When, Where, Why:
For three weeks I counted monkeys in an island rainforest. Yes really.
I joined a biology field expedition in January 2013, part of the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program (BBPP) – a partnership between Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA) and Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial (Malabo, EG). To learn about a particularly badass Bioko monkey, check out The Drill Project.
A census of endangered monkeys has occurred annually since the 1990s under the banner of BBPP. Led by prominent primatologists and accompanied by esteemed researchers, this island offers a pristine* environment in which to study and discover.
In under 50 words:
Equatorial Guinea (EG) is a fascinating place with a complex history. It is the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa, has a capital city on an island (Bioko, coincidentally), relies on oil revenue to support its economy, and is commonly confused with the many other Guineas of the world.
My time in EG was rather unorthodox, but I did get to see the capital city from both a local perspective and from that of the oil workers. To island visitors, I recommend the cultural centers – French, Spanish, and Equatoguinean – which I have yet to see elsewhere in Africa. The central market (mercado central) is lively, and the presidential palace and adjoining library are impressive. Be warned that EG takes its siesta hours seriously and travelers are probably out of luck to find any shops open during that time – go eat and take a nap like you’re supposed to.
Food & Drink:
Once the cacao capital of the world, the market has gone by the wayside, overtaken by the more lucrative oil business. Instead of tasty homegrown high-quality chocolate, therefore, the study abroad students and I make no-bake chocolate chip cookies with a low-grade Spanish import.
Drink up bottles of San Miguel or Kronenbourg and eat stews with unidentified meats to pass for local. The fish right off the coast are plentiful and great roasted with garlic. For veg-heads like myself, the root of those giant elephant ear plants can be boiled and mashed like potatoes and in-season coconuts, mangoes, papayas and other tropical wonders. And if anything is sold in Spain, odds are Malabo has something similar.
*Biologists/ecologists/environmentalists/etc. will condemn my use of this word for its inaccuracy by definition. My apologies.