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Equatorial Guinea is a squarish country on the Atlantic coast, situated between Cameroon and Gabon. It's got that bustling African tropics feel, has some stylish Spanish architectural influences and is pretty much overlooked by the tourist community. The mainland constitutes most of the land area, but the island of Bioko boasts some delightful attractions. The island's volcanic landscape makes for a beautiful backdrop, as well as excellent hiking opportunities. The biggest town, Malabo, affords an energetic nightlife - there's just something about the combination of tropical weather, African culture and Spanish flavours that makes for a great night. The mainland (known also as Rio Muni) has less stunning features, but has all the good beaches, as well as a large wildlife population.
The Portuguese explorer Fernão do Pó, seeking a path to India, is credited as being the first European to discover the island of Bioko in 1472. He called it Formosa ("Beautiful"), but it quickly took on the name of its European discoverer. The islands of Fernando Pó and Annobón were colonized by Portugal in 1474. In 1778, the island, adjacent islets, and commercial rights to the mainland between the Niger and Ogoue Rivers were ceded to Spain in exchange for territory in the American continent (Treaty of El Pardo, between Queen Maria I of Portugal and King Charles III of Spain). Between 1778 and 1810, the territory of Equatorial Guinea depended administratively on the viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata, with seat in Buenos Aires. From 1827 to 1843, the United Kingdom established a base on the island to combat the slave trade, which was then moved to Sierra Leone upon agreement with Spain in 1843. In 1844, on restoration of Spanish sovereignty, it became known as the Territorios Españoles del Golfo de Guinea Ecuatorial. The mainland portion, Rio Muni, became a protectorate in 1885 and a colony in 1900. Conflicting claims to the mainland were settled by the Treaty of Paris (1900), and periodically, the mainland territories were united administratively under Spanish rule. Between 1926 and 1959 they were united as the colony of Spanish Guinea. In September 1968, Francisco Macías Nguema was elected first president of Equatorial Guinea, and independence was recognised on October 12, 1968. In July 1970, Nguema created a single-party state. Nguema’s reign of terror led to the death or exile of up to 1/3 of the country's population. Out of a population of 300,000, an estimated 80,000 had been killed. The economy collapsed, and skilled citizens and foreigners left. Teodoro Obiang deposed Francisco Macías on August 3, 1979 in a bloody coup d'état.
Equatorial Guinea is located in west central Africa. The country consists of a mainland territory, Río Muni, which is bordered by Cameroon to the north and Gabon to the east and south, and five small islands, Bioko, Corisco, Annobón, Elobey Chico (Small Elobey), and Elobey Grande (Great Elobey). Bioko, the site of the capital, Malabo, lies about 40 kilometres off the coast of Cameroon. Annobón Island is about 350 kilometres west-south-west of Cape Lopez in Gabon. Corisco and the two Elobey islands are in Corisco Bay, on the border of Río Muni and Gabon. Equatorial Guinea lies between latitudes 4°N and 2°S, and longitudes 5° and 12°E. Despite its name, no part of the country's territory lies on the equator - it is entirely in the northern hemisphere, except for the insular Annobón Province, which is about 155 kilometres south of the equator. Equatorial Guinea spans several ecoregions. Río Muni region lies within the Atlantic Equatorial coastal forests ecoregion except for patches of Central African mangroves on the coast, especially in the Muni River estuary. The Cross-Sanaga-Bioko coastal forests ecoregion covers most of Bioko and as well as the adjacent portions of Cameroon and Nigeria on the African mainland, and the Mount Cameroon and Bioko montane forests ecoregion covers the highlands of Bioko and nearby Mount Cameroon. The São Tomé, Príncipe, and Annobón moist lowland forests ecoregion covers all of Annobón, as well as São Tomé and Príncipe.
Equatorial Guinea consists of 7 provinces.
Monte Alen is definitely nature's highlight in Equatorial Guinea and actually one of the most beautiful and quiet parks anywhere in the region. If it is only one place you can visit, make sure it is this treasure. The protected area covers around 1,400 square kilometres of virgin lush rainforests and there is a lot of wildlife to discover here, including the West African lowland gorilla, as well as mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants, crocodiles and many other species of African wildlife. Well-maintained and accessible trails guide you through the rainforests and if you want to go deeper into the park, it is best to go with a guide and camping equipment as any other option, like lodges, are totally absent here, which only adds to the quiet atmosphere. Also bring enough water and food, and dry clothes to be self-sufficient for a day or so. The park can be reached by shared taxi from Bata.
Bioko is a beautiful island, where the capital Malabo is located. It has black sand beaches and three volcanoes: the Pico de Santa Isabel, the Pico de Moka and in the south of the island the Gran Caldera. In the capital you will find many colonial buildings and if you are just a bit interested in architecture, be sure to visit the Gothic style cathedral and the court of justice building.
Less than 50 kilometres from Malabo is the second biggest city of Bioko: Luba. From here well maintained special trails for hiking lead into the surrounding area and from here you can visit one of the most beautiful beaches on the island or take a look in one of the surrounding fishing villages.
At several of the beaches at Ureca turtles come ashore to lay their eggs during the dry season. And since 1996 this spectacular happening is well guarded by local villager who now work as patrol guards at the beaches during this nesting season. This was necessary as turtles as well as their eggs were sold as consumption goods on the local markets. There are a few guesthouses to stay nearby and apart from seeing the turtles or enjoying the beaches yourself, you can go hiking in the nearby jungle.
Located on the mainland, about 180 kilometres south of Bata, Evinayong offers the chance to visit a unique place where few visitors go. The surrounding area is just perfect for nature enthusiasts and the climate is less hot. Camping close to one of the many waterfalls is just a breathtaking experience without another tourist in sight.
Bata is the capital of the mainland region of Rio Muni and is actually larger than Malabo itself. Bata is worth a visit because of its colonial charm and despite being a bustling city it is a safe and clean place to go. There is a good infrastructure for travellers with bars, hotels and restaurants and a lot to do or see in town or nearby islands and beaches north and south of Bata. And the good thing is, like in most parts of the country that you will enjoy everything just by yourself as mass tourism is something unheard of.
Every year on January 1, Equatorial Guinea celebrates the arrival of the upcoming year along with the rest of the world. A New Year’s Eve Gala and fireworks display is organized by the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism as a charity event, and it is broadcast throughout the country.
One of the continent’s largest sporting events, the Africa Cup of Nations is a soccer tournament held every two years with participation from 16 national teams. A highly anticipated event, it was hosted in Equatorial Guinea in 2012, from January 21 to February 12.
President’s Day is Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo’s birthday, which is celebrated annually on June 5. He has been the political leader of Equatorial Guinea since 1979 and is known for ousting his dictator uncle, Francisco Macias Nguema.
This festival is hosted by SOMAGEC and the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism to celebrate Equatorial Guinea’s heritage. Renowned dancers, artists and musicians flock to Malabo to perfor in front of thousands. In 2012, Music Day Festival was held on July 28, but the dates change yearly.
August 3 is Equatorial Guinea’s Armed Forces Day to honor the military. It is treated as a public holiday where members of the armed forces gather together for a feast filled with food and drinks. Exhibitions are also held to showcase key achievements.
Equatorial Guinea celebrates its Independence Day on October 12. This public holiday commemorates the country’s freedom from Spanish colonization. All public facilities are closed.
A 10-day event held every year in December, the celebrations are often hosted by the Institute of Cultural Expression. Performers in the hip-hop community from all over Africa attend workshops and events hosted by artists from Europe (particularly Spain and France).
Equatorial Guinea is mostly Roman Catholic, so the country celebrates Christmas every December 25. Apart from Christian festivities, traditional celebrations are also held like the dance known as balélé in the Bioko region. In the cities, friends and families celebrate together by eating, drinking and exchanging gifts. Equatorial Guineans also decorate their homes with the usual decorations, including lights and Christmas trees.
Located along the equator, Equatorial (what's in a name) Guinea has a climate typical for this region. Both the mainland and the islands have high temperatures, high humidity, heavy rainfall, and much cloud around the year. Annual rainfall is around 2,000 mm. December to February is the dry period with only a few days with some showers. During most of the rest of the year, rainfall is high, with some peaks in May/June and September/October. Temperatures are around 30 °C year round during the day, and around 20 °C at night with extremely little variation. The records are 17 °C at night and 33 °C at daytime.
Malabo Airport or Saint Isabel Airport (SSG) is the international airport. CEIBA International has its base here and flies to and from Annobon, Bata, Brazzaville, Cotonou, Douala, Libreville and Sao Tomé. It's on the list of airlines banned from European territory.
Guinee Ecuatorial Airlines flies to Bata on the mainland as well.
Air France flies to and from Paris, while Iberia and Spanair fly to Madrid. Lufthansa started a Frankfurt-Malabo flight on the 1st of April 2008. Nairobi, Addis Ababa, London, Cotonou and Casablanca have flights as well with their respective national airlines mainly. Finally, Lomé is served by Benin Air which flies to Cotonou as well.
Usually, borders described below can be crossed with your own car as well, except the one where you have to use the pirogue. Have your papers and insurance in orders, and arrange Gabonese as well Equatorial Guinea visas before arrival. Also expect some hassling and paying bribes as is usual in this corner of the world.
Crossing to Gabon can be done from Cogo/Acalayong to Cocobeach by pirogue. Also overland via Mongomo or Ebebiyin to Oyem and Bitam.
To and from Cameroon, travellers can always cross at Ebebeyin. However, the border at Rio Campo (two to three hours from Bata) isn’t always open, so check before you head there. The rules change all the time so you need to be careful and check things before you intend to cross borders.
Few roads in the country are paved, but some are under construction. Most gravel roads are in a relatively good shape though, except after heavy rains, when they can become impassable. Cars can be hired in the main cities and the international airport, but rates are high. Traffic drives on the right and you need you national driver's licence.
There are about 3 daily minibuses travelling between Bata and Mbini and Acalayong along the coastal road at the mainland part (Rio Muni) of Equatorial Guinea. On Bioko Island, bush taxis connect Malabo with the island’s two other main towns, Luba and Riaba. On the mainland, bush taxis run from Bata to Mongomo and Ebebiyin.
There is a ferry between Malabo and Bata. The trip takes about 12 hours and there are four classes of travel.
US citizens do not require a visa, but do need the following to present when entering: two visa applications, two passport photos, bank statement noting a minimum of USD2,000 in your account, as well as proof of yellow fever and cholera vaccinations.
All others need to submit to an Equatorial Guinean embassy all of the above (plus passport and letter of invitation) in order to receive a visa.
Check the latest information about getting a visa on the Guinea-Equatorial website.
See also Money matters
Equatorial Guinea uses the CFA Franc as a currency. The CFA Franc is divided into 100 centimes. Coins come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 500 francs while banknotes come in denominations of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 francs.
The exchange range is fixed at aproximately 656 CFA Francs for one Euro.
In Equatorial Guinea the Central African CFA Franc (XAF) is used which has the same vallue as the West African CFA Franc (XOF), but it's not possible to use both currencies in the same country.
Fourteen countries in Africa use this currency, eight in West Africa and six in Central Africa. The West African CFA Franc can only be used in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, while the Central African CFA Franc can only be used in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Equatorial Guinea despite being a country with enough resources and is the country with the highest economic growth in Africa, does not provide any legal certainty for European, American or Asian working within the country.
Fang, Bube and Annobonese are three regional languages officially recognized by the constitution.
There are several good places to go to eat particularly in Malabo. The coffee shop at Hotel Sofitel (located just across the Cathedral along the north coast) offers French cuisine. Hotel Bahia's main restaurant is also a favourite destination for both local and expats. If you like pizza and pasta, the Pizza Place is the best place in town. For Asian cuisine, Restaurante Bantu offers authentic Chinese cuisine. For Moroccan and other European food, try La Luna. Try An Equatorial Guinean Cuisine such a Smoked Beef with a black pepper. There is also a roast duck with cheese and onion leaf.
Due to the influx of foreign workers and foreign investment in Malabo as well as in the continent, there is an ample choice of hotels.
Locally produced beer, Guineana, is very good.
See also Travel Health
Proof that you had a yellow fever vaccination is required upon entering Equatorial Guinea when you have been in a yellow fever country within 7 days of entering Equatorial Guinea. Still, it is recommended you get the yellow fever vaccination anyway. You have to have a cholera stamp (prove of the fact that you don't have that desease) when entering overland.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Equatorial Guinea. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also both hepatitis A as well as typhoid would be recommended.
If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. When staying longer than 6 months, vaccination against meningitis might be recommended, depending on your contact with other people.
Like most African countries south of the Sahara, Malaria is prevalent in the country. Don't underestimate this tropical disease and take precautions. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
Taking photos of any government properties is strictly prohibited without permission. Don't photograph airports, government buildings, or anything of military or strategic value. Local folks including children are generally averse to foreigners taking their picture. As a general rule, it is not advisable to bring a camera while walking around town as this can cause real trouble with the police. In the recent past, a permit from the Ministry of Information and Tourism was necessary to take photographs in public. Although this requirement has been lifted, police may unknowingly or not attempt to fine or even arrest persons trying to take photographs.
You must visit with a guide and need special permits in some locations. Consult to the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where information using extended over the areas of risks.
An organized tour is recommended to avoid unpleasant situations with military checkpoints on the roads especially in the island of Bioko, where the presence of Westerners is obvious and therefore the risk is particularly evident.
See also International Telephone Calls
Equatorial Guinea's international telephone code is 240.
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