allah hasn’t yet arrived’ in the Kanuri language. The explanation for this is the fact that the Koma tribal people living in the Alantika Mountains keep their Animistic religion and their ancient traditions despite being surrounded by Islamic societies in the nearby plains. The Koma are divided between two different clans: the Koma Kadam (East side) and the Koma Kompana (West side), and all their villages are controlled by the Emir of Nassarao (Nigerian side) and the Lamido or Emir of Wangay (Cameroon side) who profess the Islamic religion. The Koma have to pay taxes (in spices) to the landlords of the Alantika Mountains. In the last 20 years some Christian missionaries have constructed missions in the Alantika Mountains but there are few conversions till this day.
Customarily inheritance in Koma is in the maternal lineage. As a mark of acceptance and friendship, a Koma man may share his wife with friends, especially visitors. They have an average population of about 400 people per village, and many engage in rearing of animals.
Culture & Religion
The Koma are committed to their traditional culture. The men wear loincloths and women wear fresh leaves. Koma men are much more receptive to wearing of Western clothes than the women. Koma people are mainly attached to the African religion and they have a unique ritual known as ‘farting dance’. Koma medicine men engage in extended farting sessions on the occasion of public dancing ceremonies. They train with a master and are capable of farting for hours on end. When the anus area becomes irritated from prolonged flatulence, it is soothed with a healing powder. The tradition is thought to originate in mockery of puritanical Muslims, who used to enslave Komas and drove them to move their habitat into the hilly areas they now occupy.
Also known as Baaka, Bayaka, or Babinga.
Population & Ecosystem
6.000 Baka live in the dense tropical forests of eastern Cameroon. Some (around 15% still live in nomadic camps inside the jungle), the rest live in villages near logging roads.
Economy & Society
The Baka people are the principal hunter-gatherers of the tropical rainforest of eastern Cameroon. Groups establish temporary camps of huts constructed of bowed branches covered in large leaves (though today more and more homes are constructed following Bantu methods).
The Baka hunt and gather their own food. The men hunt and trap in the surrounding forest, using poisoned arrows and spears to great effect. The men also welcome the help of dogs when going on hunting excursions.
Fishing is very important in Baka culture as young boys are taught to use fishing rods at a young age. The men fish using chemicals obtained from crushed plant material. Using fast-moving river water, they disperse the chemical downstream. This non-toxic chemical deprives fish of oxygen, making them float to the surface and easily collected by Baka men. Another method of fishing, performed generally only by women, is dam fishing, in which water is removed from a dammed area and fish are taken from the exposed ground. Children and adolescent-girls often accompany the women when they go fish-bailing in nearby streams. More than only fishing with adults, their job is also to help the women by watching over the infants while they fish. Women cultivate plants, such as plantains, cassavas and bananas, and practice beekeeping. The group remains in one area until it is hunted out. It then abandons the camp and settles down in a different portion of the forest. The group is communal and makes decisions by consensus.
During the dry season, it is common for the Baka to move and set camp within the forest in order to facilitate fishing and overall nutritional gathering. The Baka are the most active during these dry seasons. Men hunt from dawn until dusk and the women gather fruits which are used for the provision of juice and nuts. The Baka people continue to monitor bee activity in order to obtain honey.
In socio-economic and political spheres, the Baka people are not seen as equal to the Bantu villagers. The Baka rely on the farmers for trade opportunities. They exchange some of their primary goods (fruits, wild nuts, medicinal plants etc.) for money and industrial goods. The farmers are the Baka’s only connection to the modern Cameroonian or Gabonese bureaucracies. Because of this, the Baka often work as indentured servants to the farmers. The Baka thus follow most of the farmers’ orders. This unbalanced relationship often causes tensions between the two groups. These inequalities are perpetuated by the fact that some of the villagers speak French (the national language of Gabon) but none of the Baka do.
The Baka People form an acephalous society, one in which there are no political leaders or hierarchies. This makes it difficult for the Baka to assimilate to the political landscapes of Gabon.
Deforestation impacts the Baka as the forest is their home. About 100 instruments that the Baka use daily for cooking, hunting and gathering, rituals etc. have been recorded. Out of these 100 utensils, 40 of these utensils are made "partly or entirely out of natural resources" found in the forest. These deforestation projects can be extremely detrimental to the Baka as they will be destroying the environment on which they so heavily rely for absolute subsistence as well as for economic standing in face of the farmers.
Culture & Religion
Music is an important part of Pygmy life, and casual performances take place during many of the day's events. Music comes in many forms, including the spiritual likanos stories, vocal singing and music played from a variety of instruments including the bow harp, harp zither, and a string bow.
The Baka peoples are particularly known for their dense contrapuntal-communal improvisation. The level of polyphonic complexity of Baka music was reached in Europe only in the 14th century. The polyphonic singing of the Baka Pygmies was relisted on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008.
Baka Pygmy music consists of up to four parts and can be described as an "ostinato with variations" similar to a passacaglia in that it is cyclical. It is based on repetition of periods of equal length that each singer divides using different rhythmic figures specific to different repertoires and songs. This creates a detailed surface and endless variations not only of the same period repeated but of various performances of the same piece of music. As in some Balinese gamelan music these patterns are based on a super-pattern which is never heard. The Baka themselves do not learn or think of their music in this theoretical framework, but learn the music growing up.
Polyphonic music is only characteristic of the Baka Pygmies.
Liquindi is water drumming, typically practiced by Baka Pygmy women and girls. The sound is produced by persons standing in water, and hitting the surface of the water with their hands, such as to trap air in the hands and produce a percussive effect that arises by sudden change in air pressure of the trapped air. The sound cannot exist entirely in water, since it requires the air-water boundary as a surface to be struck, so the sound is not hydraulophonic.
The Baka worship the forest spirit called Jengi (also known as Djengui or Ejengi). The spirit plays the role of the mediator between the Supreme Being, Komba, and the Baka people. The Baka thus compare Jengi to a protecting father or guardian. They strongly believe and revere Jengi as they believe that he is the only way to Komba. The Baka people believe Jengi to be omnipresent within the forest allowing him to punish transgressors within the confines of the forest. Ultimately, the Baka worship nature as it is Komba, not Jengi that resides in it.
After hunting successfully, the Baka worship Jengi with songs of thanksgiving and dancing in a ritual called Luma. These rituals are necessary for Jengi to appear before the Baka, as they believe that he only shows himself when harmony reigns among the villagers. Jengi also appears during the important ceremony, Jengi, where a young man goes from being a boy to a man. During these ceremonies, young Baka men volunteer to be initiated by Jengi. Once they are initiated, they have the right to live and walk freely within the sacred forest.
Death is considered to be a misfortune for the Baka. They deem the death of one of their own to be a representation of spiritual discord. Each tribe, having witnessed the death of one of their own, is required to pray to Jengi and dance around the debris covered corpse for an entire night. The dance performed during the death rituals is called the Mbouamboua. After a long night of dancing, the villagers depart from where they were stationed, leaving the corpse behind, and set out to move somewhere else in order to flee the curse.
Also known as Doupa and Pape.
Population & Ecosystem
30.000 Dupa is a relatively isolated hill-dwelling ethnic group in Faro Department, in the Vokre Mountains.
Economy & Society
The Dupa econoy is based in slash and burn subsistence agriculture, some hunting, fishing and wild fruits gathering along the Vokre Mountains and surrounding Faro Valley.
Customarily inheritance in Dupa is in the maternal lineage. As a mark of acceptance and friendship, a Dupa man may share his wife with friends, especially visitors. They have an average population of about 400 people per village, and many engage in rearing of animals.
Culture & Religion
The Dupa are committed to their traditional culture. The men wear loincloths and women also wear loincloths and occasionally fresh leaves. Scarification is still popular in some families but tends to disappear due to new influences coming from the nearby Christianized tribes such as the Dowayo from Faro Valley and Poli town. Dupa people are strongly attached to their ancestral African religion and ancestors’ skull cult, with complex rites of passage for both young men and women that last several months.
Also known as Fula or Fulani.
Population & Ecosystem
500.000 nomadic or semi-nomadic Mbororo livebetween the Faro Valley and the Chadian border. The Mbororo in Cameroon are a sub-group of the much larger Peul or Fula people, a tribe that is spread across much of West Africa.
Economy & Society
Most Mbororo is Cameroon are nomadic or semi-nomadic, mixing farming with shepherding. Most Mbororo travel seasonally with their flocks, but some Mbororo have a permanent home they live in for half of the year, only traveling during the dry season, when grazing lands and water are scarce. Many of the Mbororo men have multiple wives. Since cattle are a symbol of wealth among the Mbororo, brides are sometimes chosen because of the amount of cattle they own.
Mbororo society is divided into casts. The fairly rigid caste system of the Mbororo people has medieval roots, was well established by the 15th-century, and it has survived into modern age. The four major castes in their order of status are ‘nobility, traders, tradesmen (such as blacksmith) and descendants of slaves’.
On top of the pyramid there are the Dimo, meaning ‘noble’. The imo are followed by the artisan caste, including blacksmiths, potters, griots, genealogists, woodworkers, and dressmakers. They belong to castes but are free people. On the lower part of the pyramid there are those castes of captive, slave or serf ancestry. The Mbororo castes are endogamous in nature, meaning individuals marry only within their caste.
Central to the Fulani people's lifestyle is a code of behaviour known as pulaaku, literally meaning the ‘Mbororo pathways’ which are passed on by each generation as high moral values of the Mbororo, which enable them to maintain their identity across boundaries and changes of lifestyle. Essentially viewed as what makes a person Mbororo or Fulani, pulaaku includes:
Munyal: Patience, self-control, discipline, prudence
Gacce / Semteende: Modesty, respect for others (including foes)
Hakkille: Wisdom, forethought, personal responsibility, hospitality
Sagata / Tiinaade: Courage, hard work
Culture & Religion
The traditional dress of the Mbororo consists of long colourful flowing robes, modestly embroidered or otherwise decorated. Both men and women wear a characteristic white or black cotton fabric gown, adorned with intricate blue, red and green thread embroidery work, with styles differing according to region and sex.
It is not uncommon to see the women decorate their hair with bead hair accessories as well as cowrie shells. Mbororo women often use henna for hand, arm and feet decorations. Their long hair is put into five long braids that either hang or are sometimes looped on the sides. It is common for women and girls to have silver coins and amber attached to their braids. Some of these coins are very old and have been passed down in the family. The women often wear many bracelets on their wrists. The women can also be seen wearing a colourful cloth around, the waist, head or over one shoulder.
Like the men, the women have markings (combination of scarification and tattooing) on their faces around their eyes and mouths that they were given as children.
Mbororo men are often seen wearing solid-coloured shirt and pants which go down to their lower calves, made from locally grown cotton, a long cloth wrapped around their faces, and a conical hat made from straw and leather on their turbans, and carrying their walking sticks across their shoulders with their arms resting on top of it. Often the men have markings on either side of their faces and/or on their foreheads. They received these markings as children. Mbororo ethics are strictly governed by the notion of pulaaku. Women wear long robes with flowery shawls. They decorate themselves with necklaces, earrings, nose rings and anklets.
One of the most important events in Mbororo culture is the Gerewol, a yearly ceremony that gathers all the Mbororo clans so that young members of the tribe can flirt and meet their future wives and husbands. Gerewol happens at the end of the rainy season (late September, early October) but rehearsals and smaller Gerewol ceremonies can be seen all year around. During the Gerewol, dancing and singing become central.
The Mbororo have a rich musical culture and play a variety of traditional instruments including drums, hoddu (a plucked skin-covered lute similar to a banjo), and riti or riiti (a one-string bowed instrument similar to a violin), in addition to vocal music. Zaghareet or ululation is a popular form of vocal music formed by rapidly moving the tongue sideways and making a sharp, high sound.
The Mbororo were one of the first people groups in Cameroon to be converted to Islam. The Mbororo still hold on to many old Mbororo traditions. They believe that family, cattle, strong morals, beauty, poetry, singing, and dancing are the most important things in life.
The Ngoun Festival is held every second year in December. The Sultan-King of Bamoun is sitting on his ornate throne, framed by huge elephant tusks. On the page opposite (lower row) the guard's shield features a double headed serpent, which depicts the kingdom's continuing vigilance in keeping its enemies at bay in a two front war. The next photo is of local officials in their colorful regalia. The final photo shows the guards and guests in line with the Bamoun palace in the background.
The Gerewol also written Guerewol is an annual courtship ritual competition among the Fulani Mbororo people of Nigeria and other regions of the Sahel. Young men dressed in elaborate ornamentation and made up in traditional face painting gather in lines to dance and sing, vying for the attentions of marriageable young women.
At the end of the rainy season, end of September, the Fulani travel to different places in Northern Cameroon to participate at the Gerewol festival, a meeting of several nomadic Mbororo clans. Here the young Mbororo men, with elaborate make-up, feathers and other adornments, perform dances and songs to impress women. The male beauty ideal of the Mbororo stresses tallness, white eyes and teeth; the men will often roll their eyes and show their teeth to emphasize these characteristics. The Mbororo clans will then join for their week-long Gerewol celebration, a contest where the young men's beauty is judged by young women.
Gerewol rehearsals and smaller Gerewols can be seen in Cameroon all year around. It is important to have an informant well connected to the different Mbororo clans so that the information is verified and transmitted in time.
The music and line dancing is typical of Mbororo traditions, which have largely disappeared among the vast diaspora of Mbororo people, many of whom are educated, Muslim, urbanites. This is characterized by group singing, accompanied by clapping, stomping and bells. The Mbororo Gerewol festival is one of the more famous examples of this style of repeating, hypnotic, and percussive choral traditions, accompanied by swaying line dancing, where the men interlink arms and rise and fall on their toes.
The Gerewol competitions involve the ornamented young men dancing the Yaake in a line, facing a young marriageable woman, sometimes repeatedly over a seven-day period, and for hours on end in the desert sun. Suitors come to the encampment of the woman to prove their interest, stamina, and attractiveness. The participants often drink a fermented bark concoction to enable them to dance for long periods, which reputedly has a hallucinogenic effect.
The Medumba Festival
It takes place every two years (usually in July) and is organized by the elites of the 14 villages of the Nde department in western Cameroon. It is held in Bangangté and for two weeks the festival will go around each village. Its aim is to promote not only the traditional Medumba language, but also the cultural potential of the locality. During the festival, traditional dances are organized, as well as readings of tales and legends about the inhabitants of the region.
The Ngondo Festival
It is the traditional and cultural festival of the Douala tribe. It takes place every year (7 Nov-7dec) at the banks of the Wouri. Its purpose is to gather during this celebration, all the coastal people in order to commune with the spirits protecting the water. For a month many educational and fun attractions are highlighted for the promotion of the Sawa culture in general.
The Elog Mpoo Festival
This is the socio-cultural festival of the Bakoko people. It is organized every year (7 to 20 December) in the city of Edéa by all 14 clans that account this group. The goal is to bring together the Mpoo sons and daughters to enhance the Bakoko culture, through knowledge of the language, customs and traditions.
The Nyem Nyem Festival
It is a ceremony that is organized every 2 years (13 to 15 March), in the department of Faro and Deo in the region of Adamawa. He celebrates the victory of the Nyem Nyem people over the German colonizing troops. During the festivities, an exhibition of traditional dances, the exhibition of art objects, the parade of fantasia and the ascent of Mount Djim where warriors Nyem Nyem have defeated the ambitions of German troops. It is an opportunity for Cameroonians and foreign tourists to discover Galim-Tignere and its warrior people.
The Mayi Festival
This is the socio-cultural festival of the Batanga people. It is organized every year (May 9th), in the city of Kribi. His celebration marks the return of exile from the Batanga people, who were deported to English-speaking areas during the First World War. To not forget this painful moment of their history, the Mayi was instituted in the mores of the populations.
The Manimben Festival "The Black Lion Banen"
It takes place every year, more precisely from 14 to 15 August in Ndikiniméki, in the department of Mbam and Inoubou. It is organized by the Banen community, not to be confused with that of the coast. It is celebrated to honor the bravery of the formidable leader Manimben Yi Tombi said the black lion Banen, who fiercely opposed the German troops during the colonization campaigns. During the festival, the feats of this legendary conductor are taken as a theatrical performance with several other fun activities.
The Kanga Festival
It is organized every year (November), in the Nyong and Mfoumou department, more precisely in the city of Akonolinga. It is a showcase that allows the citizens of this locality to promote their culture. Which has already been made a name thanks to the famous fish called "kanga", which is a symbol in the mores of the populations.
Vernacular architecture of Cameroon
Vernacular architecture is commonly recognized as the fundamental expression of the world’s cultural diversity. The desire for modernization and the well-known globalization phenomenon are some of the most frequent evoked issues responsible for endangering the survival of vernacular heritage in Africa. In Last Places we aim to highlight the outstanding universal value of vernacular architectural heritage in Cameroon and to raise awareness to the increasing need, not only the protection of these structures’ integrity but also for the preservation of such ancient and sustainable building techniques as a living heritage.
Among the Bamileke people, architecture plays a critical role in the construction of social identity. Human beings and their dwellings are linked in a symbiotic relation, at the heart of which stands one fundamental concern: the acquisition of status. In the following pages I address one aspect of this relation - the manner in which quests for social recognition, wealth and prestige are articulated in the ornamentation of men's meeting houses. My analysis throughout focuses on one specific architectural element known as the "stomach of the house" and on the manner in which this element is associated with the human stomach - the seat of a man's identity.
The Bamileke enclave is one of the richest and most densely populated regions of Cameroon. Located amid hills whose altitudes average of 1,500 meters, it graces a landscape so verdant that, in French colonial circles, it came to be known as l'Auvergne de l'Afrique. It is home to some one hundred chieftaincies founded for the most part between the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries, highly centralized polities focused on the person of a mighty ruler - the fo. Fo are thought to be sacred beings. Around them, stringently defined hierarchical orders are constructed. From elaborate compounds nestled in the foothills, near water and the countryside's richest lands, they stand at the helm of communities organized not as villages, but in the form of dispersed clusters: discrete architectural ensembles - some large, most small, mainly with four or five structures - housing a man, his wives, and children. Renowned above all for their extraordinary dynamism - for their dedication and remarkable success in the twin realms of agriculture and commerce - the Bamileke (some one million strong) are legendary, both in Cameroon and throughout much of Central Africa. Best known are the people of Bandjoun, one of the country's largest and most influential chieftaincies. Home to over 100,000 inhabitants, it is overseen by a single powerful chief, the descendent of a long and distinguished line of warriors and politicians. In many respects the nucleus of the Bamileke enclave, Bandjoun is celebrated for the wealth of its artistic, and in particular, its architectural traditions.
Among the Bamileke, architecture and social identity go hand in hand. Those who seek titles within this eminently hierarchical society - those who wish to acquire status, economic advantage, or political power - are expected to follow a rigorous path. Early in life they must enter upon a program of rites de passage, payments, and gift-giving: a step by-step process codified and overseen by a variety of interest groups within the community. These steps render possible, and at the same time sanction, an individual's progress through the rungs of the hierarchy. For each step - for each rung on the ladder of social advancement - there is a structure (a type of building) or an architectural feature (a certain construction material or ornamental device). With each structure built and each element incorporated, status is gained. As they are raised in tandem, architecture and social identity flow into one another. Ultimately, they emerge as a single, unified entity. Architecture and architect for the Bamileke are linked in a symbiotic relation at whose heart stands one fundamental concern: the acquisition of power. In particular, the link between man and structure hinges on one, key concept: a vision of houses as embodiments of the people who construct them. In the first section below I introduce this concept to provide a basic framework for the elaboration of my later hypotheses. The questions addressed and ideas presented in this paper center around one type of edifice: the shang. Buildings of this sort are best described as meeting houses or, in a more general sense, as sacred enclosures.
Throughout the region, they grace the compounds of the elite. Built by and for men, in all but a few instances they are rigorously closed to women. The typical shang is a square structure (roughly six meters by six, though dimensions vary). Until the 1950S and 60S the materials of choice for the construction of its walls were raffia palm and adobe; today terra cotta and cement are also commonly employed.' Set atop an elaborate armature made of raffia poles and ties, one or several roofs crown the edifice. Towering cones of thatch or (more recently) sheet metal, they are visible from a great distance. A carved lintel, jambs, and threshold draw attention to the portal. Tall, slightly tapered pillars made of sculpted or incised wood complete the ensemble.
Baka Pygmy Architecture
One of the best examples of vernacular nomadic architecture is found among the Baka pygmies of Eastern Cameroon. Traditional Baka huts are called móngulu. They are typically shaped one-family houses made of branches and leaves and predominantly built by women.
After a hemispheric framework of flexible, thin branches is prepared, big recently-gathered leaves of Marantaceae plants fit in the structure. Once the work is done, other vegetable material is sometimes added to the dome in order to make the structure more compact and waterproof.
Musgum people are a tribe living between North Cameroon (Logone River region) and Chad. Until the 1950s (when extended rice agriculture was introduced by French colonial administration and Islam expanded in Musgum territory) the Musgum created their homes from compressed sun-dried mud. The tall conical dwellings, in the shape of a shell (artillery), featured geometric raised patterns.
What strikes at first sight is their almost organic simplicity, a second reading reveals the functions behind the forms. The walls of the houses are thicker at the base than at the summit, which increases the stability of the building.
The name of these houses (‘cases obus’) comes from their similarity with the profile of shells. It is very close to the catenary arch, the ideal mathematical form to bear a maximum weight with minimal material. This profile also reduces the pressure effect of the impact of water drops on the walls. Furthermore, the extraordinary height (up to 9 meters) of these houses provides a comfort climate during hot days. The top of the house is pierced with a circular opening, allowing the air to circulate, resulting in the sensation of freshness. Today, these buildings have become somewhat obsolete, with only a few groups still practicing this ‘cases obus’ type of construction.
|The Kotoko kingdom was a monarchy in what is today northern Cameroon and Nigeria and southwestern Chad. It was originally created around the 15th century from the merger of various smaller kingdoms, such as Kousseri, Logone-Birni, and Makari. It then grew by assimilating several neighboring peoples, reached its peak around the 16th and 17th centuries, and then … began to disappear as an independent entity, absorbed by more powerful neighboring kingdoms (first the Bagirmi, later on the Bornu.) By the 19th century, the Kotoko kingdom had been completely subsumed into the Bornu Empire. Eventually, the whole of the Bornu Empire would end up being divided by the European colonial powers.
In spite of the dramatic changes in their administrative structure – from being an independent kingdom to being part of the Bornu Empire, soon to be followed by being part of various European colonies (and eventually various countries) – the Kotoko people managed to survive to this day. Today, they live mostly in small settlements around the southern side of Lake Chad and along the banks of the lower Chari and Logone rivers. They distinguish themselves by, among other things, having kept alive one of the traditional trademark skills of the Sao civilization, namely pottery making. As a matter of fact, today, the Kotoko (as well as the neighboring Kanuri) consider the Sao to be their forefathers. Kotoko are also renowned adobe architects. Several walled cities with maze-type quarters can be found in Extreme North Cameroon.
The city of Logone-Birni was built by the Kotoko people of Cameroon.
|The buildings, made of clay, are examples of architecture by accretion.|
|New enclosures were built around older, often sharing walls with the older rooms.|
|At least in part, this reflected patriarchal aspects of the culture: a father wanted his sons to live nearby, so their houses were built sharing walls with their father's house.|
Mandara Mountains Architecture
In the Mandara Mountains of Cameroon live various ethnic groups commonly referred to as Kirdi. The buildings of the Mofu tribe are created from the stone rubble that covers the Mandara mountain terrain. Much of the stone has natural fracture lines that tend to split into thick flat sheets. These ready-made bricks—along with defense needs—helped to inspire the construction of their huge castle-like complexes. But rather than the Euclidean shapes of European castles, this African architecture is fractal, with small circular granaries and larger circular granaries spiraling within three large stone enclosures, which themselves spiral from a central point. There is a sort of recipe or algorithm that determines how the system expands to accommodate growth. It is determined by knowledge of the agricultural yield. This volume measure was then converted to a number of granaries and these were arranged in spirals. The design is not simply a matter of adding on granaries randomly, but rather the expansion of a quantitative and deliberate process.
The square building is the village altar. It is the site of both religious and political authority; it is the location for rituals which generate cycles of agricultural fertility and ancestral succession. Again the self-generating geometric algorithm of the architecture reflects a self-generating concept of society.
Lobeke National Park is situated on the extreme southeast region of Cameroon. It covers a surface area of 1,838.55 km2. Lobeke forms part of the trans-boundary conservation initiative, known as Sangha River Tri-National Park, a priority landscape that includes Dzangha-Ndoki National Park in Central African Republic, and Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in Congo-Brazzaville. This protected area of primary forest is the largest undestroyed tropical forest in Africa, and the best place to observe Western lowland gorillas, forest elephants, red forest buffaloes, leopards, chimpanzees, and the endangered bongo, a beautiful orange antelope with white stripes.
TRAVEL HIGHLIGHTS OF LOBEKE NATIONAL PARK
This protected area is predominantly a semi-evergreen forest, most of which has never been logged. It is a forest characterized by an enormous variety of plants, with more than 300 species of trees. Together with its floral richness Lobeke has 45 mammal species, excluding rodents, 305 bird species -3 of them new to science!-. Africa’s hugest grey parrot population is found in this park. 18 out of 30 species of reptiles found in the sub-region have been recorded in Lobeke, 16 amphibians, and about 215 butterfly species can be found there, 8 of them being endemic in Cameroon.
One of Lobeke’s most outstanding characteristics is its amazing network of swampy forest clearings. These large clearings, known as ‘bais’ by the Baka pygmy population, are rich in saltlicks and serve as a pool of attraction for wildlife. They are large grass fields with unique vegetations found deep inside the forest and are maintained by large mammals such as forest elephants, Western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, black colobus, red forest buffaloes, bongo antelopes and sitatungas. Six forest clearings are being monitored in Lobeke. They include Bolo, Djangui, Ndangaye, Ngoa, Djaloumbe, and Petite Savane. Observation towers (miradors) have been recently constructed near these bais. Miradors are wooden structures that can accommodate up to five people and serve as platform for observation of animals the visit the clearings. Apart from observing animals at the clearings, or trekking inside the tropical forest, night walks in the forest can be organised to observe galagos, pottos, hyrax, bats, nightjars, civets, genets, and the magic sound of the jungle at night.
The Baka pygmies have lied in this forest area since immemorial times. They continue to lead a traditional way of life, based in gathering and hunting. They respect Lobeke forest as their Goddess –Ejengi they call it- and they are the true protectors of this jungle. Since the very first day we visited the area we knew that the Baka would be our main collaborators, together with the park’s administration. We strongly believe that the Baka’s must be part of the process of projecting Lobeke as one of Africa’s next eco-touristic destinations. Ethno-tourism activities with the Baka and Bangando (local Bantu farming tribe) could include for example, one or two days trips into the forest with the Baka to hunt for duiker with nets or monkeys with crossbows. Additionally, tourists could accompany Baka or Bangando on gathering trips for medicinal plants, caterpillars, bush mangoes, and crayfish (seasonal) building materials, palm wine tapping and fishing trips.
In Last Places we have known the area for quite a while and since the very beginning we have been supporting all government and local initiatives so that Lobeke National Park could be visited by tourist. In 2011 there are two lodging facilities in Lobeke: Djembe Camp (east side, near the Sangha River) and Kombo Camp (west side, near Mambele village). Both camps have twin rooms with internal toilets. Their capacity is of 16 people and bookings have to be made in advance.
ORGANISING YOUR TRIP TO LOBEKE NATIONAL PARK
Last Places organises trips to Lobeke National Park all year around. We propose getting to Lobeke National Park by private plane from Yaounde to one of the 3 airstrips around Lobeke, owned by logging companies.
The climate of the area is relatively consistent with a long wet season (September to November are the worst months to travel to Lobeke) a short wet season (March to June) a long dry season (December to February), and a short dry season (July to August).
One of Cameroon’s most attractive natural and cultural areas is the region of Alantika Mountains and Faro National Park in North Cameroon. The Alantika Mountains are in the border between Cameroon and Nigeria. Alantika means where ‘Allah hasn’t yet arrived’ in the Kanuri language. The explanation for this is the fact that the Koma tribal people living in the Alantika Mountains keep their Animistic religion and their ancient traditions despite being surrounded by Islamic societies in the nearby Faro Valley. The Koma are divided between two different clans: the Koma Kadam (East side) and the Koma Kompana (West side), and all their villages are controlled by the Lamido or Emir of Wangay (Cameroon side) and the Emir of Nassarao (Nigerian side) who profess the Islamic religion. The Koma have to pay taxes (in species) to the landlords of the Alantika Mountains. In the last 20 years some Christian missionaries have constructed missions in the Alantika Mountains but there are few conversions till this day.
In Last Places we closely work with the Koma communities and the Kingdom of Wangay so that the region preserves in natural beauty and its cultural diversity. Most of Middle-Africa’s team is composed of Anthropologists who believe that responsible tourism can help preserve the Koma culture and ameliorate their daily lives. We are working hard so that the Alantika Mountains and Faro valley do not suffer the negative effects of massive tourism like it has happened in other tribal regions of the world.
TRAVEL HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ALANTIKA MOUNTAINS AND FARO NATIONAL PARK
-Safari in the wild Faro National Park (3.300 km²) to observe animals (best season from December to May). Faro National Park is still very virgin but has a great eco-tourist potential together with the neighboring protected mountain areas of Tchabal Mbabo and Gashaka Gumti (Nigeria).
-Navigating long the Faro River (best season from June to October) and visiting the Bata fishing villages.
-Great trekkings along the Alantika Mountains during all year around. The Koma people love partying and you’ll be able to participate in their local dances (initiation, funerals, agricultural ceremonies, etc.). Most festivities are accompanied by abundant quantities of ‘Bil-Bil’ the local millet beer!
-The remote Koma villages and the Koma people, keepers of ancient traditions long-lost in Africa. There are 21 Koma villages in the Cameroonian side of the Alantika Mountains and 17 villages on the Nigerian side. The trekker can easily visit villages from one country or the other. Some of the most beautiful Koma villages are: Librou, Nagamalo, Bimlerou le Haut, Koilo, Bakiba, Louga, and Somlari. In Deglo and Sassi villages there are ‘fetish shrines’ where sacrifices occur and some houses are decorated with bull skulls
-The Chamba people, and their Buffalo masquerades, in the mountain villages of Balkossa, Koubi, Yeli, and Guenou Bimba.
-Visit the Veré villages (east). The Veré are an Islamized mountain people closely related to the Koma
-Discovering the nomadic life of the tattooed Mbororo herders in the Faro Valley. You can spend a couple of nights in one of their mobile camps composed of ‘igloo-style’ huts- the experience is highly rewarding! Always go with a Fulfulde speaking guide since the Mbororos do not speak French or English. In Béka, the biggest village in the Alantika-Faro area an annual Gerewol or Darkwol is celebrated by the local Mbororo young men and women. The participants paint their faces with bright colors and decorated their hair.
-The colorful markets of Gouna (Tuesday), Poli (Saturday), Wangay (Thursday), Tchamba (Monday), or Katsala Boma (Friday).
-Horse riding in Wangay and Faro Valley. You can also admire the decorated horses of the Wangay nobility during special occasions.
-Friday’s Islamic ceremonies outside the palace of Wangay. The Lamido or Emir leaves the palace’s premises to enter the central mosque with all his court following him while the royal Griot doesn’t stop playing the traditional flute.
-On your way to the Alantika Mountains you will cross Poli and the beautiful the Faro Valley. Before Poli, there is a smaller range of Mountains known as the Poli Mountains, where the Dupá and Papé tribes live. Like the Koma people, these ethnic groups keep most of their Animistic traditional and it’s worth visiting them in their mountain villages. Another interesting group in the Faro Valley is the Dowayo tribe, lengthily studied by the English Anthropologist Nigel Barley in the 1980s. The Dowayo villages are like adobe mazes, really beautiful!
ORGANISING YOUR TRIP TO ALANTIKA MOUNTAINS (NORTH CAMEROON)
From our offices in Douala we organise travel tours to every corner of Cameroon all year around. The Alantika Mountains in Cameroon are beautiful during the rainy season, from June to October and during the dry season, from November to May.
One of the wildest regions in Eastern Cameroon and a big mass of beautiful unlogged primary forest to be explored. This is just for real nature lovers and adventure travelers
Cameroon and Gabon are currently working on the TRIDOM project, a conservation initiative leading to a land management plan which will oversee access to and use of forests.It will create a tri-national ‘interzone’ bordered by the Minkebe, Boumba-Bek, Nki, and Odzala National Parks and the Dja Wildlife Reserve.This project is part of a conservation movement toward the zoning and designation of new protected areas.
Boumba Bek is located between the Boumba and Bek Rivers in southeast Cameroon, from which it derives its name. The site is accessible only by pirogue and several hunting trails.
Sixteen bais, or forest clearings, have been discovered in Boumba Bek National Park. Of these, four are currently being monitored for large mammalian activities.
The park has a tropical climate with temperature ranging from 23.1 to 25?C with an average annual temperature of 24?C. Its relative humidity varies between 60 to 90% while annual rainfall is 1500 mm per year. According to the Cameroon Ministry of Agriculture, Moloundou has a rainy season from September to November, a dry season from November to March, a rainy season from March to June, and a dry season from July to August.
Flora and Fauna of Boumba Bek and Nki National Park
A majority of the park is semi-evergreen lowland rainforest, along with several patches of closed-canopy evergreen forest. Small areas of seasonally flooded forest, swamp-forest, and grassy savannas.
Chimpanzees, forest antelopes, crocodiles and bongos are all found in Boumba Bek National Park. In addition, roughly 300 fish species, three of which are not named, swim in the park's rivers.
The forests of Cameroon contain some of the highest population density of African forest elephants of any nation, and Boumba Bek is no different, with an elephant density of roughly 2.5 for Boumba Bek and Nki combined.
Boumba Bek was designated an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.
TAKAMANDA NATIONAL PARK and CROSS RIVER GORILLAS
The Takamanda National Park covers an area of about 67,599 ha with a wet and humid climate, with a mean annual rainfall of above 3000mm and mean annual temperature of 27 °C. It is drained by numerous streams and rivers.
Takamanda is rich in biodiversity and has a high endemism. It is host to: 22 large mammal species including the critically endangered Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli), 75 species of reptiles and amphibians, 313 bird species most with restricted range, 67 dragonfly species, 111 butterfly species, over 54 fish species, and over 1000 plant species with about 953 species and 113 families identified so far including many species of high conservation importance.
The forest and vegetation formations of the Takamanda National Park are rich and diverse, qualities that are enhanced by the preponderance of micro habitat types with a unique representation of a sharp gradation from lowland forest to montane (highland) forest that show an associated floristic variations.
The vegetation of the Takamanda National Park can be classified (Sunderland et al, 2003a) into five main habitat types;
- Lowland forest;
- Lowland ridge forest;
- Mid-elevation forest;
- Montane forest;
- High-altitude grassland.
Takamanda National Park is one of the 2 known sites in Cameroon and Nigeria where the Critically Endangered Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla, gorilla diehli) is found. The Cross River gorilla is the most endangered of the 4 sub-species of gorilla with a total population estimated to be between 200-250 individuals.
The Ebo Forest Wildlife Reserve is home to a mystery population of gorillas, only discovered by scientists in 2002. Two subspecies of gorilla are found in Cameroon, the Western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and a small population of Cross River gorillas (Gorilla Gorilla diehli). Between these two populations, there is a third isolated Ebo population, completely cut-off from other sub-species, with no other populations found within a 200 kilometer (125 mile) radius.
“Up until now we’re still uncertain whether they are Western or Cross River gorillas, or, more interestingly, they could be a third sub-species in Cameroon,” primatologists investigating Ebo Forest said.
Cameroon’s Ebo forest is home to key populations of tool-wielding Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees, along with an unspecified subspecies of gorilla, drills, Preuss’s Red Colobus, forest elephants, and a great deal more biodiversity.
The forest is vulnerable, unprotected due to a drawn-out fight to secure its status as a national park. Logging and hunting threaten Ebo’s biodiversity. The Cameroonian palm oil company Azur recently began planting a 123,000 hectare plantation on its boundary.
The Ebo Forest Research Project (EFRP) has been working successfully to change the habits of local people who have long subsisted on the forest’s natural resources — turning hunters into great ape guardians. But without the establishment of the national park and full legal protection and enforcement, everyone’s efforts may be in vain.
The Ebo forest covers more than 1,500 square kilometers in Cameroon’s Littoral region, and it is very rich in biodiversity. A healthy population of Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees (Pan troglydtes ellioti), estimated to be around 700 strong, is found within its borders. And among them is the only chimp population east of Ivory Coast known to use tools for nut-cracking. The Ebo chimps use wood and stone hammers and anvils to get at the meat of the coula nut; and they use long, flexible sticks to fish for termites.
The forest also boasts Cameroon’s only Preuss’s Red Colobus (Piliocolobus preussi) population outside of Korup National Park, as well as one of Africa’s largest populations of endangered drills, (Mandrillus leucophaeus) and forest elephants.
With 741,000 acres, Douala Edea National Park has been recently identified as one of the most important conservation landscapes in Central Africa. In Douala Edea National Park we find the Endangered Green Turtle and the Central African Chimpanzee, one of West Africa’s most imperiled primates, as well as other increasingly rare primate species such as the Vulnerable Gabon Black Colobus Monkey. Numerous species of forest antelope and small populations of Vulnerable West African Manatees, Leatherback Turtles, Olive Ridley turtles and African Forest Elephants also live in the area. There are more than 70 waterbird species documented, in addition to many migrant species that use the rivers and rich wetlands as important stops on annual migrations. In Douala Edea National Park’s interior we find a unique sanctuary in Africa, Pongo Songo where Central African Chimpanzees victims of poaching have been re-introduced and live freely in two big forested island. Visitors can spend some time observing them when being fed, now cage or wires between visitors and the apes…that is what makes Pongo Songo a unique sanctuary.
Tourist visa to travel to Cameroon
The tourist visa is mandatory to enter Cameroon. Last Places helps to process it.
Compulsory vaccinations in Cameroon
Yellow fever. Recommended prophylaxis against malaria.
Security in Cameroon
In general Cameroon is a safe country although you have to take precautions in big cities like Douala or Yaoundé and not drive at night as they can cross people or animals and cause an accident. In 2019 the Anglophone region of the southwest was in conflict and could not be visited without government permission. The region of the Far North also implies permits or going through more security controls. The rest of the country works as usual, with police controls (less heavy and corrupt than before), bad roads (that costs change), and a welcoming population, especially in the villages. It is key to go with a good professional guide to enjoy the Cameroonian experience and avoid negative surprises.
?Best time to travel to - Climate of Cameroon
Last Places organizes trips throughout the year. The rains, from June to October, do not prevent visiting the country since it does not rain continuously and the landscape is beautiful. Having said that, the ideal time to travel to Cameroon is late October and early January. To see fauna, February and March are the driest months and where animals approach artificial rafts to drink. The average maximum temperature in Cameroon is 35 ° C in February and 28 ° C in July.
Money in Cameroon
The national currency is the CFA Franc, common currency in several countries (former French colonies) of West and Central Africa. You can exchange Euros for the local currency at airports, banks, or exchange houses. The Last Places guide can help you exchange money. The places that allow paying by credit card are counted, so money must be carried in cash.
Time in Cameroon
GMT / UTC + 1.
Electricity and charging cameras / mobiles in Cameroon
Voltage: 220 V Plugs: Type C Frequency: 50 Hz
To charge the batteries during the camping days, we will have the plugs of the vehicles themselves as well as a generator that will facilitate.
Eat in Cameroon
In the large cities of Cameroon there is a good offer of local and international restaurants (French or Lebanese food). The local Cameroonian food is also very tasty, especially that of the fertile West region (tubers, pulses, fruit ...). The country abounds in avocado, citrus, pineapples, papayas and mangoes. Seafood (shrimp, prawns, lobsters) and fresh fish abound in the south, Kribi region. There are many restaurants in the big towns and cities, with good service.
Photography in Cameroon
Avoid photographing military or police controls. Better not to photograph official buildings and ask permission to take pictures of people or their houses.
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