Malabo is one of the oddest cities in the world. It’s the capital and oldest city of Equatorial Guinea. That’s not strange. Its people speak Spanish. That’s not unusual for an area that was colonized by Spain in the 19th century. Plus its colonial buildings stand alongside new, sleek highrises. That’s not uncommon in a large oil-producing country either. So what makes Malabo so different?
The capital of Equatorial Guinea isn’t on the mainland of Africa. It doesn’t even sit off the Central African country’s coast. Malabo lies on the north coast of Bioko. The island is in the Bight of Bonny, the easternmost section of the Gulf of Guinea. It’s 20 miles off the coast of Cameroon, though. The northwest tip of Equatorial Guinea is actually 100 miles away.
But Malabo isn’t the most exciting part of Bioko. Far from it. The city’s most prominent landmark, beautiful St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral, was recently destroyed in a massive fire. Spanish architecture and pretty fountains filled Plaza de Espana around it. A large port and a few chaotic markets are the only other sights in the capital. After a few hours, most visitors are ready to head south.
Further south is where you’ll find the volcanic island’s mountainous interior. Its high peaks are covered with tropical rainforests and, usually, clouds. Pico Basilé National Park is home to the island’s highest point, hiking trails, and stunning views. Unique species—including butterflies, lizards, and monkeys—live there, too. Small fishing villages, fields of coffee beans, and gorgeous beaches, both black and white sand, line the coast. Sea turtles use the latter to nest. While San Antonio de Ureca, a village on the south coast, is considered the wettest place in Africa. It looks like oddities might lead to fascinating discoveries.