Discovering the invisible Story of Manoka Island

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Manoka Island and its Abandoned Prison

Manoka is a small island located off the coast of Cameroon, forty-five minutes by speedboat from Douala.

The first name of Manoka was not the one we know today. Its denomination was, in fact, Malende. the name Manoka comes from “Monika”, a German nun living on the island at the beginning of the german colonization.

People named the island Monika, which finally became Manoka, to honor this religious woman at her death.

With 88km2, the island is the biggest island in Cameroon. It is also famous for hosting an abandoned prison dating from the German colonization at the beginning of the XXth century.

One of the most tragic stories associated with Manoka Island is that of Duala Manga Bell.

He was a prominent Cameroonian leader who fought against the German colonial government in the early 1900s. He was eventually captured and imprisoned on Manoka Island before being hanged for high treason on the 8 of August 1914 by the German colonial government in Douala. A few weeks after, the Allies entered in Douala.

There are not many things to do in Manoka except visit this abandoned jail (that all fans of urbex will love) and have a walk on the sandy beaches. There are several small villages all along the shore with no big interest to be visited.

The Manoka Island abandoned jail

The journey to the Island

We usually travel alone with my family, but this time, we made an exception and went with the group leaving with Camertour, a local guide organizing interesting excursions in all the Cameroon.

We were around thirty people from all horizons and ages to arrive early this Sunday morning in Youpwe. After waiting for our boat to come, we finally boarded our ship, direction: Manoka Island.

The travel was tranquil. After cruising peacefully between the trees of the mangrove, on channels maintained by the people living all along the coast, we finally reached the estuary of the Wouri, from where we saw the island in front of us.

In my mind, and I got the same feeling when cruising on the Amazon river near Iquitos in Peru; I could not stop thinking about the scene of the famous movie from F.F. Coppola: Apocalypse Now when Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen) and his crew travel upriver from south Vietnam into Cambodia.

Our vessel was slow due to the number of passengers, and we reached the island in an hour and a half. Lighter boats with better engines usually travel for roughly forty-five minutes. However, I really was okay with taking my time cruising. I am generally really speedy. I rest only when I sleep, so this peaceful moment was something new that I really enjoyed.

On the island

Manoka Island is a truly unique and captivating destination that will leave a lasting impression on anyone who can explore it. One of the highlights of our trip was the walk we took on the island toward the abandoned and decaying prison.

Along the way, we were treated to a glimpse of history as we saw rusty cannons dating back over a century. These cannons were once used to protect the jail, and it was fascinating to see them up close and imagine what life must have been like in the past.

As we approached the abandoned prison, we were struck by the eerie atmosphere that surrounded it. The crumbling walls and overgrown vegetation confirmed that the building had been left to decay for over a century. We were all eager to take pictures of the abandoned building and capture the haunting beauty of this unique location.

After our exploration of the prison, we were treated to a good lunch organized by Camertour. We all sat together, sharing stories and enjoying the scenery surrounding us. It was a wonderful opportunity to relax and refuel before continuing our journey.

After an hour of rest, we began our walk back toward our boat, which was waiting for us. As we made our way back, we were once again struck by the atmosphere of Manoka Island. The incredible views and atmosphere made for a truly unforgettable experience. Overall, Manoka Island and its abandoned prison was an adventure that we will never forget.

Reflection on the journey to Manoka Island

Visiting Manoka Island was a powerful and emotional experience. The island’s natural and peaceful atmosphere starkly contrasted with the tragic prison history that once existed there.

Duala Manga Bell’s story reminds us of African leaders’ struggles in their fight for independence. It is a testament to their courage and determination, and it is important that we continue to remember their sacrifices.

Preserving the history of Manoka Island is a crucial step in ensuring that the stories of those who suffered there are not forgotten. It is a reminder of the darker aspects of our history and a call to action to continue fighting for justice and equality for all.