Chimpanzees swing and gorillas galumph through the wild, mist-topped backcountry; hoots and howls echo amidst the largely untrodden heights of the great Monte Alén peaks.
Meanwhile, elephants hurtle through the dense forests of Altos de Nsork, primeval woods tick over along the Cameroonian and Gabon borderlands, gushing waterfalls flow, and the sylvan hills hide giant toads and otherworldly amphibians the likes of which you’ve never seen.
Then, in the west, the old tribal lands of the Fang give way to the place of the beach people.
Shimmering sands edge out of the emerald mangroves; untrodden; undeveloped.
Cities like Bata pulse with fishing fleets and the stench of new oil wealth.
Malabo, the capital, languishes off on Bioko island, its lively locals still in awe of the great calderas and turtle-peppered beaches that abound nearby.
No stranger to troubles (EQ has had coups and economic strife aplenty), this land on the haunch of West Africa promises intrepid adventure and wildlife to break the bucket-list in two!
Lets explore the best places to visit in Equatorial Guinea:
A curious fusion of colonial traditions meets between the age-stained, salt-washed architectural pieces that pepper Malabo’s heart.
They stand as testimony to the city’s – the soon-to-be-replaced capital of Equatorial Guinea – long history, and its deep-rooted European heritage.
Visitors can come and stroll the streets to see the gorgeous neo-Gothic spires of the Cathedral of Santa Isabel, and enchanting little Spanish-esque casas along the neighborhood roads.
There’s also a university and a Cultural Center, ringed by a smattering of clubs and fried-plantain curry houses, all cascading down towards the clifftops above the Atlantic.
2. Monte Alén National Park
Ah, the vast wildernesses of the Monte Alén National Park: perhaps the single most important area of outstanding natural beauty in West Africa you’ve never heard of.
And while the humid rainforests and gushing courses of the Uoro River here remain an off-the-beaten-track option, those who do come are reaping the rewards: empty trekking trails; personal safari packages, and an untainted experience of the African wilds – just three aspects that come to mind! There’s mile upon mile of maintained hiking paths here, along with more wildlife than you can shake an Equatorial peanut-butter chicken dish at.
Think uber-rare goliath frogs, gorillas, elephants, crocodiles and chimps…
Clutching the rugged volcanic ridges of the Moca Valley on the southern edges of Bioko, the namesake town of Moca is a bucolic picture of wild Equatorial Guinea.
Home to the people of the Buki tribe, it sits almost in harmony with the great cloud-topped peaks that rise around it.
And talking of peaks, they are also the reason most travelers pass this way.
They come to hike to the craggy, monkey-dotted reaches of the Cascades of Moca, or to witness the shimmering blues of lakes Biao and Loreta, topping out in the old volcanic calderas on the highlands.
Bring the walking boots – this one promises to be outdoorsy!
4. San Antonio de Ureca
No one can quite figure out why little San Antonio de Ureca hasn’t boomed with ecotourism yet.
After all, it was here, in the late 1990s, that Spanish conservationists first took it to the illicit trade of endangered turtle eggs; and won! Today, the same villager patrols are in place to police the sands and pebble beaches that ring the little village, helping to save the endangered sea turtles that make the Atlantic waters their home.
That’s not it though, because this little town of low-rise shacks and mud roads sits in the shadow of the mighty San Carlos Caldera, is imbued with gushing waterfalls, and surrounded by countless hiking routes to boot!
Ebbing and flowing with the tide of political inclinations and oil booms, this onetime capital of Equatorial Guinea is now a standard stop off on the route through the country.
With more than 170,000 people calling it home, it’s by far EQ’s largest city; a fact reflected in the lively nighlife scene, and the buzzing fish and craft markets that coalesce each day around the port sides.
Bata Cathedral is the main sight, oozing a taste of Spanish character in the heart of town, while there’s also an airport and regular services to Cameroon and the city of Malabo by boat.
The provincial capital of Centro Sur is a place to glimpse the bustle of day-to-day life that carries on between the jungle-dressed hills that dominate the vast proportion of Rio Muni (the Equatorial mainland). Tin shacks and rain-buffeted palms line the streets, while a clutch of little drinking joints host crowds of chattering locals.
There’s also a local market that’s packed with multi-coloured veg and legumes and fruits plucked straight from the fields.
And if you’re looking to go outdoors, then the spot is also neatly sandwiched almost equidistance between the national parks of Monte Alén and Altos de Nsork!
Long the chosen departure point for the countless tonnes of logs that stream down the highland highways from the forests that hug Caldera de San Carlos in the Bioko highlands above, Luba is now slowly developing into something much more.
Touting beautiful coastline and excellent access to up-coming eco-tourism and adventure hotspots like aforementioned Moca, it’s drawing a different type of traveler these days.
Add to that the shimmering sands of Arena Blanca – the only white-sand beach on the island – and all the swaying coconut palms and salt-sprayed boulders that go with it, and it’s easy to see why!
Slowly transforming from a patchwork of foundation ditches and gritty construction sites and beginning to shoulder its way above the verdant swathes of jungle that dominate the hinterlands of Wele-Nzas Province in the very heart of Equatorial Guinea, the city of Djibloho remains just an embryo of what’s planned.
Also called Oyala, this perfectly-organised city of crisscrossing grids and all-new conference centers is intended as the future capital of the nation.
Once complete, it will aspire to champion a symbiotic relationship between modern living and the country’s natural environment and heritage.
Watch this space!
The gateway to the coastal region of Rio Muni and the winding channels of the mighty Benito River – the longest in the country – the ocean-side town of Mbini boasts some great views over the estuaries that crash into the Atlantic here.
At once a marine and river fishing town, it’s perhaps one of the best places to sample Equatorial Guinea’s famed seafood.
There’s also a smattering of resort hotels to kick-back in, a row of powdery, sandy beaches, and some great broadside panoramas of the rising peaks of Monte Alén in the distance (only on clear days!).
A whole island all on its own, set out in the swells of the Atlantic Ocean, past the off-the-beaten-track isles of little-known Sao Tome, and directly in line with the coast of Gabon, the province of Annobon is hardly what you’d call easy to get to.
It’s certainly got an interesting character though, with a history of Portuguese and Spanish colonialism, and the creole-flavoured beachside capital of San Antonio de Pale, to explore.
Wildlife lovers will also find plenty to shout about, as pods of humpback whales languish in the swells around the island, rare Ojo Blanco birds hum on the cliffs, and baobabs hide lizards in the backcountry.
11. Altos de Nsork National Park
The southernmost and easternmost of the national parks in Equatorial Guinea, Altos de Nsork is set deep in the West African wildernesses of Rio Muni.
Established in 2000, the vast reserve encompasses more than 700 square kilometers of land, offering some of the most untouched jungle and highland ecosystems in the region.
There aren’t many visitors to this far-flung section of the nation, but those who do come can hike through paths cut out by forest elephants, wonder at the great biodiversity of plants, spy out mandrills and black colobus monkeys in the trees, and even rare buffalo in the woods.
12. Monte Temelón Natural Reserve
Sandwiched between the border with Cameroon and the rising highlands that form the heart of Rio Muni, the Monte Temelón Natural Reserve is one of the more overlooked sections of backcountry that are ripe for exploration in EQ. It’s best known for its vast array of fauna, which sprawls for more than 1,200 square kilometers in great swathes of greenery.
Mist meets the verdant canopies atop the trees, while crocodiles lurk on the muddied banks of the rivers that abound.
Others will come to see the rare giant pangolin that’s endemic here.
The little speck of Corisco Island can be found patrolling the entrance to Corisco Bay and the estuaries of Rio Muni just a stone’s throw from the coast of Equatorial Guinea.
And while the untrodden beaches and swaying grasses of the sand dunes here are pretty to say the least, it’s the history and culture that really draw the crowds (even though those crowds are relatively small!). Yep, not only is there a series of crumbling Spanish missions to be found amidst the inland jungles, but there’s also been evidence of human habitation in these parts since the early Iron Age!
Encompassed by the vast green wetlands of the Muni River, seemingly endless swathes of wild mangrove and some of West Africa’s lesser-known birding spots, the peninsular town of Cogo juts out into the Atlantic Ocean on the extreme southern edge of the Equatorial Guinea coast.
And while the stretches of unexplored coastline to its north are of interest, it’s the patchwork of half-ruined Spanish churches and pueblo houses, the cobbled streets and curious European feel of the town that most often comes top of the menu.
Linger some days and enjoy the sleepy, Iberian vibes.
Last but not least comes little Utonde on the Atlantic coast.
With easy access to the runways of Bata Airport and long stretches of largely undeveloped white sand along its edge, it’s hardly a surprise that it’s here where some of Equatorial Guinea’s most ambitious tourism development projects are taking hold.
Mega resorts are planned, with infinity pools and private beachfronts, while there’s also connections to the sprawling 330 square kilometers of land that is the Rio Campo Reserve, spread out over Fang tribal hamlets and wetlands near the Cameroonian border to the north.