There are two main parts to this small Central African nation and former French colony – its five islands and the mainland. Bordering Gabon and Cameroon, the country is one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest oil-producing states.

There is, however, more to Equatorial Guinea than its reputation for failed coups and corruption. It may have inspired Frederick Forsyth’s coup-based thriller, The Dogs of War, but you certainly don’t have to be a mercenary or crime writer to come here. It has a beautiful black-and-white sand coastline, and is home to monkeys whose faces look as though they have been painted on, soft swarms of colourful butterflies and many other insects.

Malabo, the capital, is all about oil rigs and new construction, but still has a laid-back feel, while beyond, still on steamy Bioko Island, there are rainforests packed with endangered species like gorillas, forest elephants and mandrills, fishing villages, volcanic views and shores where turtles nest.

There are many splendours here that are the legacy of Spanish rule, as well as Lago Lorento and Lago Biao, with their crater lakes and an incredible diversity of wildlife.

Large areas of Rio Muni on the mainland have now been set aside as protected zones.

Travelling in Equatorial Guinea is not without its challenges, but it presents a rare chance to sample some of the region’s unspoilt natural beauty and dramatic colonial past.

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