Perhaps best known as the inspiration for Frederick Forsyth’s coup-laden thriller The Dogs of War, the political situation of hot and humid Equatorial Guinea leaves a lot to be desired. Corruption, human rights abuses and political violence are frequently recorded, and despite huge oil wealth little has trickled down to the people, where real poverty still exists.
This means the country, which occupies a slice of mainland Africa and five offshore islands, is not set up with tourism in mind. Travel can be hard and hotel rooms both limited in number and expensive compared to neighbouring states. However, Equatorial Guinea offers a rare opportunity to experience central Africa’s colonial history and unspoiled natural beauty.
Large areas of Rio Muni, mainland Equatorial Guinea, have been set aside as protected zones. Noted internationally for their biodiversity and hiking opportunities, the country’s rainforests are the habitat of various endangered primates including mandrills, chimpanzees and gorillas, as well as forest elephants.
The capital, Malabo, lacks the frenetic energy of some cities on the continent, with nothing happening very fast. Its tranquillity and the laidback air of its people perhaps results from lying on the steamy island of Bioko. It’s atmospheric sides streets are the best place in the country to encounter the architectural splendours left by Spain’s colonial regime.
Outside the capital, Bioko Island is also the location of the crater lakes of Lago Lorento and Lago Biao. Idyllic spots for relaxation, even the least interested birdwatcher will suddenly become the most ardent ornithologist: the sheer diversity of avian wildlife is staggering.
Its natural wonders and hospitable inhabitants should have put Equatorial Guinea on the map years ago, but a reputation for political instability means this remains an untapped mine for now.