Official name: Central African Republic
Area: 622,984 square kilometers (240,534 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mount Ngaoui (1,420 meters /4,659 feet)
Lowest point on land: Ubangi River (335 meters /1,099 feet)
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 1 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 1,437 kilometers (893 miles) from east to west; 772 kilometers (480 miles) from north to south
Land boundaries: 5,203 kilometers (3,233 miles) total boundary length; Cameroon, 797 kilometers (495 miles); Chad, 1,197 kilometers (744 miles); Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1,577 kilometers (980 miles); Republic of the Congo, 467 kilometers (290 miles); Sudan, 1,165 kilometers (724 miles)
Territorial sea limits: None
In accordance with its name, the landlocked Central African Republic lies roughly at the center of the African continent just north of the equator and more than 603 kilometers (375 miles) from the Atlantic Ocean. Bordered by five neighboring nations, it has an area of 622,984 square kilometers (240,534 square miles), or slightly less than the state of Texas.
Central African Republic claims no territories or dependencies.
The climate is tropical (hot, sunny, and humid), but is also moderated by rainfall and altitude.
Temperatures average around 27°C (80°F) all year. The harmattan—a hot, dry Saharan wind—affects the climate during the summer months. Rainfall varies, increasing from north to south. The northern part of the country is relatively dry, with an annual average rainfall of about 76 centimeters (30 inches). The northeast, with a semiarid climate, is the driest part of the country. The central plateau region receives up to 152 centimeters (60 inches) of rain per year. Annual rainfall in the southern part of the country averages at least 178 centimeters (70 inches).
|S EASON||M ONTHS||A VERAGE T EMPERATURE : °C ELSIUS (°F AHRENHEIT )|
|Summer||July and August||21-29°C (70°-84°F)|
|Winter (dry)||November to April||21-34°C (70°-93°F)|
Most of the country consists of a large plateau that separates the basin of Lake Chad to the north from that of the Congo River to the south. The dominant features of the landscape are the Bongo Mountains in the eastern part of the country and the Karre Mountains, otherwise known as Yadé Massif, to the west.
The Central African Republic is landlocked.
Many of the country's lakes are seasonal, filling during the rainy season and drying up when the rains stop.
Two river systems drain the Central African Republic, one flowing southward, the other flowing northward. The Chinko, Mbari, Kotto, Ouaka, and Lobaye Rivers flow south. They are tributaries of the Ubangi River, which forms most of the country's southern border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. From the conjunction of the Uele and Mbomou Rivers, the Ubangi flows westward along the Congo border from Bangassou. It bends to the south past Bangui to form the border between the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Mambéré and Kadei, which also flow south, are tributaries of the Congo River. They join in the southwest to form the Sangha River. The Ouham and Bamingui flow north to Chad to join the Chari River, which continues northward to the Chad Basin.
The country's northeastern tip, which borders the Sahel, has a semiarid desert climate.
The valleys of the Chari and Ubangi rivers break up the central plateau in the north and south, respectively.
The country's central plateau rises to the Bongo Mountains near the border with Sudan in the northeast, and to the Yadé Massif near the borders with Cameroon and Chad in the northwest. The Bongo Mountains rise to elevations as high as 1,368 meters (4,488 feet) and extend into the Sudan. The granite escarpment (steep slope) of the Yadé Massif in the northwest is a continuation of Cameroon's Adamoua Plateau. It includes Mount Ngaoui, the Central African Republic's highest peak.
There are no significant caves in the Central African Republic.
An undulating plateau, with elevations roughly between 610 meters and 762 meters (2,000 feet and 2,500 feet), extends across the center of the country. It is covered with grass and scattered groups of trees, crisscrossed by river valleys, ridges, and isolated granite peaks called kaga. The plateau's eastern section slopes southward toward the Mbomou and Ubangi Rivers. A large expanse of sandstone is located in the southwestern part of the country near Berbérati and Bouar.
National parks include the Bamingui-Bangoran National Park and Saint Floris National Park in the northeast, where the terrain is relatively flat and grassy. Here, visitors can observe African "big game" animals—examples of species include elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros, giraffe, buffalo, hippopotamus, monkey, baboon, cheetah, crocodile, warthog, galago (also called bushbaby, a large-eyed, long-tailed furry animal), and many types of birds. Poachers have killed so many animals here that some of the species are now endangered. There were once huge herds of elephants in this region, but as of 2002, only a few thousand remained.
The Dzanga-Ndoki Park and DzangaSangha Reserve, in the south, have the last areas of undisturbed rain forest in the country. Tourists may observe lowland gorillas and forest elephants that make the reserve their home. Several species of antelopes, chimpanzees, and monkeys may also be seen.
O'Toole, Thomas. Central African Republic in Pictures . Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1989.
Hagmann, Michael. "On the Track of Ebola's Hideout?" Science, Oct. 22, 1999, 654.
Sillery, Bob. "Urban Rainforest: An African Jungle Comes to Life on New York's West Side." Popular Science, March 1998, 70-71.
Africa South of the Sahara (Stanford University). http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/ssrg/africa/centralafr.html (accessed March 4, 2003).