Limbe and Douala, Cameroon
A glimpse of Douala
I arrived at Douala airport (one of the two biggest cities in Cameroon) late in the evening August 10th, 2019. I was warned before arriving that I would very quickly and easily make friends. This was lucky for me because the very first person I met on the airplane was crucial to my making it safely to my destination. In Cameroon, people tend to be very kind and inviting. Perfect strangers helped me fill out paperwork, navigate the airport and safely find my driver.
Once I was in the car, the ride to the volunteer house was about an hour and a half. The city of Douala was such a culture shock- it was almost indescribable. Unfortunately, it was after midnight, so I could not see much, but what I did see was SO different. The city was nothing like my experience of a US city. The infrastructure from roads to buildings were seemingly dilapidated and old. Many markets and shops were simple tents or just products (like bed frames) laying on the side of the street.
Yet, much of the city was still very much awake at 1AM. There were clubs and bars full of people and loud music. The most mouthwatering smell of grilling chicken permeated the air everywhere we went.
Older cars and bikes were driving all over the road in a strictly Cameroonian way of driving. The traffic was another major culture shock. Laws that would be enforced in the US seemed more like suggestions here. Red lights don’t necessarily mean stop- they mean look before you go. Many roads were not divided into lanes, and the ones that were were completely ignored. Cars weaves around each other sometimes squeezing four side by side. Bikes, pedestrians, and cars shared the road equally.
Perhaps the scariest part is when we were stopped at two roadblocks- one leaving Douala and one entering Limbe- by police. They just wanted to check our identification, but they were holding very threatening machine guns and were not very friendly. The stretch between the cities was very natural and forested, but too dark to see anything.
I woke up to the sounds of an animal orchestra outside of the research house. Combined with the sounds of all the primate species at Limbe wildlife center were the screeches of all the neighborhood chickens, cats, dogs, pigs, horses, and other unidentified animals.
Limbe wildlife center is a major attraction of Limbe and the reason why I am here. The LWC is a wildlife education and conservation center. The animals kept here were orphaned as a result of bushmeat hunting or the pet trade. This is a huge issue in Cameroon and throughout Africa. Animals are often killed for meat, and the infants are kept as pets or trophies in horrible living conditions. They are rescued and brought the LWC for rehabilitation and to live with members of their own species. I am lucky enough to be spending 3 weeks volunteering at this sanctuary.
One of my first stops in Limbe was the local market “old market”. The most efficient way to get there is by motorbike. This was a totally new experience to me- clinging to the back of a bike in weaving traffic. The market was much like stores in Douala where tents or small wooden shelters cover the fruits and vegetables spread on burlap sacks on the ground. There were probably 20 or so shops at the market with a wide variety of African produce. Many merchants will help you find what you’re looking for, and you’re almost guaranteed to go home with a free sample of some new or unique produce.
Just a few blocks from the market is mars bar- a European themed restaurant and bar on Down Beach. Down beach is a black sand beach that stretches along the coast of Limbe. It is not very good for swimming because of the amount of litter, but it is popular for the fishing culture and economy of Limbe. The beautiful Mountain View and the sunset over the ocean also make it well worth the visit.
Finally, another worthwhile attraction is the Limbe botanical garden. The garden is home to many beautiful (and some edible) plants. There is also a “naturalistic” amphitheater, a nearly 200-year-old cemetery, and plenty of beautiful views. While you are there, be sure to check out Hot Spot, a restaurant within the garden that has delicious burgers, and sometimes even cheeseburgers- which are extremely rare in Limbe.
Overall, the breathtaking nature, incredibly sweet and welcoming people, and the laid-back lifestyle of Limbe made it one of my all-time favorite destinations.