Bioko (formerly known as "Fernando Pó") is a large island in Equatorial Guinea, and location of the country's capital.




The island was inhabited in the middle of the first millennium BC by Bantu tribes from the mainland, who formed the Bubi ethnic group. Unlike other islands in the area, Bioko had an indigenous African population. The Bubi speak a Bantu language. The island has probably been inhabited by this or other Bantu-speaking groups since before the 7th century BC.

In 1472, the Portuguese navigator Fernão do Pó was the first European to sight the island. He named it Formosa Flora ('Beautiful Flower'). In 1494 it was renamed Fernando Pó in his honor after being claimed as a colony by the Portuguese. The Portuguese developed the island for sugarcane crops, and while considered poor quality, the refineries' output was such that Fernando Po sugar briefly dominated the trade centres in Europe.

In 1642, the Dutch East India Company established trade bases on the island without Portuguese consent. It temporarily centralized from there its slave trade in the Gulf of Guinea. The Portuguese appeared again on the island in 1648, replacing the Dutch Company with one of their own, also dedicated to slave trading and established in its neighbour island Corisco.

Parallel with this establishment, the Bubi clans began the slow process of establishing the core of a new kingdom on the island, especially after the activity of some local chiefs such as Molambo (approx. 1700–1760). During a period when enslavement was increasing in the region, local clans abandoned their coastal settlements and settled in the safer hinterland.

Under the 1778 Treaty of El Pardo, Portugal ceded Fernando Po, Annobón, and the Guinea coast, Río Muni, to Spain, together forming modern Equatorial Guinea. The treaty was signed by Queen Mary I of Portugal and King Charles III of Spain, in exchange for territory on the American continent. Spain mounted an expedition to Fernando Po, led by the Conde de Argelejos, who stayed for four months. In October 1778, Spain installed a governor on the island who stayed until 1780, when the Spanish mission left the island.

Chief Molambo was succeeded by another local leader, Lorite (1760–1810), who was succeeded by Lopoa (1810–1842). After abolishing the British Atlantic slave trade, from 1827 to 1843 the British leased bases at Port Clarence (modern Malabo) and San Carlos for the African Slave Trade Patrol. The settlement at Port Clarence (named after the Duke of Clarence) was constructed under the supervision of William Fitzwilliam Owen. He had previously mapped most of the coasts of Africa and was a zealous anti-slaver. During his three-year command, his forces detained 20 ships and liberated 2,500 slaves. The Mixed Commission Court was moved from Freetown, Sierra Leone, to Clarence to hasten the legal process of emancipating slaves liberated from slave ships.

In March 1843, Juan José Lerena planted the Spanish flag in Malabo, starting the decline of British influence on the island. Spain revoked the British lease in 1855. Madabita (1842–1860) and Sepoko (1860–1875) were principal local chiefs during the period when Spain re-established its control of the island. This period was also marked by Spain's transport deportation here of several hundred Afro-Cubans, as well as dozens of Spanish scholars and politicians considered politically undesirable. In addition Spain exiled 218 revolutionaries here from the Philippine Revolution, of whom only 94 survived for long.

In 1923–1930, the League of Nations investigated the transportation of contract migrant labour between Liberia and the Spanish colony of Fernando Po. Although the League concentrated its attention on arrangements in Liberia, a closer examination revealed that labour abuse arose from conditions on Fernando Po. In the last quarter of the 19th century, Krio planters on the island had shifted from palm oil trading to cocoa cultivation. Their dependence on migrant labour and increasing competition with Europeans resulted in an economic crisis in the first years of the twentieth century. Planters detained labour but failed to pay their contracts, resulting in a situation of de facto slavery. Liberia prohibited labor traders from contracting with their citizens.

During the Nigerian civil war in the 20th century, relief agencies used the island as a base for flights into Biafra.




Bioko has a total area of 2,017 km2. It is 70 km long from NNE to SSW and about 32 km across. It is volcanic and very mountainous with the highest peak Pico Basile (3,012 metres). It thus resembles neighbouring islands São Tomé and Príncipe. Like them, it lies on the Cameroon line. Its southernmost point is called Punta Santiago. Bioko used to be the end of a peninsula attached to the mainland in what is now the Ambazonian region of Cameroon, but it was cut off when sea levels rose 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.






Sights and Activities

Pico Basilé. Equatorial Guinea's highest mountain.
Lago Biao
Lago Loreto
Finca Sampaka - a traditional cocoa farm.
Sipopo - artificial beach built around the Sofitel Hotel and the islet of Horacio.
Cascadas Iladyi



Events and Festivals

New Year’s Day

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.

President’s Day

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.

Music Day Festival

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 perform in front of thousands.

Armed Forces Day

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.

Independence Day

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.

Malabo Hip Hop Festival

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).

Christmas Day

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.



Getting There

By Plane

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.

By Boat

There are regular passenger ferries between the port city of Douala in Cameroon and Malabo at Bioko Island.



Getting Around

By Plane

From the airport to the central Malabo should be a flat fee of 3000 CFA (pronounced see-fah), which is around 3.89 USD. The local currency is the Central African CFA franc, XAF. Just ignore any taxi that wishes to charge you more.

By Car

The best way to tour the island is by taxi. You must negotiate a price and a language the day before. Spanish and French speaking taxi drivers are easy to find, English-speaking is more difficult. All prices are negotiable, but $70 USD will get you a very full day and a full trip around the island including a stop for lunch.


Bioko Travel Helpers

This is version 4. Last edited at 14:08 on Apr 6, 21 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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