Tribal Lands of Cameroon
|BETWEEN||Douala and Yaounde|
|COUNTRIES VISITED – 1||Cameroon|
|MAXIMUM GROUP SIZE||12|
|WHATS NOT INCLUDED||
Starting in the steamy city of Douala, chaotic and mesmerising, we head west to the tribal kingdoms of the highlands taking in dramatic waterfalls and lush forests on the way. We discover lands ruled by traditional chiefs that have changed little in centuries, centred around royal courts and nobles that govern in an almost feudal manner. From here we take the train to Ngaoundere – an atmospheric journey to the very different world of the north. In Poli we stay in a delightful camp and meet the semi-nomadic Mbororo and Dowayo, then hike into the isolated Alantika Mountains where few have been before. We spend time with the Koma – an intensely traditional group of people who were only ‘discovered’ by outsiders in the 1980s, where women still wear skirts made of forest leaves and men hunt for game with bows and arrows. If we are lucky we may witness traditional ceremonies and celebrations, gaining an insight into a way of life that has disappeared from much of Africa with the onset of modernity. Heading back to the south we spend time in the forests and discover gorillas and chimpanzees at Mfou before heading home.
Tribal Lands of Cameroon
Straddling both West and Central Africa, Cameroon is alive with the traditions and customs of more than two hundred and fifty different ethnic groups, an enchanting and magical cultural mix. This tour takes you to the heart of a country much neglected by tourism, exploring lands that have seldom been visited by outsiders. A pioneering Cameroon tour that encapsulates the very best of this magical region.
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Day 1: Douala
Arrive in Douala and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Sawa Hotel or similar.
The largest city in the country, Douala is chaotic and lively and to some may be intimidating, but offers a great snapshot of modern Cameroon. Although undoubtedly the economic powerhouse of Cameroon, it is not the political capital – Yaoundé, a few hours’ drive away, is where the government is based. Douala however is much older and was founded by the Portuguese when they first arrived in the 15th century – indeed it was the Portuguese that are responsible for the modern name, as it is derived from the word ‘cameroes’ (prawns) a reference to the good fishing that they found here. Today it is a vibrant city with an excellent nightlife, and although like many cities in the region parts are rather run down, it can be a fun place to explore and soak up the tropical ambience
Day 2: Ekom Falls – Melong
Day 3: Bandjoun – Bappit – Koutaba
Drive through the lands of the Bamileke people, great artisans and agriculturalists and one of Cameroon’s largest ethnic groups. We stop in the Kingdom of Bandjoun, not far from the regional capital Bafoussam, andvisit the palace. From Bandjoun we head to the Noun Valley and the picturesque crater lake of Bappit for great views of the surrounding area. Finally we drive to Koutaba for the night.
Overnight Paradise Hotel or similar. (B)
The Bamileke people
The Bamileke are spread throughout three regions of Cameroon – West, North-West and South-West, and also split between the English and French speaking regions. Historically, the Bamun and the Bamileke were united, but during the mid-17th century, the Bamiléké people’s forefathers left the north to avoid being forced to convert to Islam and migrated as far south as Foumban. Conquerors came all the way to Foumban to try
to impose Islam on them. A war began, pushing some people to leave while others remained, submitting to Islam, which marks the current division between the Bamun and Bamiléké people. The Bamileke are organised into chiefdoms. The chief, or fon is considered as the spiritual, political, judicial and military leader. The chief is also considered as the ‘Father’ of the chiefdom. The successor of the ‘Father’ is chosen among his children. The successor’s identity is typically kept secret until the fon’s death. The fon has typically 9 ministers and several other advisers and councils. The ministers are in charge of thecrowning of the new fon. In addition, a “queen mother” or mafo was an important figure for some fons in the past.
Day 4: Foumban
Overnight Paradise Hotel or similar. (B)
Foumban is a predominantly Muslim town and the seat of the Sultanate of the Bamoun people, founded in the fifteenth century and one of the oldest towns in Cameroon. As well as a royal palace there are also some old German colonial buildings, and its museums hold excellent examples of Bamoun arts and crafts as well as exhibits on local history, masks, traditional dress and everyday items that have been used in Bamoun life. It is particularly rich in local culture and crafts and the Rue des Artisans is home to all manner of small shops and workshops making this one of the best places in Central Africa to buy wood carvings.
Day 5: Yaoundé
Drive to Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital. We visit the excellent African art museum, located in the Benedictine monastery atop Mount Febe and with a superb collection of carvings and artefacts from some of the ethnic groups we have just encountered. Later we head to the train station to take the overnight train to Ngaoundere, the gateway to the north of the country. (B)
Although not the largest city in the country, Yaoundé is the political and administrative capital, and a little more ordered than Douala. It’s also far greener, with pleasant tree lined streets and the lush Mt Febe overlooking the city. Mt Febe is also the site of a former Benedictine monastery, which now houses a rather excellent museum dedicated to the art and crafts Cameroon’s many different ethnic groups, with numerous masks and sculptures. Other than that, like most African cities Yaoundé is not big on traditional sights but it’s not a bad place to get to grips with modern urban Africa, and more pleasant than most.
Day 6: Ngaoundere - Poli
Day 7: Poli
Spend the day delving into the tribal cultures that hold sway here. We visit the Mbororo people, one of West Africa’s most traditional groups and with a lifestyle based around cattle. The Mbororo still practice the custom of facial tattooing and live semi-nomadic lives, following their livestock to pasture. We then move onto Kongle, centre of the animistic Dowayo people, who were immortalised by Nigel Barley in his book ‘The Innocent Anthropologist’. Return to Poli for the night. (BD)
The Mbororo are traditionally nomadic, searching for new pastures for their sizable flocks of sheep, goats and cattle. They belong the Fulani ethnic group, a distinction typically being made between the Mbororo andthe Peul, who tend to live more settled lives. The Mbororo are very traditional; women plait their hair and often wear silver coins or discs into their hair, and sometimes have tattooed faces. They are the largest nomadic group of people in the world and can be found in many different parts of Africa, from Guinea to Sudan. At the end of the rainy season in September, Mbororo clans gather in several traditional locations before the beginning of their dry season migration. Here the young Mbororo men, with elaborate make-up, feathers and other adornments, perform the Yaake: dances and songs to impress marriageable women. The male beauty ideal of the Mbororo stresses tallness, white eyes and teeth; the men will often roll their eyes and show theirteeth to emphasize these characteristics. Mbororo together with the Fulani in general are known for their Gerewol festivals: a series of barters over marriage and contests where the young men’s beauty and skills are judged by young women.
Day 8: Alantika Mountains
Day 9: Alantika Mountains
Explore the lands of the Koma, a deeply traditional and animist group who make their living from agriculture and hunting. Many still wear traditional dress – for the men this is a loincloth and for the women, skirts made from leaves – modernity has made few inroads here and this is a unique opportunity to see a culture that has changed little for centuries, if not millennia. The Koma are incredibly hospitable and we can expect to be welcomed into their villages – if we are lucky we may witness a traditional ceremony or celebration. There are no roads in this part of Cameroon and we explore on foot. Overnight camping. (BLD)
Living in the remote Alantika Mountains, the Koma hold on to their way of life and live very much outside the mainstream of Cameroonian society. The Koma have their own language, known as Koma, with an estimated 61,000 speakers, and are divided into three main groups: the hill-dwelling Beya and Ndamti, and the Vomni lowlanders. It was only as recently as 1986 that the Koma were ‘discovered’ by the world beyond their mountains. The Koma are strongly committed to their traditional culture. The men wear loincloths and women wear fresh leaves, but as usual, the Koma men are much more receptive to wearing of modern clothes than the women. Customarily children in Koma inherit their maternal lineage. As a mark of acceptance and friendship, a Koma man may share his wife with friends, especially visitors. They have an average population of about 400 people per village, and many engage in the earing of animals. Among the Komas, a twin birth is regarded as evil, and twins are considered abominable – so much so that until recently babies of multiple births used to be buried alive with the women who had the ‘misfortune’ of being their mothers.
Day 10: Poli
Day 11: Mbe – Ngaoundere
Day 12: Yaoundé – Okan
Day 13: Mfou Primate Sanctuary
Tour Dossier Notes
Airport transfers – Includes arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers.
Accommodation – Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.
Guides – In most cases you will be accompanied by one guide from start to finish. However there may be occasions when this is not practical, for example if your trip covers a number of different countries. In these cases it often makes more sense to include different guides for each place, to take advantage of their specific knowledge of the destination.
Meals – As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip– in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.
Entrance fees – Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.
Visas – We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then can request for this to be arranged for you. If you need any advice with visas just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as CIBT can assist.
Airport taxes – If there are any departure taxes to pay that are not included within the cost of your ticket, you’ll need to pay these yourself.