Equatorial Guinea is a lush country of beautiful scenery, highlighted by stunning island beaches, snowcapped volcanoes, and tropical forests. Unfortunately, like most African nations, Equatorial Guinea has been mired in a troubled political past, which has left this gem of a destination relatively undiscovered.
Equatorial Guinea is comprised of two provinces: Rio Muni and Bioko. Rio Muni consists of the continental mainland between Cameroon and Gabon and the offshore islands of Elobey Chico, Corisco, and Elobey Grande. The province of Bioko, on the other hand, consists of the island of Bioko and the smaller island of Pagalu.
Much of the province of Rio Muni is dominated by tropical rainforests. These forests are generally lowlands that occasionally rise to heights of around 4,000 feet high such as in the Crystal Mountains. Torrential rivers flow through the mountains, creating rapids and waterfalls that empty into the Atlantic Ocean. Most people in Rio Muni are Bantu and part of the Fang group. They occupy the province’s coast and survive by hunting and growing bananas, yams and coffee.
In the province of Bioko, the island of Bioko has two large extinct volcanoes as well as a series of crater lakes. The island consists of densely forested mountains that reach as high as 9,500 feet. The capital of Equatorial Guinea is actually located in the northern tip of the Bioko island, rather than on the mainland. The inhabitants are mainly the Bubi. They are mostly poor farmers who run small plots.
Equatorial Guinea has a number of popular destinations. On the island of Bioko, the capital, Malabo, overlooks the striking volcano called Pico Malabo, where you’ll find a number of hiking trails and mountain climbing spots. The town of Malabo is a colorful display of Spanish colonial architecture and lively markets centered around open plazas.
Pico Basile is another volcanic climb on Bioko Island; it reaches almost 10,000 feet high and provides panoramic views of the island and of Mount Cameroon on a clear day.
There are many beautiful island and coastal beaches in Equatorial Guinea. On Bioko Island, Arena Blanca is the most frequented. It is the only white beach on the island and is noted for the thousands of butterflies that flap during the dry season. Luba is another beach on the island. It has breathtaking vistas of the ocean and, unlike Arena Blanca, is often deserted. In Rio Muni, the mainland beaches are livelier. Mbini is probably the most notable of the beaches and is serviced by numerous hotels, restaurants, bars, and markets.
For wildlife, the Monte Alen National Park is a good bet. Its 540 square miles is traversed by a series of jungle trails, which pass through habitats for leopards, lions, elephants, and numerous tropical birds.
The Moca Valley in the southern highlands features a number of natural attractions. You’ll find the Cascades of Moca, Lake Loreta, and Lake Biao. These three destinations are noted for their large populations of monkey species. In the small village of Ureca on the south coast of the Bioka Island, you’ll find turtles laying their eggs on the beaches during the dry season. You can also hike from Ureca to the Rio Eola waterfalls, where clear, pristine pools are great for swimming.
The climate in Equatorial Guinea is very hot and humid most of the year. Rainfall is heavy between April and October. Even during the dry season, though, you’ll find occasional showers.
Equatorial Guinea was colonized by the Portuguese in the late 1400s. They later handed the territory to the Spanish in 1788. Yellow fever killed many of the Spanish settlers, leaving Equatorial Guinea unoccupied for 50 years. Spain finally leased the territory to the British who set up naval bases.
In 1843, the Spanish made a second attempt to occupy Equatorial Guinea. They made a treaty with the Rio Munian people on the mainland and began settling it. In the 20th century, Spain worked to develop the economy of the mainland and the island.
In 1968, Equatorial Guinea was granted independence. Francisco Nguema was elected as the first president. He killed thousands of people and thousands more fled until he was overthrown in 1979 by coup leader, Colonel Obiang. He has governed as president ever since, in spite of a new constitution being set up and a multiparty system introduced in 1991. Coups have been attempted in the last decade to depose Obiang. Most of these coups have been supported financially by western mining companies looking to institute a ruler more amenable to opening up the country’s oil and gas minerals.