Official name : Republic of Cameroon
Area: 475,440 square kilometers (183,568 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mount Cameroon (4,095 meters/13,435 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 1 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 1,206 kilometers (749 miles) from north to south; 717 kilometers (446 miles) from east to west
Land boundaries: 4,591 kilometers (2,853 miles) total boundary length; Central African Republic, 797 kilometers (495 miles); Chad, 1,094 kilometers (680 miles); Republic of the Congo, 523 kilometers (325 miles); Equatorial Guinea, 189 kilometers (117 miles); Gabon, 298 kilometers (185 miles); Nigeria, 1,690 kilometers (1050 miles)
Coastline: 402 kilometers (250 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 91 kilometers ( 50 nautical miles)
Cameroon is a triangle-shaped country located between West Africa and Central Africa. It has a western border on the waters of the Bight of Biafra in the Gulf of Guinea, between Equatorial Guinea (south) and Nigeria (north). It also shares borders with the countries of Gabon and Republic of the Congo to the south, and Central African Republic and Chad to the east. With a total area of 475,440 square kilometers (183,568 square miles), Cameroon is slightly larger than the state of California. The country is divided into ten provinces.
Cameroon claims no territories or dependencies.
Cameroon has a climate that varies from tropical along the coast to semiarid (little annual rainfall) and hot in the north. The average temperature range in Yaoundé is from 18 to 29°C (64 to 84°F). The north part of Cameroon has a wet season between April and September with an average annual precipitation between 100 and 175 centimeters (39 and 69 inches). The south alternates between wet and dry seasons. The two wet seasons are from March to June and again from August to November. Annual precipitation in the south reaches 403 centimeters (159 inches).
The terrain (surface of the land area) of Cameroon is diverse. The country has four basic geographic regions. The southwestern lowlands are located along the coast. The northwestern highlands run from the northern coast along the border with Nigeria.
The central region covers a majority of the country and includes the Adamawa Plateau. The northern plains run through the northern arm of the country that reaches up through Chad. This area is a part of the Sahel, the semi-arid region that borders the Sahara Desert.
Along its west coast, Cameroon borders the Bight of Biafra, an eastern bay of the Gulf of Guinea.
The Bakassi Peninsula is a 1,554-square-kilo-meter (600-square-mile) region that includes the northern edge of the Cameroon coast and a series of islands that are believed to contain rich oil reserves. The area is mostly a mangrove forest swampland. Currently, the governments of Cameroon and Nigeria both claim ownership of the Bakassi, as each hopes to profit from these potential oil reserves. As of 2002, both countries had filed suits with the International Court of Justice of the United Nations, but the dispute is not expected to be resolved quickly.
Most of the coastal zone is a flat area of sedimentary soils that stretch along the Gulf of Guinea for about 257 kilometers (160 miles). In the south, the coastal plain is covered by equatorial rain forests, with swamp-lands along its edges. The beaches near Limbe, at the base of Mount Cameroon, are known for their black volcanic sand.
The largest lake in Cameroon is Lake Chad, which is shared by the neighboring country of Chad. The size of the lake varies from season to season, depending on rainfall, with a total area of 10,360 to 25,900 square kilometers (4,000 to 10,000 square miles). It is divided into north and south basins, reaching depths of only about 7.6 meters (25 feet). The lake has no outlets. Its chief tributary is the Chari River, which extends into Chad. Lake Chad is the largest inland body of water on the Sahel.
Freshwater Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun, in the northwestern highlands, formed in volcanic craters. Both lakes contain toxic levels of carbon dioxide gas. In 1986, a buildup of this gas erupted from Lake Nyos, spewing 80 meters (260 feet) into the air. It created a heavy poisonous cloud that eventually swept over an area of about 25 kilometers (16 miles), suffocating seventeen hundred villagers living in the valley below. In 1984, a similar eruption from Lake Monoun killed thirty-seven people. In 2001, scientists began a project to construct a pipeline ventilation system in the lakes. Through this system, the contaminated waters from the bottom of the lakes are pumped slowly and regularly to the surface in a gas-water fountain. This allows for the carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere at a slower, more controlled rate.
Other crater lakes include Barombi Mbo, Bermin, Dissoni (Soden), Benakouma, Kotto, and Mboandong.
The longest river in Cameroon is the Sanaga at 515 kilometers (325 miles). It is formed by headstreams from the center of the country and flows southwest to the Gulf of Guinea. Three other major rivers are the Djérem, Bénuoé, and Nyong.
The northern plains between Maroua and Lake Chad are part of the region known as the Sahel. Sahel is an Arabic word meaning "shore." It refers to the 5,000-kilometer (3,125-mile) stretch of savannah that is the shore or edge of the Sahara Desert. The Sahel spreads from Mauritania and Senegal in the west to Somalia in the east.
Vast stretches of grassland are typical within the highlands near the city of Bamenda, while thorn trees and scrub cover the semi-arid northern plains. A few wooded savannah areas dot the east-central part of the country. Only 4 percent of the land in Cameroon is considered permanent pasture, and only 13 percent of the land is arable.
The Mandara Mountains of northern Cameroon extend northward from the town of Garoua and along the Nigerian border. They have a fairly low elevation, with most peaks under about 1,400 meters (4,593 feet)—much lower than the mountains of the northwestern highlands. The Mandara range is known for the ethnic diversity of its residents; more than fifty ethnic groups live there. Most of the mountain dwellers survive as farmers or cattle breeders.
The highest mountain range in the country is the Cameroon Mountains, located in the northwest bulge of the country along the border with Nigeria. Elevations in this range are generally between 1,676 meters (5,500 feet) and 2,438 meters (8,000 feet).
These mountains were formed through the volcanic activity of the Cameroon Rift, but currently the only active volcano is Mount Cameroon, with its most recent eruption in May 2000.
Cameroon's exotic native wildlife is attractive to tourists. The government has created game reserves where animals can be observed first-hand, such as elephants, lions, giant eland (a large antelope), bongos (white-striped antelope), chimpanzees, crocodiles, and dozens of species of birds. Game reserves are located in the far north and in the southeast, which is home to a small population of lowland gorillas.
The volcano is called Mount Faka in Cameroon. With an altitude of 4,095 meters (13,435 feet), it is the highest peak in West and Central Africa.
There are no significant caves or canyons in Cameroon.
The Adamawa (Adamaoua) Plateau extends from the eastern to the western border of Cameroon and Nigeria at average elevations of about 1,371 meters (4,500 feet). Surface features in the central parts of this high plateau include small hills or mounds capped by granite or gneiss (a type of rock).
Along the western and eastern borders, old eruptions from fissures and volcanoes have covered the granite surface with lava rock. The Adamawa Plateau forms a barrier between the agricultural south and the pastoral north.
Cameroon relies on a system of river dams for hydropower and water reserves. The Edéa Dam on the Sanaga River provides the bulk of the country's electricity. A dam on the Bénoué River, built in 1986, formed Lake Lagdo, a large reservoir near Garoua. Other large reservoirs exist near Tibati and Bafoussam.
Africa South of the Sahara 2002: Cameroon . London: Europa Publications Ltd., 2002.
DeLancy, Mark W., and Mark Dike DeLancey. Historical Dictionary of Cameroon . African Historical Dictionaries, No. 81. Lanham, MD and London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2000.
Europa World Yearbook 2000: Cameroon . London: Europa Publications, Ltd., 2000.