Lake Kumba (Lake of the Elephants) or Lake Barombi Mbo are all appellations to undoubtedly one of Cameroons most fascinating, eye-catching and luring tourists’ destinations, found in Meme Division, South West region of the country. The name ‘Lake of the Elephants’ dates far back to the period of German colonisation of the country in 1884. Upon discovery of the lake, it was home to elephants which have now been extinct because of uncontrolled ivory trade.
Lake Barombi Mbo as is fondly called is an active strato-volcano- tectonic host (a crater lake) which is part of the ‘Cameroonian line’ (Ligne du Cameroon). This line runs N30°E from the Gulf of Guinea to Lake Chad and even as far as the Tibesti region which is part of a mobile hinge zone between West and Central Africa passing through the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Chad on close to 1200 kilometers, across the Gulf of Guinea and the Republic of Cameroon.
Egg-shaped, this water mass comparing to no other lake in the country covers a diameter of over 2500m (a 50 km by 35 base measures) that is, some 453 hectares and has an average depth of 111m. Many attempts at getting to the bottom of this lake have proven futile; reason why the actual depth has never being known. To the base of the lake is found the Mt. Roumpi basalt and the trachyte at the summit.
The over 200 friendly Barombi Mbo natives use the Lake for varied cultural activities; the canoe race for example. There exist strong beliefs in the existence of a “Mammy water” goddess in the lake that gives protection and directs activities around the area. Some natives claim the calm of the lake is good for the water goddess. Reason why according to some non- Barombi natives, Barombi indigents have voted negative to the use of speed boats in the water. Some years back, the Kumba City Council had started plans to see how feasible it is that these speed boats and water Suzuki’s are used for to facilitate transportation across the river and for leaisure though with a crashed-end.
Besides its cultural significance, the lake provides food for the predominantly fishing community. Lake Barombi is home to over 18 endemic species of plant and animal life found nowhere in the world. According to previous research on its rare aquatic life, four endemic fish species still survive in the lake: the Konia, with 2 of its kind (Myaka and Pungu) and the Stomatepia, red listed as critically endangered.
The Myaka Myaka, locally referred to as ‘Barombi fish’ is said to contain oil rich in nutrients and medicinal flowing especially from its head. The Cichlids (locally named Konia dikume) has high haemoglobin concentrations making it good for people suffering from haemorrhage. The rich volcanic soil that covers the cultivable landscape favours the growth of plantains, cassava, etc, that present a mouth watering delicacy with fish.
For ages past, decades lived and centuries to come, the Lake will continue to serve fresh, clean drinking water to the people of Kumba and some neighbouring villages.
The great tourist potentials of Lake Barombi Mbo not only loll in the massive water body, large rocks and impressive caves, but more in forgotten German edifices. During German occupation of Cameroon in the 1880’s; they constructed what is now known as the ‘29 steps’ from the elevated rocks, some meters from the Government Residential Area (GRA) residence of the Senior Divisional Officer for Meme. The stairs give quick access to the Lake and the hills serve a superb panoramic view of Kumba.
The high standing rocks adorned with weathered engravings of what is believed to be the World map drawn by the Germans, is another beauty to behold that greets all, before one can steal a view of the tepid waters.