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

Beaches with the sand of the colour of chocolate.

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Situated at the foot of West Africa\'s highest peak, Mount Cameroon, an active volcano, Limbe boasts the country\'s darkest sand beach. Parts of it have the colour of milk chocolate. Other parts - the colour of dark chocolate. And both are quite animated.

Beachfront in the centre of Limbe
Beachfront in the centre of Limbe
The road from Douala to Limbe was not too bad. It had seen better days for sure, yet the potholes were not too many. I counted about seven police checkpoints, mainly at entry points to towns. I was not stopped once, though. The road led through palm tree forests, banana plantations, green fields and woods with trees of delicate-looking bark.

Limbe enjoyed a reputation of one of Cameroon's tourist centres. The other was Kribi in the south of the country. It had attractive beach and seafront but the tourism infrastructure was not very obvious, or was almost totally invisible at all. I would expect hotels right by the beach, I could not spot anything. Strange. Well, perhaps the beach was not the reason why tourists came to Limbe. Perhaps it was the active volcano, reportedly one of the easiest peaks of its size to reach in Africa. Mount Cameroon, the highest peak in West Africa was visible (allegedly) from Limbe as its proximity to the ocean was astonishing. Yet, when I visited, weather prohibited any sighting of this spectacular view. Which was a real shame, as literature and the net is full of praise of this sight.

The only bank in Limbe whose ATM was giving money was the Societe Generale. And its ATM booths were fully air conditioned. Which was cool. It was located near the beach (pictured above). The beach was also the best place to acquire a local SIM card or load one from one of the mobile sellers along the oceanfront avenue.

Many hotels near Limbe were out of town in the westerly direction. Most of which were inaccessible by public transport. And one would have to hire a moto taxi (the backseat of a motorbike or a scooter) or a private taxi. The coastal road did not run close to the coast all the way. And therefore there was still quite a hike to the beach from it. Not ideal, if you have not make a reservation and would want to check a few venues before deciding where to sleep.

Favourite spots:
The Seme Beach
The Seme Beach
The Seme Beach, near the hotel in which I was staying, was definitely my favourite spot in the area. I came on Sunday, so the beach was very animated. People swam in the sea, did some body surfing, lads kicked some football, groups played volleyball, teenagers dived into a small river nearby. All this combined with a seafront full of benches and shaded sitting areas around stone tables. And there was a paved beachfront with planted palmtrees. It had two bars and a grill, where one could order freshly cooked food. Very civilised indeed.

The beach had a colour of milk chocolate! The sand was fine and it looked incredible. One could walk along the beach for miles. But the tides were crucial. At low tide, the beach was wide and definitely doubled for a full size football pitch. But at the low tide, almost all of it was swallowed by the ocean.

What's really great:
The last eruption lava flow, section for visiting
The last eruption lava flow, section for visiting
As I walked to Limbe, I passed by the last lava flow following the eruption of Mount Cameroon. The lava had destroyed the road I was using, and they had to build a bypass. The site was open for visiting. It cost CFA1,500 to enter and CFA500 on top to take pictures. I did not enter, thinking that I could probably cover the site on the way back. Soon after the lava flow, I spotted a black mamba by the road. The snake was moving very fast, as I might have spooked it. Black mambas are generally aggressive and can attack when they feel threatened. Other snakes just run away. This one, but the road did want to attack me actually, as it started to move quickly from the roadside bushes onto the road. I managed to jump away to the middle of the road and the reptile gave up. Perhaps realising that it achieved its objective.

A bit of colonial architecture in Limbe
A bit of colonial architecture in Limbe
Limbe centre and waterfront had a few examples of colonial architecture. Nothing particularly spectacular, yet curious fusion of tropical frame built around French, British and German structural and facade concepts. But one has to be careful when photographing them, as they housed governmental institutions. When I visited, Cameroon was still rather paranoid and authorities prohibited photographing official governmental buildings, local authorities seats, military and police force camps and approaches, presidential and ministerial residences, airports, harbours, bridges, telecom and industrial installations, anything too pretty and anything too ugly. Go figure, where you can pull out your camera!

The river side of the Seme Beach Hotel
The river side of the Seme Beach Hotel
I was a bit unimpressed that the hotel I booked was actually not in Limbe, but in Idenau, some 10 miles farther west. And there was no action around the hotel after sunset. Fortunately, it was Sunday, so the Seme Beach, which the hotel owned, was packed with people. They lounged in the shaded areas, sipping beers and soft drinks. Lads and a couple of gals kicked football, loads of people did some body surfing, and some of the locals dived into the nearby river, which in part run in parallel to the shoreline. The hotel charged CFA35,000 for a two-room suite with two bathrooms. It was nothing special though, and it was clear that the hotel had seen much better days. It also had a good number of bungalows on the way to beach. By the way, the venue charged the non-residents CFA1,500 to use the beach, including infants and toddlers!

One of the beachside places for drinking and shaking your body
One of the beachside places for drinking and shaking your body
Limbe, apparently, boasted a good number of night spots. I passed by a few, but I did not check any of the clubs. Instead, I partied on the beaches at the beachside bars.

In addition to those at and near the beach, there were countless booths selling drinks and snacks where locals converged for a chat after sunset. As the sun disappeared behind the horizon and it got dark very quickly (there was no twilight in Cameroon - too close to the equator), the town's life appeared to begin. Not just the nightlife. The life itself. Perhaps the locals considered daylight and sunlight too much 'in your face' or too hot to leave the house. In the dark, perhaps it was easier to hide any bodily imperfections and fell more adequate and free. Trading, gossiping, drinking, street music playing, traffic - all picked up at night. I took a couple of video clips with my phone, but sadly, I cannot share those on Globo at the moment.

Limbe beach
Limbe beach
The beach in Limbe also had a nicely developed seafront with benches, which were in fact very popular. Locals sat down, rested, couples held hands, traders took breaks. The beach had three sections. One for swimming or relaxing. The other was for fishing, fish trading and repairing nets and boats. And the last one was used as an extension of a fishing community. This is where boys played football.

I really loved watching the African beach football. The boys played bare footed and the games were clean and fair. No fouls! The rules were all the same as on a professional pitch, but the African beach football required that a player plays on all positions. In turn. So every several minutes, the boys shifted their positions, so the strikers became middle-fielders, the middle-fielders became defenders or strikers, one of them became the keeper, etc. Similar to the volleyball. And the passion and joy literally dripped from their faces, together with the sweat. Fascinating!

The Chez Charlotte Restaurant & Bar
The Chez Charlotte Restaurant & Bar
Just on the edge of the fishing beach, there were a couple of beach restaurants. I checked the Chez Charlotte, right at the edge of the beachfront market. They had good, ice-cold draft lager, and a few items on the food menu. The spot seemed very popular with Cameroonians. They tucked in the local dishes, and seriously enjoyed them. It was not a dirt-cheap place, with almost European prices, and considering that an average salary in Cameroon was CFA80,000 (£100 or €120) per month, they would have to be relatively well off to be able to afford to splurge on CFA1,000 bottles of beer.

The venue had a terrace with a few sturdy tables and a handful of plastic tables and chairs directly in the dark volcanic sand of the beach. It was a superb spot for the sunset and to watch the fishermen return from the sea or getting ready, or pushing their vessels into the water.

Other recommendations:
The lowland gorilla in Limbe
The lowland gorilla in Limbe
I normally do not attend zoological gardens. But this one in Limbe came highly recommended as it was more of a primates preservation centre rather than a zoo. The apes had more space to move, jump, lounge or snooze than a typical African zoo. It was also an education centre telling the locals and visitors not to buy bush meat and to protect the gorillas, drills, mandrills, chimps and other monkeys. The ticket revenue came to the rescue operations and to feed the saved apes.

The centre had a lovely cafe serving cold beers, fantastic baguette-based sandwiches, and decent pizzas. The cafe was endorsing a local artist, whose paintings were very intriguing and clever. Had this been the end of my holiday, rather than the beginning, I would have acquired a couple of paintings or drawings! If you are in town and like original art, do not miss this place.

Published on Friday January 20th, 2012

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