Cameroon extends from the Gulf of Guinea in the south to Lake Chad in the north. The coastline along the Gulf of Guinea is approx. 300 km long. Within the 15–25 km wide coastal plain lies a broken plateau landscape, 300–400 meters above sea level. The plateau rises to the north up to 1000–2500 meters, with the Adamaoua massif being the highest. North of the plateau landscape, the terrain is rather down towards Lake Chad.
Volcanic rock formations in the Mandaras at the border with Nigeria.
To the west lies a belt of volcanic mountains and hills, extending from the Cameroon Mountains (the country’s highest mountain, about 4100 meters above sea level) to the south and further north into the Adamaoua Massif. The bedrock along the coast consists mostly of Mesozoic and Tertiary sedimentary rocks, in the plateau landscape of granite, gneiss and crystalline shale.
Cameroon has many rivers, including Chari and Lagone (boundary rivers towards Chad), which flow towards the Chad Sea, Dja and Boumba which flow towards the Congolese River, Benue flow to the west and flow into Niger (in Nigeria ) and Sanaga and Nyong, which flow towards Bay of Guinea. Sanaga is the longest river.
In 1986, a gas spill from Lake Nios occurred in the crater of one of Cameroon’s many ‘sleeping’ volcanoes; over 1,700 people and many animals died instantly of suffocation.
Climate in Cameroon
Cameroon is located in the tropical climate zone. In the south, the climate is monotonous, with small variations in temperature and constant high humidity. In the port city of Douala, the average temperature for the coldest month is 25 °C and for the warmest month 27 °C.
In 1986, the country was hit by an unusual natural disaster. Toxic gas flowed from the volcanic lake Nios near the town of Wum in the North Ouest region. 1500 people lost their lives. The picture shows a farmer with part of his dead cattle.
The southern part of the country has the most rain. Here, warm and humid coastal winds from the south are forced into higher air strata towards the mountain plateau around Mount Cameroon. Thus, the humid air is cooled, and the moisture condenses from gas to liquid form and falls down as rain. At the foot of the Cameroon mountain lies the site of Debundscha, which is the second most rainy place in the world with an annual rainfall of about 10,000 millimeters. In comparison, the port city of Douala has an annual rainfall of 4100 millimeters.
The second most precipitous area in Cameroon is the mountain area in the west. Then follows the rainforest area in the southeast. Rainfall on the coast and in the south falls during the period April – November. The southern and central part of the plateau landscape has two rainy seasons; May-June and October-November.
North of the Adamaou Plateau, the annual rainfall falls further north, and there are greater annual variations in temperature. Winter has the nature of drying time. The precipitation, which falls mainly in connection with the passage of the intertropical convergence zone (June – September), decreases from about 1750 millimeters a year in the middle parts of the country to 750 millimeters in the north.
Plant life in Cameroon
Most of the vegetation types common in West Africa are found in Cameroon. In the south, there are tropical rainforests with many economically important tree species such as mahogany and ebony. The tallest trees are well over 60 m. Here also many species of orchids and ferns thrive. The Dja Faunal Nature Reserve, which is almost surrounded by the Dja River, is one of the largest and best preserved rainforest areas in Africa. Along parts of the coast and the estuaries there are mangrove forests. North of the rainforest there is a bright forest where the trees cut down the foliage during the dry season. It turns into savanna covering two-thirds of Cameroon’s land area. At the far north is the bush steppe. In the mountains, the tropical rainforest is replaced by montane rainforest where the epiphytic vegetation is rich due to. the humid climate. Especially mosses and lichens show an incredible species richness. Drier forest types grow over the mountain rainforest, and over approx. 2700 masl dominates short grass species.
FAO considers 46% of the land area as wooded. Cameroon, however, experiences a relatively rapid deforestation – calculated at 1% annually in the period 2000-05.
Wildlife in Cameroon
The mammalian fauna in Cameroon is rich: elephant, hippopotamus, brush pig, coffee buffalo, honey badger, sneakers and leopard. In the rainforest there are numerous monkeys and other smaller mammals (shellfish, rodents, divers ), birds, reptiles and insects. Primatene include Prosimian, vervet, guerezaer, mandrill, anubisbavian, chimpanzee and lowland gorilla – a total of 25 species. On the savanna and shrub carpets in north live stripesjakal, wild dogs, hyenas, lions, cheetahs, warthogs, giraffes and many antelopes.
More than 900 bird species occur in Cameroon, including eagles, palm-nut vulture, Turaco, birds, kingfisher, bee-eater and Sunbird. The mountain forests in the west have a distinctive bird fauna with rare and native species.