Tribal Lands of Cameroon

Straddling West and Central Africa, Cameroon is alive with the traditions and customs of more than two hundred and fifty different ethnic groups. Its cultural mix is enchanting and magical.

This Cameroon tour takes you to the heart of a country much neglected by tourism, exploring lands that have seldom been visited by outsiders. We start in the steamy city of Douala, which is both chaotic and mesmerising. Then 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. We then hike into the isolated Vokre Mountains where few have been before.

We spend time with the Dupa, an intensely traditional group of people, 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.

This is a pioneering Cameroon tour that encapsulates the very best of this magical region.

Tribal Lands of Cameroon

Highlights

  • Visit traditional tribal kingdoms
  • Meet the Dupa and Koma people
  • Explore the remote Vokre Mountains

Day 1 - Douala

Arrive in Douala and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Sawa Hotel or similar.

Douala

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

Drive to the west of the country, stopping first at a busy fruit market around Penja. We then head to the impressive Ekom Falls, located in beautiful primary forest, then drive through the coffee plantations to Melong, a small farming town in the Cameroonian Highlands. Overnight Hotel Babingo or similar. (BLD)


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, and visit 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. (BLD)

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 the crowning of the new fon. In addition, a “queen mother” or mafo was an important figure for some fons in the past.

Day 4 - Foumban

Visit Foumban, home of the Bamoun people. We explore the town and visit its art museum as well as 19th-century royal palace. We also visit the central market, one of the most colourful in Cameroon, and walk through the artisans’ quarter. The Bamoun are great craftsmen, working with wood and bronze, and most of the pieces they create are exported overseas to collectors. Overnight Paradise Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Foumban

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)

Yaoundé

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 of 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 - Ngaoundaba

Arrive in Ngaoundere, the gateway to the north of the country and the capital of Adamawa Province. The city retains a medieval atmosphere and we make a short visit to the palace of the Lamido (sultan). We then make our way towards Ngaoundaba, visiting Vina Falls and rural villages before arriving at our accommodation. Overnight Ngaoundaba Ranch. (D)


Day 7 - Poli

From here we descend into the Benoue Valley and enter a different world – the modern villages disappear to be replaced by traditional adobe settlements, and we arrive in Poli, the capital of the kingdom of Faro, in the afternoon. 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. Overnight Bukaru Camp. (BD)

Mbororo People

The Mbororo are traditionally nomadic, searching for new pastures for their sizable flocks of sheep, goats and cattle. They belong to the Fulani ethnic group, a distinction typically being made between the Mbororo and the Peul, who tend to live more settled lives. The Mbororo are very traditional; women plait their hair and often wear silver coins or discs in 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 their teeth 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 - Vokre Mountains

We head first to Kongle, centre of the animistic Dowayo people, who were immortalised by Nigel Barley in his book ‘The Innocent Anthropologist’. Continue our journey and head to one of Cameroon’s most isolated and unexplored areas, the Vokre Mountains. We walk through millet fields and streams and make our way on foot to a small village belonging to the Dupa people, where we camp for the night. This is a great way to immerse ourselves in the culture of this fascinating ethnic group. (BLD)


Day 9 - Vokre Mountains

Explore the lands of the Dupa, 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. The Dupa 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)

The Dupa

Living in the Vokre Mountains, the Dupa hold on to their way of life and live very much outside the mainstream of Cameroonian society. The Dupa 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. The Dupa are farmers, and their lives revolve around millet fields. They organize dancing festivities before and after the harvest, where they drink bil-bil, the local beer (fermented millet).

Day 10 - Poli

Reluctantly we bid our hosts farewell and return to Poli, hiking back down the mountains to meet our vehicles. On the way, we stop in a traditional sultanate where we should be able to meet the sultan and learn about the challenges of life in this area. Overnight Bukaru Camp. (BD)


Day 11 - Mbe – Ngaoundere

We drive back to Ngaoundere. On the way we stop at local villages and markets, meeting the various different ethnic groups that live in this region. Arrive in Ngaoundere and board the overnight train for the journey back south. (B)


Day 12 - Yaoundé – Mfou Primate Sanctuary – Oveng

Arrive in Yaoundé this morning. After breakfast explore the city and then continue to Mfou Primate Sanctuary, situated in Mefou National Park. The sanctuary is dedicated to the protection of Cameroon’s larger primates including gorilla, chimpanzee, mandrill and drill, which live in large forest enclosures making them comparatively easy to spot. After time spent here we head to Oveng, where a lodge has been built in the middle of equatorial jungle. Overnight Oveng Lodge. (D)


Day 13 - Yaounde

Free morning to explore the surrounding forest before returning to Yaoundé. Transfer to the airport for departure. (B)


Koma woman and baby in Alantika Mountains - Cameroon tours
Fulani girl with painted face - Cameroon tour
Dowayo man in northern Cameroon - Cameroon tour
Fulani man with tattooed face - Cameroon tours

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include 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.

    Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • 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.

    Please note that the single supplement applies to hotel nights only, not on the trains.

  • 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.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively, a visa agency such as Travcour can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however, you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

Most travellers will require a visa to enter Cameroon. You may need an invitation letter in order to obtain this, depending on the requirements of the embassy that you apply at – we can provide this for you. Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations, you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required for entry to Cameroon and you must bring this with you.

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover, which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Arrival and departure taxes

When leaving Cameroon there is a departure tax of CFA10,000 (approximately €15).

Money

The local currency in Cameroon is the Central African CFA, a currency that is shared with many other countries in the region. It is not, however, the same as the West African CFA, and the two are not interchangeable. It is best to bring Euros for exchange purposes as the CFA is not obtainable outside of the region.

It’s not difficult to change money in Cameroon, either at banks or the hotels and your guide can assist with this. There are also an increasing number of ATMs in larger towns. However, these are not always reliable and so it is best to think of them as a back up rather than a main means of obtaining money.

Credit cards are accepted in larger hotels and better restaurants (usually in Douala or Yaounde) but are not commonly accepted elsewhere.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer, you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO advises against travel to some parts of Cameroon that we visit.

We work very closely with our local team and are fully confident that we can operate tours safely in Cameroon. Should you have any concerns over safety please do not hesitate to contact us and we can address your concerns.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Updated May 2019

Koma woman and baby in Alantika Mountains - Cameroon tours
Fulani girl with painted face - Cameroon tour
Dowayo man in northern Cameroon - Cameroon tour
Fulani man with tattooed face - Cameroon tours
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
14 November 2021
Price (PP) -
£2,599
Single Supplement -
£300
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
13 November 2022
Price (PP) -
£2,699
Single Supplement -
£300
Trip Status -
Available