Volcanic Island Life Without Permit — Equatorial Guinea Part 1

You’ve probably never been to Equatorial Guinea. So you might not be aware that its capital is located, not on the African continental mainland, but on a volcanic island situated off the coast of Cameroon. It’s actually much closer to Cameroon than to mainland Equatorial Guinea.

To say the least, Equatorial Guinea has some interesting geography, and we’re going to be exploring it, starting with this surprisingly Spanish capital and lush green island. But to do so, we’ll first have to overcome a visa hurdle, or will we??

Returning to Africa

I spent some time in Germany for Heureka and NOMADays, which I drove back to my hometown to take part in. While I was there, I got to visit my grandma and celebrate her 95th birthday. After that, I went from Frankfurt to Equitorial Guinea.

It was a great weekend at NOMADays

I flew early on a Tuesday morning, so after visiting my grandma on Monday afternoon, I jumped into a car and drove full speed to Frankfurt. I had a very nice BMW 850 which could go up to 240 kilometers an hour, and I could actually do that on the autobahn, so I had a nice drive down to Frankfurt.

I returned the car, went to the airport hotel, and took a covid test. PCR tests are still required to enter Equatorial Guinea, but you can conveniently take a six-hour test at the airport. I think that was actually only my second PCR test in the last four or five months. All throughout the spring and summer, I had hardly taken any PCR tests, and I almost missed them. 😂 I received my test results on time, which were negative (of course), and then I could catch my flight from Frankfurt to Lagos to Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.

Here we go again. Luckily this time they barely swabbed my throat.

I found it quite interesting that Lufthansa flies to Malabo, which I didn’t expect. Because it was a nine-hour flight, I spontaneously decided to upgrade to business class. The Lufthansa Business Class experience wasn’t that great, but it was still better than flying economy.

At least I had space to stretch my legs.

We landed in Lagos, then continued on to Malabo with the plane nearly empty. Practically everyone had gotten off at Lagos, and hardly anyone flew to Malabo.

Flying over the slum of Lagos

Arriving in Malabo

I arrived in Malabo in the early evening and met with Hector, who worked at the tour company. He met with me at passport control, where he made things a bit easier. Americans can enter Equatorial Guinea visa-free, but all Europeans are required to have a visa. The visa process is quite complex, because you actually need a police certificate of good conduct, and lots of other forms to obtain a visa.

My visa came through surprisingly quickly.

The process went quickly for me as the German Embassy had processed my passport in just two days, but getting all of the documents in order was quite a hassle. When you arrive in the country, there are always more issues as well because there are checkpoints everywhere, and you need a lot of permits and paperwork prepared in order to travel. So, Equatorial Guinea is not a country where you can just drive around without paperwork. Then you would be fairly limited and could barely do anything. Instead, you need to go to an agency and get all the permits, even if there’s no real danger.

Hector had his girlfriend with him, and together we went to a local restaurant where we had some food. I immediately felt the Spanish flair on the island. Equatorial Guinea is the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa, as it was a former colony of Spain. I drank some San Miguel Cerveza and ate some Spanish croquettes filled with chicken.

A taste of Spain

All of the people around me were speaking Spanish and I tried to speak Spanish as well. My Spanish is a bit rusty, but I managed to speak a lot of it throughout the next few days and hardly spoke any English at all. 😎

Skipping Quarantine

I was supposed to enter quarantine when I arrived in Equatorial Guinea. It was a condition for everyone who enters the country, whether or not they were fully vaccinated. Even if you had a PCR test that was negative before your departure flight, you still had to take another test on arrival, then enter quarantine for three days, and take another test to exit quarantine. Luckily for me, just five days before my flight, they waived this requirement. So, since the end of August, there has been no more quarantine and no PCR test required on arrival.

There goes my quarantine! 😅

Because I had planned to quarantine, my permits were not ready, so I actually joined another group. I didn’t have a permit, but they did, and I was just the fifth guy with them. They told me that the guards wouldn’t check on every member’s paperwork, and that actually worked out although there were many checkpoints, so I actually went with this group for the first few days.

The group consisted of three Spanish guys and an American lady. One of the Spanish guys, Austerio Alonso, had organized my Chad trip with his Spanish travel agency called Kumakonda, so I was looking forward to meeting him and exploring Chad for two days together. They were coming from the mainland of Equatorial Guinea when I arrived, and I would go there later in my trip after we parted ways.

Something Rotten

That Wednesday, they were just coming from the airport, and we took a trip to the south of the islands. It was very rainy that day. We made a few stops, driving past the Presidential Palace as we went. Equatorial Guinea is a dictatorship with the longest-serving president in the world, who has now been in power for 43 years. He is also one of the richest presidents in the world, with 20 big villas all around the country. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures, but it was interesting to see that.

The country’s great leader

We had lunch at a local restaurant by the sea. It wasn’t too scenic, but there were a lot of interesting bushmeats to try there. I actually tried a very little piece of my first monkey, just to see how it tasted. There was also antelope on the menu, snails, and some kind of boar. I ordered the antelope, but it was so disgusting that I couldn’t even swallow it. I think that it was just lying outside and hadn’t even been warmed up, so I couldn’t eat it. 🤢

Some “appetizing” monkey meat

Getting to know Bioko

We continued driving after our somewhat grotesque lunch. We had some nice views from the seaside as we drove. I went to the town of Moka in the mountains south of Bioko Island.

The mountain town of Moka

Malabo is actually located on Bioko Island in the north. The island also boasts Pico Basilé, a 3,000-meter volcano that I was excited to visit on the last day. There’s also a massive volcano in the south of the island where the town of Moka is located. Moka is quite a nice town with colorful houses. It feels a bit colonial with pleasant temperatures but lots and lots of rain. ☔

The volcanic island

In the afternoon, we went to the local viewpoint. It was still cloudy, but we were lucky to be able to see the town from above at that point, so we took some pictures before five minutes later the clouds came again. We walked around a bit. We were actually supposed to go to a crater lake in the Moka Lagoon, but it was raining so heavily that we skipped that. We were going to do it the next morning, but it rained heavily again, so we didn’t see it at all.

Exploring Bioko Island

We spent the night at a surprisingly nice hotel in Moka, but unfortunately, the internet there didn’t work, so I went to bed early. Before going to sleep, I enjoyed the best steak that I’d had so far on this trip at the hotel restaurant.

A Rainy Day

We woke up early the next morning, but we couldn’t visit the lake because of the rain, so we drove down the road again toward the other side of the island to Luba and visited some villages around there.

A cute little village

There are some nice old colonial villages nearby where we got to visit a convent, a monastery, and an educational institution. There are a lot of Catholics there.

A very Catholic country

There were lots of colonial houses, some of which were crumbling, but overall, the standard of living seemed to be quite good there, better than in most of this region of Africa. It was quite nice to see all of these old colonial houses, and the people living there going about their business.

Colorful colonial buildings

The infrastructure is pretty good in Malabo, and the roads are generally well paved. There’s even a six-lane highway going through Malabo to the interior, so it’s pretty easy to visit most sites on the island.

Some things were crumbling while others were fairly well developed.

Then we went to Luba. It was still raining a lot. Luba is one of the biggest towns in the south of Bioko. We went sightseeing around practically every house and every street in that town. Then we went for lunch, where I had some chicken at a local bar. There was also a port there with a ferry going to Gabon.

Checking out interesting buildings around the rainy town

Enjoying the Views

After checking out Luba and some surrounding villages, We made a quick stop at a white sand beach to take some pictures, and then we continue back to Malabo. The Spanish group was dropped off at a local hotel, and I went back to my hotel.

I was staying at Sofitel Malabo Sipopo, which is a five-star luxury hotel with very nice food and drink service, a good pool, and even a beach with a bridge that leads to a nearby island.

A beautiful African hotel

Unfortunately, the bridge was being repaired and it was prohibited to use it, so I couldn’t visit the local island. The weather wasn’t great either so I didn’t swim, but I went to the beach and took some pictures.

One day there were actually views of Mount Cameroon. Bioko Island isn’t so far from the Cameroonian mainland. It’s about 50 kilometers away, and Mount Cameroon is the highest mountain in Western Africa with a peak of more than 4,000 meters. On a day with good weather, you can see it very well from the hotel. We didn’t have the best weather, but we could still see the shadow of the mountain from there. On the other side, we could see Pico Basilé, Bioko’s 3,000-meter-high volcano. 🌋

The outline of Mount Cameroon in the distance

Journey to Ureka

The next day, I was picked up from my hotel by a guy named Ignacio who accompanied me to Ureka. Ureka is even further south than Moka or Luba, which I had previously visited. It’s on the other side of the Pico Basilé volcano at the southernmost point of the island. The Spanish group didn’t want to go there, but for me, it was the highlight of my trip to Bioko.

Ureka is a big, untouched beach, with about 20 kilometers of nothing but water and sand. It is a black sand beach as a result of the nearby volcano.

Walking miles along empty volcanic beaches

The surroundings are very beautiful with the rainforest leading directly up to the beach. There’s quite a lot of surf in the ocean, and there are a lot of waterfalls emptying out into the rivers and flowing directly into the ocean, where the volcano goes out to the sea. Seeing all those waterfalls and rivers leading out to the sea was very nice.

Eureka! I found a beautiful waterfall.

Ureka is one of the rainiest places in the world, and definitely the rainiest in Africa. When we arrived there, we were very lucky that the roads were good until we found our parking spot at the first waterfall. It was quite scenic as the waterfall went down for about 30-40 meters, before flowing for about 200 meters straight into the ocean.

A Wet Beach

When we arrived, the weather was good… or at least it wasn’t raining. But when we began to walk along the beach, it started to pour and we got extremely wet. Our goal was to walk for about five kilometers down the beach to reach another set of waterfalls which is quite beautiful. By the time we arrived, we were absolutely soaked, and we were even wetter by the time we got back. 💦

Wet but happy

Despite the weather and being absolutely drenched by the rain, it was still a nice experience walking along this untouched, remote beach. I prefer that type of nature experience above most. And the beach is actually quite famous for big leatherback turtles which nest here during the right season, but the right season is during November, so I was too early to see the big leatherbacks. It was still nice to see the beach though, even without the turtles.

The only “proper” beach on the island

It was quite a long drive to Ureka, which is almost two and a half hours from Malabo. Malabo is in the far north, and Ureka is in the far south. Although Ureka is a small island, the roads are still pretty good. You have to cross the volcano in the south up and down again on a very modern road, and there are a few checkpoints along the way. You need a permit to visit Ureka, but luckily I had that by then, as that was the day that my “quarantine” officially ended and my permit technically began.

Check in again to explore more of Equatorial Guinea.

Join us next time as we continue our trip through Equatorial Guinea, this time with a permit!