Archive | October, 2013

Tole Tea Factory, Limbe Wildlife Centre and Botanical Gardens: Host Country Day 1 Friday, October 18, 2013

28 Oct

Hello. My name is Gabrielle. I am a former intern at the Africa Travel Association. I was lucky enough to be asked to accompany ATA and their delegates as a volunteer for their 38th Annual World Congress in Buea, Cameroon this year. I am honored to be asked to write a blog on the event’s first Host Country Day, a day I would hold in fond memory as part of my first trip to Africa.

After some enlightening and successful presentations from our tourism ministers and professionals on investing business in Africa, it was time for the delegates to explore our Buea Mountain Hotel’s neighboring region of Limbe.

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Once everyone found a seat on the crowded and enthusiastic bus, we wound our way through mountain forests down to the coastal region of Limbe. Our tour guide told us the history, culture, and flora and fauna of the region as we looked out on acre upon acre of eucalyptus trees and other greens.

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 We cleared the forests and before you knew it, we were surrounded by more acres of green, this time of fresh tea leaves. If you looked closely, in the distance you could see men and women working in the tea fields, picking fresh tea leaves for production.

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 Our tour guide told us about the tea making process and how the younger tea leaves are the best for making tea. He took us into the factory where we met local workers who gladly and proudly showed us how they process the tea. We saw the picking, drying, grinding, pressing, sorting and packaging of tea while the intoxicating aroma filled our senses inside the dark and bustling factory.

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 At the end of our tour, we were warmly greeted with the finished product: a hot cup of tea with animal crackers to enjoy. It was some of the freshest and most delicious tea I have ever tasted, which was made more enjoyable by the smiles and warm hospitality of the local factory workers.

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 After our cups of tea, we ventured further into the town of Limbe where we finally came upon the Wildlife Centre. This was, personally, a very exciting and much anticipated portion of the Host Country Day for me, being a wildlife conservationist, animal behavior, and former zoo docent.

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 As we approached the wildlife centre, it was quiet and calm. Entering the wildlife centre, we saw locals selling arts and crafts as well as souvenirs from the wildlife centre with many smiles and warm welcomes. We walked past the gorilla enclosure and could see the outline of the inhabitants from within their pens. We arrived at dusk after the animals had been out all day. The animals were tired and hungry and ready to settle in for the night. We may not have had much luck in viewing gorillas, but the chimpanzees made up for lost amusement. Being chimps, they were loud, playful and excited to see us: their bald-ape cousins. They swung and played and even felt inclined to interact with some visitors. All the delegates, laughed, screamed and yelled in unison with the chimps. We were all happy to see each other and enjoyed each other’s company immensely. Moving through the centre, we saw crocodiles, snakes, and other primates. Some primates and exotic birds even had the run of the place, leaping over rails and coming up close to say hello and have their picture taken with some of the delegates.

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It was a warm and unforgettable visit for the delegates, local employees, tour guides and the animal hosts at the Limbe Wildlife Centre. It was a place where animals were rescued from harsh lives, unfortunate circumstances, and where they could experience humans who would not do them harm, but carry their friendship and experiences with these amazing animals home with them to share.

We had one last stop on our Host Country Day as the sun started to dip low behind the trees in a pink and yellow glow of twilight. The Limbe Botanical Gardens. A wide and enchanting space dedicated to wild, exotic and medicinal plants, herbs, fruits and other flora of the region. 

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 We came across an area that was heavily littered with small yellow fruit and the surrounding air held the strong aroma of chocolate. Our delegate, Chef Pierre Thiam, took the opportunity to inquire more about this fruit with the tour guide and tasted the mysterious fruit. He claimed that it had a sour yet delicious taste, even though it smelled heavily of chocolate. This was the first of many strange and wondrous plants that the Botanical Gardens hold. Being there at dusk with only our delegates as patrons, made this place seem even more magical, like a special secret that only we experienced, but hoped many more would experience after us.

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Once our tour ended, and we had paid homage to the cemetery in memory of the Nigerian Regiment 1914-1942, we were greeted by local dancers and lively cultural displays, as well as complimentary bananas and other fruits from the Gardens and surrounding neighborhoods. Delegates, including our Executive Director, joined in the celebrations and danced until the sun went down and we made our way to the Fini Hotel by the beach in Limbe for our delegate dinner with our ministers and other professionals from around the globe.

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At the hotel, we dined, drank, danced and sang with more cultural dancers while reminiscing on the wonderful natural, cultural and economic assets that Limbe and all of Cameroon has to offer for tourists and locals in this magical and enchanting region in West Africa. 

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