Kingdoms of Cameroon


Kingdoms of Cameroon

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 14 days
Type: GroupSmall group tours with a maximum of 12 travellers

Notes

Group Tour Essentials

Visas

Visitors from most countries, including UK, EU and US visitors require a visa for entering Cameroon. You will need a letter of invitation to obtain your visa - in order that we may make arrangements for this, you will need to send us a scanned copy of your passport at the time of booking.

Visa regulations can frequently change and this is particularly the case with Cameroon. Therefore we recommend that you check with your nearest embassy for the most up to date details.

Airport Tax
A departure tax of CFA 10,000 is currently payable when flying out of Cameroon.

Health and Immunisations
As with travel to most parts of Africa, we strongly recommend that you contact your doctor’s surgery or a specialist travel clinic for up-to-date information, advice and the necessary vaccinations. For a visit of less than one month, almost certainly you will be advised to have immunisations against the following: Diphtheria and Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Meningitis.Vaccination against yellow fever is a compulsory requirement for entry into Cameroon, and you must bring your certificate with you. This may or may not be checked when you enter the country, but we strongly advise that you do not risk being denied entry.

Insurance

  • What should my travel insurance policy cover?
  • medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad
  • 24 hour emergency service and assistance
  • personal liability cover in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property
  • lost and stolen possessions cover
  • cancellation and curtailment (cutting short your trip) cover
  • Extra cover for activities that are commonly excluded from standard policies, such as certain sports

The policy should cover the whole time that you are away.

Your policy may also have:

  • personal accident cover
  • legal expenses cover

Common travel insurance policy exclusions
Always check the conditions and exclusions of your policy:

  • most policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents

You must take reasonable care of your possessions or your policy will not cover you.

Practical information

Local Currency
The local currency in Cameroon is the CFA. For current exchange rates visit www.xe.com. The CFA is rarely obtainable outside of Central Africa, and so it is best to bring currency in Euros. It is possible to exchange US dollars and less so, sterling, but it is far more difficult to do so and we do not recommend that you bring them.

Where currency can be exchanged
It is a simple procedure to change money in banks in Cameroon, although best done in larger cities such as Douala and Yaounde. In smaller towns it may not be possible. It is also often possible to change money at hotels. Your guide will be able to give further advice on this. €50 notes will be easier to change than smaller denominations.

Credit cards and travellers cheques
Cashing travellers’ cheques can be very difficult in Cameroon, if not impossible. If you do choose to bring them you should only bring Euro travellers’ cheques. Cameroon does have ATMs in larger towns, but these are often unreliable. Credit cards are not widely accepted.

Best time to go
Generally speaking, the best time to visit Cameroon is between November and March, when the temperature will be hot, but not uncomfortably so. Cameroon’s rainy season is from May to November and travel can be difficult during this time.

Main Language
A number of different languages are spoken in Cameroon. Its official languages are French and English – the areas in which these are spoken roughly correspond to the old colonial divisions in the country. Other languages spoken include Arabic (in the far north), Fulfulde and Bamileke, but there are almost three hundred different languages spoken within the country.

Main Religion
Both Islam and Christianity are prevalent in Cameroon. However there are also strong animist traditions and you will find that these are often woven in with other beliefs, as well as being practised solely by many groups.

Food and drink
Cameroon’s cuisine is a product of its geographical diversity, and is largely made up of regional staples such as yams, plantains and cassava mashed and fried into different forms. Chicken and fish dishes are also fairly ubiquitous, and a good street snack is brochettes – skewered pieces of meat cooked over abarbecue. Peanut sauces are a frequent accompaniment to meals. Fruit is inexpensive and widely available. In hotels the selection will often include variations of European dishes.On our group tour to Cameroon dinners are included. You should budget around €10 for a lunch – sometimes it may be more and sometimes less.

If you have any special dietary requirements you must notify us at the time of booking. While we will make every effort to cater for you, we cannot guarantee that this will be possible.

Transport
Our tour in Cameroon uses private minibuses.


Local conditions
Travelling in the destinations that we visit requires a good deal of understanding that often standards simply won’t be as they are at home. While we aim to make your trip as comfortable as possible, please be aware that we are often visiting remote or less developed regions that may have little infrastructure. While we aim to make your trip run as smoothly as possible there may be times when we need to ask for your patience while we rectify any problems.

What to take with you

First Aid Kit

The first thing on your list should be a first aid kit. Whilst there is no undue cause for alarm, travellers are best advised to travel well-prepared: adequately immunized, with sufficient supplies of prescription drugs, along with a medical kit.

Clothing
Cameroon is quite warm and so light clothes are generally a good idea. You should ensure that you bring warmer clothes for evenings in the north. Please remember that Cameroon has a large Moslem population and conservative attitudes towards dress, and so women should bear this in mind and ensure that clothing is appropriate, especially at any religious sites. You should also bring a hat to protect yourself from the strong sun. While on game drives you should wear natural, neutral colours – bright colours can make you stand out, meaning that you’re less likely to spot wildlife.

Footwear
Footwear is a main priority on this tour. Comfortable walking shoes/boots are recommended, as well as a pair of sandals.

Luggage
Your luggage should not exceed 20kgs (44lbs). One large suitcase/rucksack, and one small hand luggage rucksack is acceptable.

Other
Suncream/sunblock is a must. Insect repellent, including a bite spray will also be useful to have. As our tour in Cameroon involves camping, a torch (flashlight) is essential.

Sleeping bags
You will need to bring a sleeping bag for our tours in Cameroon. You may also like to bring an inflatable pillow, as these are not provided. Sleeping mats however are provided.

Fitness
This tour does not require any special degree of fitness but you will find it more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit.

Cultural and environmental guidelines
You may come across beggars while on tour. Every traveller has different perspectives on this and ultimately the choice is up to you. Many sources recommend that you watch to see if local people give, and then follow their lead with genuine beggars. We do not recommend giving money, sweets, pens etc to children as this can encourage a begging mentality and can lead to children choosing to beg rather than go to school.

On our tour to Cameroon we spend time in the village of Okpwa. If you would like to bring exercise books, pens and pencils these will be gratefully received by the local school.

Haggling is a way of life in Cameroon when making many purchases, especially with tourist souvenirs. Usually, but not always, the vendor will start with a price that is higher than they are prepared to accept, and the buyer is expected to haggle. There are no hard and fast rules with this – some vendors may initially quote a vastly overinflated price, others may start with a price close to the true value, while others may just present you with one price and not be prepared to discuss it. Although many tourists may feel uncomfortable with this, it’s important to remember that this is best entered into in a relaxed manner. Once you have agreed upon a price, it is extremely bad form to then not pay this. Please also bear in mind that a small amount of money to you can be a relatively large amount for the vendor, and that it is not necessarily best practice to ‘beat the vendor down’ to the lowest possible price. Remember that they also have a living to make.

You will be spending some time in environments that have very little trace of human presence or development on our tours in Cameroon. It is important to ensure that they stay this way. Please make sure that you take any rubbish back to the hotels with you where they can be properly disposed of – this includes cigarette butts as well.

Please do not buy any products made from endangered species – this is not sustainable and hastens the species’ decline.

We also advise against eating any bushmeat – although this is fairly common in Cameroon, the hunting of wild animals for bushmeat is responsible for large scale depletions of local populations.

Photography
You should always ask permission before taking anyone's photograph and respect their decision if they say no. In more remote areas women and older people often do not want to be photographed. Some people may also ask for some money – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot - in return for a photo. Taking photos of military installations, state buildings, and airports can lead to problems with local authorities. If you are unsure about whether it is acceptable to take a photo, please ask your tour leader or guide.

Tipping
Tipping is commonly recognised as a way of rewarding guides and drivers for good service. If you are happy with your guide and driver, please consider leaving a tip for them. If you are travelling on a group tour, a reasonable amount would be around £5 per day for the guide and £3 per day for the driver, between the group – this works out at around £110 for a 14 day tour, split between however many group members there are. If you are travelling on a private basis, then around £4 per day for the guide and £2 per day for the driver is reasonable.

Tipping is generally only common in the better restaurants, rather than the smaller streetside ones.

Foreign Office Advice
We constantly monitor the advice posted by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). In particular we will always advise clients of any travel warnings. At present the FCO does not advise against travel to any of the places we visit on our tour. Please feel free to contact us should you have any specific concerns or would like to know in detail what measures are being taken to ensure visits remain trouble free and without incident.

Furthermore it is the clients' responsibility to ensure that they hold full travel insurance whcih includes medical repatriation.

It should be noted that this information applies to British citizens. Other nationals are asked to check the current position of their respective government.

Further Information

Public Holidays in Cameroon:


1 Jan New Year
11 Feb Youth Day
1 May Labour Day
20 May National Day
15 Aug Assumption
25 Dec Christmas Day

Other holidays such as those associated with Ramadan are Islamic holidays and as such follow the lunar calendar, varying year to year. Easter Good Friday and Monday also vary annually.

Dates are for guidance only and may vary year to year

Electrical Supply
Electrical supply is 220V/50 Hz and plugs have two round pins like most European countries.

Recommended Reading

Cameroon – The Bradt Guide

Ben West

Cameroon with Egbert
Dervla Murphy

The State of Africa
Martin Meredith

The Scramble for Africa
Thomas Pakenham

IMPORTANT NOTES – PLEASE READ

Please note that the information provided is correct at the time of writing but may change. It is intended as a guide only. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health visit www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk or contact your local healthcare provider.

In addition we strongly advise you to check the information and any travel advice provided by your government. For British citizens you should visit the Foreign Office website www.fco.gov.uk.

Furthermore, you should be aware that any travel warnings or advisories may affect the validity of your travel insurance. Therefore, at the time of booking your tour it is essential you check any restrictions on cover with your insurance provider.

Issue Date – 13/3/13. For possible changes to this dossier please visit www.undiscovered-destinations.com or call +44 (0)191 296 2674

Historical background

Sandwiched between West and Central Africa, Cameroon is at the crossroads of the continent, an exciting place where cultural influences merge and meld to create a nation with incredible diversity. Its people range from the Baka pygmies in the south, tucked away in the rainforests, to the Moslem sultanates of the north and everything else in between. Colonised by Germany, France and Britain, its recent heritage is fractured and intriguing, while its landscape is similarly varied, from thick jungles to arid lunar landscapes. Cameroon is renowned as a place where local traditions still hold more sway than anything else, a place made up of numerous kingdoms and with traditional chiefs that are still held in high esteem. Cameroon’s breathtaking diversity has often led to it being labeled ‘Africa in miniature’ – a cliché no doubt, but one that rings true. In the shadow of Nigeria to the west, Cameroon receives little global attention and few visitors, but its attractions render it one of the most alluring places in the region.

The first inhabitants of Cameroon, as with much of the region, were the Baka pygmies who still reside in the southern rainforests. Little is known about their early history – with only oral histories and no monuments to leave behind, there are little clues for us to ponder over. The Baka were displaced by successive waves of invaders arriving in Cameroon. Around two thousand years ago, Bantu groups from the west began to arrive in the region, settling in the southern and eastern parts of the country, while later Arabic speaking peoples arrived in the north.

The first Europeans to arrive were the Portuguese in the 15th century. While the rest of Europe slumbered, the small kingdom of Portugal sent sailors to explore the Atlantic coast of Africa, setting out where none had dared to go before, inspired by a number of different motivations. Not least of these was a desire to break the stranglehold of the Moors on the trade across the Sahara, and avail themselves of the riches that mysteriously appeared from the camel caravans making long journeys through the desert. Secondly, the Portuguese wanted to find a sea route to the Indies. And of course, a desire to establish overseas colonies for itself played no small part. But perhaps the most intriguing of these causes was the search for the mysterious priest-king Prester John, a mythical figure from the east who had supposedly sent letters to the courts of Europe centuries before and spoke of a land of immeasurable riches whose subjects were devoted to Christianity. This notion never left the imagination of medieval Europe, and over the hundreds of years that passed since these letters several expeditions had been sent out in different directions, often never returning, none of which managed to establish the precise location of this land. However by the fifteenth century it was generally accepted that the kingdom of Prester John lay in Ethiopia, known to be in the east of Africa but so far ‘undiscovered’. Portuguese ships went ever further around the Atlantic coast, hoping to round the continent and reach this fabled land.

In 1472 the renowned navigator Fernando Po sailed up the Wouri River, near present day Douala, and laid the foundations for a gradual establishment of trading stations on the coast. Portuguese and other European traders began to set up base here, initially trading with local chiefs for ivory. Within a short time however this was usurped by the slave trade, increasingly fed by the demand for slaves for the plantations in the newly discovered Americas. Chiefs in Cameroon and throughout the region waged war on their neighbours, enslaving local populations and bringing them to the coast to be packed onto ships making the long trip across the Atlantic. The arrival of the slave trade had devastation consequences for Africa, shattering traditional political systems and robbing the continent of much of its workforce. In the late 18th century the Fulani moved into the north, conquering non-Moslem groups and establishing themselves as the dominant force, while other groups moved to safer areas, many settling in the Mandara Mountains where they are still able to maintain their traditional ways of life.

Although the coast of Cameroon was visited by traders, little attempt was made to formally colonise the country for many centuries, in part at least due to the high incidence of deaths from malaria that European visitors suffered. The first European settlement was built in 1845 by an English missionary, Alfred Slaker on the site of Douala. He was followed by other missionaries – this was a time of religious zeal when the thought of converting the ‘heathen’ Africans was immensely attractive for the various churches of Europe and the United States – and Christianity began to be introduced into Cameroon, along with schools and European culture. Around this time the slave trade fell into terminal decline, outlawed by Britain but still practised by other nations such as Portugal for many more years until it was finally stamped out. The European focus on Africa had turned away from slaves to the ‘three C’s’ – Christianity, commerce and civilisation, ostensibly the driving force behind increasing involvement in the continent. As countries such as Britain, France and Germany sought to increase their commercial influence and ability to trade, Europe became embroiled in what has since become known as the ‘Scramble for Africa’. Eager to secure zones of influence for trading purposes, European adventurers and soldiers entered into treaties with local chiefs which resulted in almost the entire continent falling into European hands by the end of the century.

Germany, for so long claiming to have no interest in the acquisition of territory, stole a march on their rivals when in 1884 the great explorer Gustav Nachtigal signed a treaty with Cameroonian chiefs which led to them ceding their sovereignty to the Kaiser in return for certain trade advantages. Germany began to colonise the country but was faced with rebellions in the interior when it attempted to extend its presence from the coast. Germany instigated forced labour to build infrastructure, notably a railway line, roads and other public buildings but its presence in Cameroon was to be short-lived. In World War I Allied troops attacked German forces in Cameroon and seized the colony. Following the war Cameroon was divided and placed under British and French mandates.

British Cameroon was ruled from Nigeria, while French Cameroon was ruled from Yaoundé. At this time the territory was larger than it is today and included parts of present day Nigeria. For the next few decades resentment simmered at outside rule, particularly in the French part where high taxes led to serious grievances. Following the Second World War, neither Britain nor France were in a position to maintain their overseas colonies – bankrupted by years of conflict and under pressure from the United States to abandon colonialism. Local political parties began to emerge, demanding independence – the most significant of these was the UPC (Union des Populations Cameroonaises) which called for the unification of the two Cameroons. With its demands unmet, revolts broke out in key towns in 1955, resulting in thousands of deaths as colonial authorities put them down. But in 1960, Cameroon became independent, with its first leader Ahmadou Ahidjo, a French educated Fulani. The northern half of the former British section joined Nigeria, while the southern part united with French Cameroon. Unlike many other countries in the region, Cameroon began to grow into a relatively stable country, fuelled by the discovery of oil, although a rebellion simmered for many years until finally being stamped out in 1970.

Ahidjo stepped down in 1982 allowing his prime minister Paul Biya to succeed him. In subsequent years a power struggle emerged between the two men, Ahidjo accusing Biya of turning Cameroon into a police state, and in 1984 soldiers loyal to Ahidjo attempted to stage a coup, which was put down by the army after three days of fighting in the capital. Following this, Biya consolidated his hold on power – in future years he ran as the only candidate in elections and unsurprisingly was overwhelmingly returned to office. The 1990s saw periods of unrest in the country as various groups demanded democratic changes to the political system, and Anglophone groups continue to demand more political representation and rights in a country they feel is dominated by a Francophone majority. At the time of writing, Biya remains in power, one of the longest serving rulers in Africa who has changed the country’s constitution to ensure that he can continue to be president.

Cameroon is rarely in the news, but when it is, it tends to be for the wrong reasons – high levels of corruption, a dictatorial president localized tensions with Nigeria. Those who visit are unlikely to see any of this. What they will find is a welcoming nation whose people hold on to the customs of their ancestors, where it is easy to imagine yourself in another world, another time. Its towns and villages are home to some of the most colourful people you are likely to meet that are glad you have taken the time to uncover the secrets of this largely unknown land. Cameroon is a fascinating place, torn between the wealth brought by oil and the legacies of the past, and perhaps more than any other African country can truly be described as a ‘land of contrasts’. Few travellers bother to visit this complex part of the continent, either unaware of its attraction or discouraged by negative media reports. Those who do return home all too often seduced by Cameroon’s charms. Visit the country and see for yourself.