The next phase of my West African travels would take me to some fascinating countries, including the most populous nation on the continent and two of its richest.
Nigeria – The economic powerhouse of the continent, Nigeria is home to over 200 million inhabitants, making it the seventh most populous nation on Earth. Lagos, one of the, if not the, biggest city on the continent might make a good starting point. Other towns to visit would include Ilesa and Erin Ijesa, Uyo and Ibeno Beach. For wildlife spotting, I would head to Okomu National Park and Cross River National Park.
Cameroon – This country first made an impression on me during the FIFA World Cup of 1990 when they reached the quarter-finals. Reading more about the country, I was surprised that the population is only around 25 million (compared to its far more populous neighbour to the west). Another fact that I was unaware of was the highest peak in the country, Mount Cameroon is over 4,000 metres in height. The diversity of habitats in the country makes it a microcosm of the continent. The capital city of Yaounde would be a good place to start exploring the country. The city of Foumban would be another interesting urban area to visit, while for nature and wildlife, I would head to Kribi for the beaches and Waza National Park in the far North and Campo Reserve in the far South.
Equatorial Guinea – Growing up, I knew of Equatorial Guinea as a country with extremely colourful stamps. A more recent fact that I was unaware of is that this small country is the richest in Africa on a per capita basis. The country has two distinct parts – an island part and a mainland part. Places to visit on the island part would include Malabo, Bioko and San Antonio de Ureca. On the mainland, I would like to visit the city of Bata and try and spot some wildlife at Monte Allen National Park.
Gabon – This country is familiar to me as the country of Arsenal striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. What I did not know was that this country has the second-highest per capita income in mainland Africa and is considered as one of the last ‘Edens’ on Earth for its nature and wildlife. I would start my journey in this country at the capital city of Libreville. I would then ride the Trans-Gabon railway to the towns of Lastoursville and Franceville. I would then explore the National Parks of Loango, Ivindo and Reserve de la Lope.
Sao Tome and Principe – One of the smallest country in the African continent, this seems like a veritable tropical paradise. In addition to the main islands that make up its name, it would be fascinating to visit the tiny Rolas Island through which the Equator passes.