Bwambe, Cameroon

Photo: BrianSmithson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: BrianSmithson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
You’re standing—well, technically sitting in a pirogue—in awe of the Lobé Waterfalls. Fresh water is cascading over the rocks and dropping 20 meters into the Atlantic Ocean for nearly a kilometer. Massive clouds rise from the splash zone. Your skin feels damp even this far away. Surrounded by a Littoral Evergreen Forest, the falls are beautiful, though they still don’t seem real.

Fresh water rarely tumbles straight into the ocean. It usually flows toward the sea in a river, which ebbs and flows with the tide, changing the salinity as it does so. There are only a few places in the world where fresh waterfalls shoot into the ocean. Two of these are located in Africa: Waterfall Bluff near Cathedral Rock in South Africa and the Lobé Waterfalls outside of Kribi, Cameroon.

The Lobé Waterfalls are an important cultural site for the Batanga people. Despite their beauty and rarity, few people know about this enchanting location. Cameroon may be politically stable, but the West Africa country isn’t well explored by tourists. Which means you get to see the waterfalls and tour the coast in relative peace.

Photo: ymea (Personnal photography taken by ymea.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: ymea (Personnal photography taken by ymea.) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
You started in Kribi, a coastal town on the Gulf of Guinea. You saw the German-built cathedral, Le Phare Lighthouse, and the spice-filled market. You drove south to the waterfalls, visited a pygmy village, and learned about medicinal plants. You found the area’s most beautiful and secluded beaches in Grand Batanga, a deep-water port where iron ore from Mbalam, in the East Region, is loaded onto ships. Then you drank fresh coconut milk, ate coal-grilled fish, and relaxed in the sun.

Now you’re trying to find Hotel Ilomba, a beachfront hotel that blends Cameroonian culture and the owners’ Swiss charm in the little fishing village of Bwambe. It sits on a sandy, secluded bay, which is lined with palm trees and runs undisturbed for miles. Endangered sea turtles lay their eggs here. You’re welcomed with fresh papaya juice and singing birds. The rooms are named after rainforest trees, like Bubinga, Sipo, and Padauk. The white, round huts have handmade furniture and Cameroonian cotton bedding. Simple and comfortable is all you need, especially when you can hear the waves crashing right outside.

You swim in the warm Atlantic, sip a locally brewed beer on the terrace, and watch the sun sink over the horizon. At La Baobab, you eat flame-grilled spiny lobster with lemon butter sauce and share a cold bottle of South African Chenin Blanc. The wine is the only thing the restaurant serves that isn’t locally sourced. Then you listen to the crickets as you follow the moonlight back to your hut. What a perfect evening along the coast. Cameroon is full of those little surprises.

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