Official name : Republic of Côte d'Ivoire (formerly known as Ivory Coast)
Area: 322,460 square kilometers (124,502 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mount Nimba (1,752 meters/5,748 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Southern and Eastern
Time zone: Noon = noon GMT
Longest distances: 808 kilometers (502 miles) from southeast to northwest, 780 kilometers (485 miles) from northeast to southwest
Land boundaries: 3,110 kilometers (1,932 miles) total boundary length; Burkina Faso 584 kilometers (363 miles); Ghana 668 kilometers (415 miles); Guinea 610 kilometers (379 miles); Liberia 716 kilometers (445 miles); and Mali 532 kilometers (330 miles)
Coastline: 515 kilometers (322 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
Côte d'Ivoire is located in West Africa between Ghana and Liberia, with a southern border on the Gulf of Guinea of the Atlantic Ocean. With a total area of about 322,460 square kilometers (124,502 square miles), it is slightly larger than the state of New Mexico. The country is divided into fifty departments.
Côte d'Ivoire has no outside territories or dependencies.
Côte d'Ivoire has a warm, humid climate that transitions from equatorial to tropical. Temperatures average between 25°C (75°F) and 32°C (90°F), with extremes of 10°C (50°F) to 40°C (104°F) depending on the time of year and the area of the country.
In the north, heavy rains occur between June and October, averaging 110 centimeters (43 inches) annually. Along the equatorial coast and the southwest, some rain falls in most months, but precipitation is heaviest between May and September, with average rainfall of 110 to 200 centimeters (43 to 87 inches) annually. The major dry season lasts from December to April.
The Guinea Highlands, in the northern half of the country (from Man to Odienné), have peaks greater than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) high. The country's remaining terrain, however, is made up of a vast plateau that tilts gently toward the Atlantic Ocean. The land is generally divided into three main regions based on the difference in natural vegetation. The Lagoon Region runs parallel to the coastline, the Dense Forest Region crosses the middle of the country, and the Savannah Woodland Region lies to the north.
Côte d'Ivoire borders the Gulf of Guinea (a part of the Atlantic Ocean) in the southern portion of the country.
A series of lagoons lie along the coastline, interspersed by sandbars, mudbanks, and small wooded islands. Most of these lagoons are narrow, salty, and shallow; they run parallel to the coastline, linked to one another by small watercourses or canals.
The area along the coast, from the Ghana border to the mouth of the Sassandra River, is known as the Lagoon Region. Directly at the coast, smooth, steep beaches are pounded by heavy surf, particularly in July and November. Behind the beaches, the sandy soil supports a luxuriant growth of coconut palm and salt-resistant coastal shrubs.
The four largest lakes are Kossou Lake in the central part of the nation, Taabo Lake to the south of Kossou Lake, Buyo Lake in the southwest, and Ayamé Lake in the southeast near the border with Ghana.
Lake Kossou is the largest of these, covering an area of about 1,600 square kilometers (618 square miles). All four of them are man-made lakes.
Côte d'Ivoire has four main rivers that run roughly parallel from the north to the south. They are the Cavally (on the border with Liberia), Sassandra, Bandama, and Komoé; the longest of these is the Bandama, which runs about 800 kilometers (500 miles). The waterways are navigable for only short distances from the coast. Rocky ledges and numerous rapids prevent passage even of small canoes. Seasonal flooding has caused obstacles in east-to-west travel across the country; building and maintaining bridges and roads over the main rivers would be very expensive.
There are no desert regions in Côte d'Ivoire.
The Savannah Woodland Region in the north consists of open, grassy woodland scattered with a few trees and shrubs. Moving south, larger areas of trees are found, particularly along the rivers, as one enters the area known as the Dense Forest Region. This region stretches across the center of the country from Liberia to Ghana and, west of Fresco, continues south to the ocean.
The only mountain masses in the country are along the western border and in the northwest, where some of the higher peaks exceed 914 meters (3,000 feet) in elevation. Mount Nimba is the country's highest peak (1,752 meters/5,748 feet). It is located in the western corner, where the country borders both Liberia and Guinea.
There are no significant caves or canyons in Côte d'Ivoire.
Viewed as a whole, almost all of the country is little more than a wide plateau, sloping gradually southward to the sea.
Large dams were built in the 1960s and 1970s in an effort to control the flow of the major rivers and offer a better system of irrigation for the surrounding areas. The major dams are: Buyo Dam on the Sassandra River, Kossou and Taabo Dams on the Bandama, and Ayamé Dam on the small Bia River in the southeast corner of the country. All of these dams have created namesake reservoirs or lakes.
Two parks in Côte d'Ivoire—Comoé National Park and Taï National Park—have been designated World Heritage Sites by the United Nations agency called UNESCO. Comoé (Komoé) is located in the far eastern part of the country surrounding the Komoé River. This parkland, covering one of the largest protected areas in West Africa, support a diverse population of plant life. Taï.
Fuchs, Regina. Ivory Coast . Bradt, NJ: Hunter Publications, 1991.
Kummer, Patricia K. Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). New York: Children's Press, 1996.
Mundt, Robert J. Historical Dictionary of Côte d'Ivoire (the Ivory Coast). Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1995.