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krisek Kribi - A travel report by Krys
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Kribi,  Cameroon - flag Cameroon -  South
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krisek's travel reports

Cameroon\'s idyllic beach gem. Kribi.

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If Cameroon\'s northern beaches have chocolate colour sand, the beaches along the southern coast have a colour of cream! Kribi has a few lovely beaches, some hidden in small bays flanked by palm trees and colonial architecture.


The main beach in Kribi
The main beach in Kribi
I checked out of my Yaounde hotel at 9am, which admittedly was very late indeed. And it was Christmas!. I transferred to the gare routiere in the Kribi/Douala direction and sat down at the back of a small minibus bound for Kribi having paid CFA5,500 (£6.93 or $10.62) for the ticket. It was very cramped there and they were about to load so many people on it and so much cargo that the manufacturer of the vehicle would be genuinely astonished. I was concerned having seen a couple of accidents on the road during my travels in Cameroon. So, I changed my mind and hired a taxi for CFA50,000 (£63 or $96.53). Not a cheap ride, but negotiated down from CFA80,000, and eventually costing CFA285 (£0.36 or $0.55) per mile. And so, not too bad after all.

The road was in great condition, and the driver put his foot down very nicely. For most part of the journey, the speedometer's gauge did not fall below 130km/h. Seatbelts in Cameroon are obligatory, in case you were wondering.

About three hours later, I was in the rather pretty Kribi. I tried the Hotel du Phare, which I had known was fully booked, but took my chance. The very grumpy and unhelpful receptionist refused to assist me in finding another hotel. But it took me about a minute to find the Hotel Palm Beach Plus some 200 yards south along the coast, which had many double en-suite rooms available for CFA32,000 per night. It also had greatly located beachfront bar, which must have been the poorest stocked bar in the country. Yet, I stayed there for a few hours watching the people play in the water, play water polo, kick some ball, body surf, all with the background of the setting sun.

Kribi is stretched along the coast. It is a good hike from one end of it to the other. The northern parts opened to the ocean with a fabulous beach and a palm tree public park. Further down, there was the administrative quarter full of fine examples of colonial architecture. Then, the harbour, the lighthouse, the churches and a few hotels.

Favourite spots:
Local beachgoers in Kribi
Local beachgoers in Kribi
As I took a stroll north along the coast from my southern hotel through the marina, the pretty administrative quarter boasting grand mansions, the presidential house at a very nice little beach all the way to the public beach park, this particular part of town appealed to me the most. The beach and the park were great and animated places. It was Boxing Day, so everyone was off playing and relaxing on the beach. People on the beach were friendly and approachable.

Across the road from the beach park were a couple of restaurants-cafes, which happily brought tables right by the beach and served whatever your CFA wanted to buy. Be it cold drinks, freshly grilled fish, fried chickens or fruit salads.

There two main parts of the beach. Both running for a mile or so. The demarkation between them were a group of large boulders, which nevertheless did not disturb the continuity of the beach entirely. Yet created a couple of crescents. So the beach had a shape of two croissants joined together.

What's really great:
Eddie and his boat
Eddie and his boat
I spent an entire day there walking on this beach, snapping people at their request, helping them with their snapping of their friends, watching fishermen, chatting to locals about life, the Universe and everything. One of the young fishermen, whom I snapped as he finished his job, Eddie, came back to the beach to show how he looked fully dressed in normal clothes. It was really funny. I did offer him a cold drink for letting me take a picture of him. So, he rushed home, changed and decided to formally introduce himself. He was 20 years old, had 18 years old girlfriend, who ten months before gave birth to his daughter. His introduction worked well for him, as I talked with him in Frenglish (half French half English) for a couple of hours sipping juices at the beach. He then took upon himself to show me Kribi and told me stories about the town, the buildings, the harbour, the population, etc. So I in the end, I invited him to dinner and we had drinks into the small hours of the morning.

Sights:
One of the churches seen from the administrative quarter
One of the churches seen from the administrative quarter
Kribi was not big, so there were not many classic sights to see. Yet, the administrative quarter did boast a good number of pretty houses, mansions, palaces and large complexes, which bore the combination of Tropical French and Tropical German architecture. This part of town was clean, very tidy, had a wide alley and presented itself really nicely.

There were also two interesting churches in town, one a minute walk from the other, both bearing construction designs favourite by the German architects. While one of them was well maintained and used by crowds (it was Christmas), and the other (the Presbyterian) seemed abandoned and disused.

The lighthouse was also an attractive and interesting building, but it was off limits for visitors.

In the southernmost limits of Kribi (7km from the churches), near Grand Batanga village, there was a small waterfall Chutes de la Lobe, one of very few where a river waterfall plunges directly into the ocean. Access was limited due to a damaged bridge.

Accommodations:
Sunset beach scenes seen from the Hotel Palm Beach Plus Bar
Sunset beach scenes seen from the Hotel Palm Beach Plus Bar
Kribi, despite its official tourism status, and obvious attractiveness, did not boast many accommodation options. A few hotels did spring along the coast, but there were swathes of beaches and coastline that were void of any infrastructure. I guess that was positive, as the place was calm and had a relaxed attitude to visitors. There were any hustlers, souvenir sellers, etc.

The majority of the hotels were south of the marina: Auberge du Phare, New Coco Beach, Palm Beach Plus, L'Ocean, Bougainvilleas d'Annette, Polygones d'Alice, Serena, amongst few others. There were four hotels in the northern part of Kribi, near the administrative quarter: Wellcome opposite the hospital, La Paix and the Maribell across the nice park adjacent to the Presidential Residence, and La Kienke, opposite the Central Voyages bus station.

I stayed at the Palm Beach Plus, which was a relatively large venue, hence with good chances of vacancy. Not the fanciest of options, but adequate and safe.

Nightlife:
Street bar in Kribi
Street bar in Kribi
As this was my last night in Cameroon, I wanted to go out. Yet, the only club in town, the Big Ben (right by the Marina, north of the bridge), was shut. Eddie mentioned that there was a rustic club in the eastern parts of the town, but this did not sound like a place with a lot of ventilation... This however did not stop me party at one of the roadside bars. Right between the Presbyterian Church and the Palm Beach Plus Hotel, there were a couple of basic bars, which served cold drinks and played music. Packed with locals summarising their Christmas over the drink or two. I could not make a choice at first, as I wanted to make sure it was going to be a lively place with locals to chat to (in Frenglish, of course) and not in a corner of a hot room. Finally, there was a table in the street. A table in the wind, predatory women gently scratching my back, messing with my hair, talking dirty to me, a string of strangers sitting down for a while hoping for a free drink. It was a good night!

Hangouts:
Please buy a banana...
Please buy a banana...
The best hangouts in Kribi were the beaches. Only the public beach park had some facilities with nearby bars and cafes (not much choice, anyway). The other stretches of the coast had nothing but the waves, cream-coloured sands, and palm trees. And occasional boulders washed by the ocean. All to be enjoyed.

Now, one of the prettiest bits was the small bay right by the Presidential Residence. It was often empty, as the locals would not pick these parts as a first choice. And those, who happen to be lingering in the shade of the palm trees would feel obliged to let you know that you should not take photos of this beach. I still managed to take a few shots 'from the hip'. But what I wanted to say that it was very likely that you might have this bay just for yourself (or yourselves), relax, swim and take the sun rays in. Undisturbed.

Restaurants:
Le Siloé Restaurant
Le Siloé Restaurant
The Le Siloé Restaurant charging CFA2,500 for a large portion of spaghetti bolognese, CFA4,000 for a brochettes of barracuda, CFA6,000 for prawns, and CFA500 for drinks was a very pleasant spot to have dinner or lunch. It was located right by the bridge near the marina. The personnel was friendly and attentive, and the service was swift and faultless. One could peek into the kitchen or at the grill near the river, to see how their choice of food was being prepared. I had one brochette of fish and one of prawns, both of which were super and were served with plenty of rice. The pasta, which Eddie chose looked great, too. Although he was not too ecstatic about it, explaining to me that he really preferred African traditional and staple dishes.

Another very civilised option was a large pizzeria near the Big Ben night club, with an adjacent bar. It was very popular with expats, although less atmospheric than the Le Siloé.

Other recommendations:
The main public beach in Kribi
The main public beach in Kribi
If I were to compare Kribi to any other spot in West Africa, it would have been Lumley Beach of Aberdeen in Sierra Leone. And I guess this is to do with the fact that those places have not yet been seeing hordes of tourists, who mess with the locals' minds turning these spots in travellers traps full of annoying traders, hookers, bumpsters, hustlers, etc. Instead, the people are more curious to chat to the visitors to find out more about them and at the sight of a large camera they smile and invite their pictures to be taken.

Kribi was well served by numerous buses and minibuses, which served both Douala and Yaounde (the former had more frequent links). I again hired a car. It set me back by CFA35,000, which worked out about CFA315 (£0.40 or $0.61) per mile. The ride was comfortable and quick again, as the road was in excellent condition in most parts. I was in Douala within less than two hours. Again passing by the endless palm tree forests.

Published on Monday January 16th, 2012


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