Part three of our Essential Backpacker's Guide to Africa takes a very different tone than the previous two parts. That is not without reason. In the paragraphs below we will be discussing central and western Africa, which just happens to be the least stable and safe part of the continent. Central and West Africa have undergone considerable war and political strife for the last several decades and, when combined with extreme poverty, this part of Africa can be dangerous in places.
Most of what we review in this post should be received in light of travelling along the West Coast. We urge caution if you decide to venture into the interior. Travel into the heart of central Africa should always be conducted in groups, and with experienced local guides. Furthermore, any accommodations in the interior should be made with reputable establishments. With that said, let's talk about the rest of Central Africa.
Cameroon is a good place to start your journey through central Africa. The country is known as the ‘melting pot of Africa’ as well as ‘Africa in miniature’. It takes both names from the fact that all of Africa's diversity is contained, in small-scale, within Cameroon's borders. There are two resort towns, – one focusing on English speakers and the other on the French. Hikers and climbers will want to visit Mount Cameroon, as it is the highest mountain in the region.
As you head south from Cameroon, you have three options: Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo. Equatorial Guinea, while wealthy, is not considered friendly to tourists due to its political and legal environment. Gabon is a bit friendlier, but not necessarily safer. Your best bet is to go into the Republic of the Congo. This is an emerging country with a developing ecotourism sector. If you love dense forests, the Republic of the Congo is a great option.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Not to confuse you with names, but you can travel from the Republic of the Congo to its neighbour, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The latter country is also an emerging nation. It is home to a lot of valuable natural resources as well as a very diverse culture. You might also be interested to know it is the largest of the Central African countries.
When you are ready to leave the Democratic Republic of the Congo, you can head west to Angola or east to Tanzania. Both options are excellent choices. Angola does not dedicate lots of resources specifically to tourism, but it is the fastest-growing economy in Africa. They have some excellent coastline that you are sure to love. As for Tanzania, it is home to Mount Kilimanjaro and Lake Tanganyika, the highest and lowest places on the continent.
That pretty much sums up our time in western and central Africa. In the fourth and final entry of this series, we will talk about South Africa, travelling down from Angola. It should be rather exciting!