Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions

Lions, monkeys, and birds, oh my! A unique zoo experience in Cameroon

By: | February 9th, 2016 | 6 Comments

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If you’ve read our About Us, you know that Bertaut is from Cameroon. So naturally, we’ve been there several times since getting married to introduce me and our two children to his family and for our children to get in touch with their African roots. On one of our visits we had the the interesting and one-of-a-kind experience of visiting the zoo in the nation’s capital, Yaounde. As an American who has only visited American zoos, I had no idea what to expect. Let me tell you, this was not your ordinary zoo visit!

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions

For starters, we negotiated the entry price, as generally the price of EVERYTHING is negotiable in Cameroon. We were traveling with a group of friends, 10 of us in total, so we had more bargaining power. They were excited to see so many tourists (and so many White people, to be honest), since the this zoo apparently doesn’t see much traffic compared to zoos in the U.S. Bertaut slipped the guy at the admission gate some cash (the equivalent of about $5) and suddenly we got a reduced admission price for everyone in our group. I can’t remember exactly how much we paid in total, but it was very cheap. Bribery is a way of life in Cameroon, so if this bothers you, don’t go there. It is a necessity to stay out of trouble and avoid being hassled.

So once inside, we made our way to the monkeys, who were playing and swinging from a large wooden playground structure. They seemed to be interested in us too, as they came closer to get a look. If you can tell from the photo, their enclosure is not quite as secure as zoos in the U.S., meaning that there are opportunities for the monkeys to escape.

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions

You get up and close with the monkeys at the zoo in Yaounde, Cameroon

Look closely to see the baby monkey holding on to his mama’s back legs. These adorable mangabey monkeys put on a show for us with impressive acrobatics.

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions

This cutie seemed like he was posing for us and wanted us to take his photo.

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey LionsNot to my surprise, several monkeys did escape, and were walking around the zoo with us. This little curious George found some food on the ground and helped himself to an afternoon snack. As you also may have noticed, there’s a wheelbarrow just sitting around in the middle of the walkway with no one around. Maybe someone just decided it was break time and left it there, who knows. Remember, Cameroon is a developing country, so you have to adjust to the different standard of organization, which is a lot more lax than anything you’d see in the U.S. I have to say, I was glad it was harmless monkeys that escaped and not something more dangerous.

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions

One of the many escape artist monkeys at the zoo in Cameroon

This handsome guy, a mandrill, looks more dangerous. Mandrills live in the rainforests of Africa and are native to Cameroon. They are the world’s largest species of monkey and males can weigh up to 120 pounds. This colorful guy was named Johhny. I wouldn’t want him to sink those canine teeth into my flesh. I learned that baring their teeth is typically a friendly gesture among mandrills, so I guess he wanted to be friends with us. Mandrills are known to be reclusive and shy, so it’s surprising that he came over and sat right next to us to check us out. Our daughter was 6 months old at the time and was fascinated by his vivid colors, unique facial expressions, and interesting vocalizations. As you can see below, Johnny’s hand is sticking out between the wires. There is no other barrier to prevent people from getting too close, so use common sense and keep at a reasonable distance, unless you want to give this guy a high-five at your own risk.

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions

Johnny The Mandrill at the zoo in Cameroon

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions

My daughter was mesmerized by the Johnny the Mandrill

Next we made our way to the lions, which are always a huge hit with kids and adults alike. The male lions were hiding back in an area where we couldn’t get a good photo, but the ladies were out and about, posing for some gorgeous photos. These creatures are so regal, I had a lot of fun capturing their beauty on camera at such a close distance. You would never be able to get this close to a live lion at any American zoo.

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions

Those stunning eyes are hypnotizing and so intense! I wonder what she was thinking when she was staring at us from a few feet away. She probably was thinking we looked like a tasty snack.

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions Gazelle Caiman

See the bars in front of the lions below? That was the only barrier between us and them, which was exciting but also a little scary. So hold your kids close, because a small hand could easily fit between those bars. I was in disbelief at the lack of safety considerations at this zoo, especially knowing that children visit and could fit their small hands into a number of dangerous animal enclosures. This is Africa, where they expect people to have enough sense to stay away from dangerous animals. That’s the laissez-faire attitude of many tropical countries that I’ve started to grow accustomed to during my travels. I was glad my daughter was not mobile yet and was happy to ride around on her dad’s shoulders. We will have to keep a leash (literally) on our rambunctious toddler when we take him there, because I can see him trying to feed the lions and losing a limb. To my pleasant surprise, our unofficial tour guide shared that there have not been any serious incidents at this zoo.

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions

I had to take a photo of this snake enclosure because it makes my point about safety at this zoo. The sign, posted on a glass door that is crying out for windex, warns people not to open the door to this dangerous snake. The door doesn’t even have a lock, so anyone visiting the zoo could open the door, and the snake inside would have free reign. That’s a scary thought to me. I’m not even sure what kind of snake was inside, but hopefully it wasn’t a poisonous one. Once again, use your common sense.

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions

Exercise common sense at the zoo in Cameroon

We made a quick dash out of the snake hut and headed to the gazelles. These beautiful creatures are so elegant, but I felt sorry for them because they didn’t have much space to do what they do best-run. They were in an enclosure next to the lions, but the zoo put up a visual barrier so they wouldn’t feel stressed out all the time. I’m not an animal expert, but it seems like being able to hear the lions right next door, even if they couldn’t see them, would still be stressful. Even with metal bars between us, the lion’s mighty roar was enough to send shivers down my spine and stop my breath for a moment. It’s a truly awesome experience hearing the king of the jungle in his motherland.

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions Gazelle

The last exhibit was the reptile pond. These creatures, caimans I believe, were chilling in and around the water. I love this shot of them peaking out from the algae. How many can you count in this photo? I’ll give you a hint, there are 3 total.

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions Gazelle Caiman

Cameroon Zoo Yaounde Mvog Betsi World Travel Adventurers

Not sure what this broken down car was doing in the middle of the zoo, which brings me back to my safety concerns. Keep a tight leash on your kids because there are many opportunities for them to get hurt here, such as with the broken window here. Again, this is not your typical zoo experience. This is Africa.

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions Gazelle Caiman

While heading out of the zoo, we saw these cute baby chicks wandering around with their mother looking for food. They were not inside any enclosure so it would be fun for kids to chase them around and be able to touch them.

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions Gazelle Caiman

And finally, we saw this beautiful peacock also wandering around the zoo, free to roam wherever he pleased.

Mvog-Betsi Zoo Yaounde Cameroon Tourism Family Friendly Activity Mandrills Mangabey Lions Gazelle Caiman Peacock Family Vacation

There were several other exhibits at the zoo that I did not mention here since I focused on the highlights. We spent close to 3 hours exploring the zoo, getting some great photos, and making unforgettable memories for our daughter and our friends who were on their first trip to Africa. So if you are looking for an out-of-the-ordinary zoo experience, visit the Parc Zoo-Botanique de Mvog-Betsi. You will get closer to lions, monkeys, and birds than you could at any American zoo. Just remember to use common sense and keep your kids reigned in so no blood is shed. We had a lot of fun and everyone enjoyed the unique experience. We definitely plan to go back on our next visit, but with our son on a leash since he will want to get closer than mommy can tolerate. Don’t judge, he’s that kind of kid. Another amazing experience we had in Cameroon was visiting Mefou National Park, which is a gorilla refuge. Check back later for an article about that incredible experience. Have you ever had any crazy zoo experiences in other countries? Where is your favorite zoo? If you liked this post, please sign up for our RSS feed to be updated for each new blog post and our email newsletter to get tips to travel like a millionaire.

About Bertaut & Alexis

Lions, monkeys, and birds, oh my! A unique zoo experience in Cameroon
Travel addicts and proud parents of two young kids who make exploring the world a priority while working full time. Bertaut & Alexis enjoy traveling like millionaires without spending a fortune and share their tips on how to get luxury for less.

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  • Pat

    Great photos!

    • BAT

      Thanks Pat! 🙂

  • The nature is definitely one appeal of this continent I’ve yet to travel to! George looks like a cheeky monkey 😉

    Your camera is so damn good, quality!

    • BAT

      Agreed! Africa is the beautiful unknown continent! The people and natural beauty make it so special. You’ll surely love it.

  • OMG this is crazy!! but I love it. I knew monkeys would be wandering with you, that’s too funny. And the snake only held in by a door. Talk about a unique experience!!

    • BAT

      Haha it was quite an experience! Common sense is key in that part of the world!

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