From the moment you get out of your car and see that first waterfall tumbling down the cliff until you’re swimming beneath another waterfall deep within the jungle, you know you’re somewhere special. A two-hour drive to the south of Bioko Island, Ureka is a hidden world.
Seeing that first waterfall you might wonder if you should bother to go any further. You could spend the day right there, like the locals do, on the beach, barbecuing and paddling in the waves. Or, you could take a walk. You’ll need to start early. Bring plenty of water and sun protection. It’s hot. The beach is completely exposed. But if you walk for about an hour along the deserted, black sand beach, you’ll find waterfall number two. Hidden in the jungle, it spills into a pool perfect for swimming and fishing. You might wonder again if you should go on. You could just spend your day here, wallowing in the cool water. Keep going. Deeper into the jungle. There is a path, but things grow fast here and it can be difficult to find.
Thirty minutes of thrashing through the trees, scrambling up and over fallen logs, until you arrive at the sand of a tiny private beach. You’ll need to cross a river here. The tide can be high. The current strong. The water may reach up to your neck so you’ll need to carry your backpack over your head. Wear water shoes if you can—the stones on the riverbed are brutal. Continue upstream along the low rocky river you’ve just crossed. Suddenly, you’ve made it. Waterfall number three. A gushing, wide mouth, cascading into the river that you’ve just crossed. Taking a dip is recommended. Or hang out on the grass nearby, listen and watch. There is nobody else around. You might think this is it. You’ve already walked so far. What could possibly be more rewarding, more special than this?
Don’t give up now. Back down the river. Along the sand and around the corner. During the dry season, you might encounter a group of students from Drexel University. They camp out in the jungle for months at a time, studying the giant turtles that nest on the beach. They’ll appreciate it if you bring them some treats. Living this remotely, they don’t get much opportunity to restock their supplies.
Finally, hidden just beyond their camp, there it is: waterfall number four. Tumbling down from the cliff into a large beautiful pool. Like something out of a fantasy novel. Something truly from another world. And at the end of the day, damp and tired, you’ll make your way back through the jungle. Walking along the majestic black sand beach, as the afternoon waves crash onto the shore, you’ll marvel at how fortunate you are to be one of the few people in the world to experience such a magical place.
Know Before You Go
You will need to acquire a permit from the authorities in order to access Ureka. You may be asked to show your permit at the village nearby. It is recommended to use a local tourism operator to apply for the permit on your behalf. You will need to supply your passport details for the permit to be granted and pay a fee.
If driving yourself, make sure you have a decent 4WD vehicle and the driver is competent and comfortable with steep roads. Although the road is asphalt all the way, the roads are very steep–many, many brake pads have been totally burnt out by this road, and there is no cell reception, so you want to avoid a situation where you might need to call for help!
Bring a backpack with a hat, sunscreen, bug spray, food, and plenty of water. It’s a full day out and there’s nowhere to buy additional food.
Check the tide times beforehand so you can plan your trip. The tides can get quite high, the currents are strong and you will likely need to cross rivers in chest-deep water.