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Touring Bioko Island

Horacio Island behind Sofitel in Sipopo

In Equatorial Guinea you need, in addition to your visa, a permit (which looks like this) to take pictures in the country. As soon as I got this, I set off on a trip around the island which took two days.

First off we drove to Sipopo, a small village outside Malabo where known for its cocoa plantation that is no longer in use. The main road, like everywhere on the island was very good and went past some grand, seemingly unused buildings in Sippopo like a mall, conference center and the 54 luxury residences that the president had built for the 54 African presidents when they held and African Union summit.

My host Bindang making a small friend on Horacio island

Next up was a village called Riaba, which had a long and beautiful beach which I unfortunately did not manage to capture with my photo below.

The beach in Riaba

Riaba was also a nice place to stop for a meal at the one and only beach restaurant there.

When we arrived Moca we were halfway around the island. The city was way higher up than the coast so the temperatur there was cool and nice. Moca also had a small museum/wildlife center that was built by the oil company Exxon, where we got to learn a bit about the wildlife in Equatorial Guinea.

The Ureka Waterfall

Moca was not the most interesting. It had an old church, and was a once street kind of town where the buildings were barely holding up. Driving down to Ureka, which was approximately a 60km drive we made a camp on the beach and visited a couple of waterfalls. This is also the only place I was asked for a bribe by the police, which was just three dollars, which was almost fair as we had woken the police up around midnight.

The view over Moca

Luba was the last city we visited, but I would say that there was not really anything interesting to see there. The president has a palace in every province so just like in Malabo and Riaba he also had one there. Far more interesting was the small village called Batete just a short drive from Luba.

The old Spanish Church in a village called Batete outside of Luba

I would say that the roads around the island was impressive, possibly the best roads in Africa after Mauritius and the landscape was much more interesting with lots of green.

The roads are good and the landscape is beautiful. You will see a lot of the National tree called “ceiba”

Our last stop was the highest point in Equatorial Guinea called Pico Basile, where they had built a church with a statue of the virgin lady.

Apparently there are lots of monkeys living up there, but they only come down to the church in the rainy season, so we didnt see any. There was not much of a view as we were over the clouds, but it was a pleasant end to our trip around the Bioko Island.

Last stop was Pico Basile, the highest mountain in Equatorial Guinea

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Looking for Sea Turtles in Ureka

I had been unknowingly lucky to arrive in the turtle season between november and february where gigantic leatherback turtles were coming up every night to lay their eggs. I got in touch with Miguel from Enohatours who said he could take me for cheap, so we packed up a tent, sleeping mat and headlamp and made our way down to the Southern part of the island.

Miguel had just started his travel company and was as eager as me to go chasing turtles. As soon as we had parked our car by the beach, we crossed the river and found a place to make camp for the night.

On the way, we heard some some thumping sounds and some heavy breathing and grunting, just like the sound of an ox. Mangel recognized the sound at once and pointed towards where a turtle was making its way up from the ocean, not far from us.

The turtle was way bigger than I first had imagined. A full grown way anything between 200-900 kilos and come up from the ocean once a year to lay eggs.

Some rangers who were living there came up to us to check that we were not turtle hunters. We confirmed to them that we were just tourists and that we understood the rules of not getting close to the turtles before they had laid their eggs and never use flash before it was on the way back to the ocean, as that would disturb the turtles who navigate using the moonlight.

The first one we saw was definitely the biggest one. The turtles can get up to 100 years and I can imagine this one already having passed her 100th birthday.

Together with watching leatherback turtle harchings in Kabalana Beach, Sri Lanka, this must be one of my favorite animal encounters. Also because I had a turtle as a pet when I was a child.

The camping on the beach, under some of the brightest stars I have ever seen, falling asleep to the sounf of the waves and seeing five holes outside the tent where the turtles had laid eggs in the night was also part of the experience which I will reccommend to anyone who make it to Equatorial Guinea.

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Malabo, the Capital of Equatorial Guinea

Malabo is this weird, fantastic place that reminds me of a mix of Kigali, Ashgabat and Luanda at the same time. Just like the last two countries mentioned, Equatorial Guinea has been one of the hardest visas for me to get, so I was so glad to finally be here.

Before arriving I had so low expectations of the place. Multiple people who had visited every country previously had said that Equatorial Guinea stood out as one of the worst countries. That it was super corrcupt, unfriendly etc but I have not experienced any of that. The people I have met so far have been very friendly and curious about me, maybe it is because I speak Spanish and they dont. Or maybe it’s just changing fast.

Cathedral of St Isabel, which is the old, Spanish name for Malabo

I was picked up at the airport and had a tour with my couchsurfing host where the first stop was at the most famous place, outside St. Isabel Cathedral, which had gotten its name from the old name of the city during colonial times. Right next to it was the heavily guarded entrance to the presidents Palace and we asked them if we could go down and visit the slave caves under the bridge/plattform that the soldiers were standing on and to our surprise they agreed, although we didn’t even get all the way to the entrance before they called us and said that they had changed their mind.

Inside Iglesia de San Fernando

Unlike most of the Worlds “Oil capitals” like Baku, Dubai, Manama etc the city was refreshingly easy to walk around and shared taxis are plentyful and relatively cheap at 1-2usd. The cultural center from the pictures below was a place where anyone could go to do homework, meet up for language exchange or just use the free WiFi:

Food here is like anywhere else in West Africa, with lots of roots like yam, magnok and cassava, some fish and hens (not chicken, but dry hens) and fried plantains and bananas. For just a dollar I also got a plate with rice and veg/coconuts sauce for a dollar so food here doesnt have to be as expensive as everyone had told me.

Christmas seems to be a big thing and streets were still heavily decorated and restaurants were playing Christmas songs on the radio even though it was mid january.

My favorite part of the city was the corniche that started from the Cathedral and went on for kilometers of kilometers of empty, clean streets. A comfortable, but weird place to be I thought.

The corniche was completely empty

The plan for Malabo, or Bioko Island is to turn it into a visa liberal, tax free place for tourists, just like Kish Island in Iran. By 2020 they have planned to replace Malabo with a city that they are building in the middle of nowhere on the mainland called Oyala. It is going to be interesting to see how this country will develop in the near future.

The drive up to the Sampaca cocoa plantation was also very nice. Sam parker was the name of the plantation owner in the colonial times, and with African pidgin english the name became Sampaca.

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Equatorial Guinea National Park

Ive possibly found the weirdest place in the World; the National Part of Equatorial Guinea, located in the new capital, Malabo 2.

The park is absolutely gigantic, but still super well kept and clean, just like the rest of the capital. Possibly beacsue of the around fifty people working there with watering, gardening, in restaurants and fun paek carousell rides. Even with all of this maintenance and the low cost of only one dollar there were not even one other visitor in the whole park.

It has paddle boats, bicycles and even trains for people to get around. And golf carts are regularly zipping buy with a chinese in the front and 5-6 locals in the back. After all, it is the Chinese who has built the park and most of the new roads and buildings in the country.

The park had a big outdoor studio, a nice view tower, statues, sports fields (of all kinds), artificial ponds, walkways and speakers playing nature sounds. But still no visitors.

I have just been in Equatorial Guinea for two days so far, but am absolutely fascinated about the facade of the capital and cant wait to see what the rest of the country is like!

Because you are so wonderfully weird

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Hunting for the World’s Hardest Visa in Douala

What I think are the most pretty African cities, are the ones where colonial buildings are still present, perhaps by some river or in another natural setting or just a city where people seem to have slowed down and enjoy their lives. Douala was none of those things. It was just a massive, busy business city, even bigger than the country’s capital and the only reason that I went there three times from LimbĂ© was to visit the General Consulate of Equatorial Guinea in hope of getting a tourist visa to the country. Apparently EG is one of the World’s hardest country to get a visa for, and during my interviews at the Consulate they made it clear that they did not really want any visitors snooking around their country either. The first time they did not even let me into the building because I was not wearing a shirt and proper shoes. After also visiting the Embassy in Yaounde it was made clear to me that it was impossible to get a visa to Equatorial Guinea in Cameroon.