Limbe, in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, is a gem. A coastal city famous for its black sand beaches, Limbe is located on the southern slopes of Mount Cameroon, one of Africa’s largest active volcanoes. The town is surrounded by lush forest and is home to the Limbe Botanic Garden, a 48-hectare expanse of majestic greenery bordering the Atlantic.
The Limbe Wildlife Centre is another one of the city’s attractions. The center was founded in the early 1990s as a rescue and rehabilitation center for orphaned primates. The first time I visited the center it was an open space. I’ll never forget the gorilla who stood on two legs and walked straight up to me as if he wanted to say something. Amazing. Today, the center is divided up into compounds and feels more like a zoo, but it’s still a great place to visit and marvel the biodiversity of this country.
But there’s more to Limbe than beautiful scenery.
Limbe is also the center of Cameroon’s oil industry and home to the country’s sole oil refinery, opened in 1981 and getting a bit rusty. Although Limbe’s old offshore rigs are pumping less every year, oil production is expected to increase significantly in the near future. New offshore developments are in the works and Kosmos Energy, one of Ghana’s Jubilee Field partners, is completing exploratory drilling onshore.
The Kosmos project is located on protected lands and in order to “minimize the company’s onshore footprint,” Kosmos is moving everything in and out via helicopter. That works for exploratory drilling; what happens if and when commercial drilling begins is another issue.
Equatorial Guinea’s Bioko Island and that country’s offshore oil industry are located a mere 25 miles away. From the beach at Limbe you can see the volcanic peaks of Bioko. A major spill in E.G. waters would have devastating consequences for Limbe and the nearby mangroves, but the two countries lack any agreements on disaster response. Cameroon is completely unequipped to deal with any oil spill.
So this is Limbe. Come to visit; enjoy the beautiful sights and the delicious fish. Don’t drink the water, though. The city’s garbage dumps are located scandalously close to the city’s water supply and water pollution has been implicated in recent cholera outbreaks. Oil pollution, water pollution, plantation agriculture…scratch the surface here and there’s much cause for concern.