For many Africa, particularly Central Africa, is an unknown territory for travelers, due to a vacuum of reams of tourism publicity and negative media reports about certain militant countries. Whereas it is true that political upheaval has been a major contributing factor in keeping certain countries off the beaten track, often it is troubled nations that have tainted their more peaceful neighbors. Offshore incidents of piracy have plagued nations on the Gulf of Guinea, but international measures and Central African countries are taking the eradication of this maritime criminal activity very seriously. In this article some of these countries will get a second look, and why they are very worthy of visiting.
Central Africa is comprised of Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of the Congo and Sāo Tomé and Príncipe. For followers of current events, the mere mention of some of these countries could bring chills for atrocities committed under revolutions and military regimes. Whereas some should still be avoided at the moment, such as the Central African Republic, others that have had a recent tumultuous history are much more stable and on the road to recovery.
The former Portuguese colony of Angola is one such country, whereas others have not had to endure political strife and upheaval but their mere proximity has sometimes created a cloud over them. Gabon is progressive, stable, and rich in hydrocarbons and mineral reserves, and the tiny islands of São Tomé and Príncipe are a Shangri-La in the southern Atlantic Ocean. If one wants to have an overall impression of Central Africa, then Cameroon represents this part of the continent in stellar fashion.
Cameroon has been termed a mini-Africa due to its diverse geography: sandy beaches on its Atlantic coast, rainforests in the interior, savannahs and barren landscapes to the north, and with an impressive representation of wildlife, eco-tourism is a mushrooming business. However, it is advisable to remain in well-defined areas designated for tourism. To the south of Cameroon is Gabon that demonstrates a dramatic progressivity in economics and tourism. It has developed a network of national parks that is home to the largest concentration of tree elephants in Africa and which emphasizes sustainable management. This country is highly mindful of its wildlife and has enacted strict conservation laws that deter poachers. The country is in the process of rapidly expanding its accommodation infrastructure.
São Tomé and Príncipe, Angola
Off the coast are the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe with sparkling waters, white and black sand beaches and lush vegetation. They have been likened to the Galapagos Archipelago by having unique flora and fauna. For travelers yearning an earlier period of tourism in a tropical climate, these islands are directly accessible from Europe through Lisbon. Another former Portuguese possession is oil-rich and rapidly developing Angola that possesses pretty beaches and dramatic landscapes with its mountainous terrain culminating in the magnificent Kalendula Waterfalls. This country has a variety of microclimates, so if a change is needed one only has to travel to a different area. National parks contain black palancas (a species unique to Angola), elephants, ostriches, zebras, leopards, rhinoceros and the province of Cabinda that is a natural habitat for gorillas. Travelers should be aware that there is a militant group in Cabinda seeking regional independence and should seek the assistance of a professional guide before touring the area.
Central Africa is rich in biodiversity that contributes to a memorable vacation, but always check with your country’s government about travelers’ warnings to countries you intend to visit.
About author: Richard Hand is a Canadian writer who loves traveling and has gone on several Central Africa tours.
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