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Native name: Otcho

Map of Bioko
Bioko is located in Equatorial Guinea
Bioko (Equatorial Guinea)
Location Gulf of Guinea
Coordinates 3°30′N 8°42′E
Area 2,017 km2 (778.8 sq mi)
Length 70 km (43 mi)
Width 32 km (19.9 mi)
Highest elevation 3,012 m (9,882 ft)
Highest point Pico Basile
Equatorial Guinea
Population 260,000
Density 64.45 /km2 (166.92 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups Bubi (58%), Fang (16%), Fernandino (12%), Igbo (7%) (2002)
View of Bioko from satellite

Bioko (spelled also Bioco, in Europe traditionally called Fernando Pó) is an island 32 km off the west coast of Africa, specifically Cameroon, in the Gulf of Guinea. It is the northernmost part of Equatorial Guinea with a population of 260,000 and an area of 2,017 km2 (779 sq mi). It is volcanic with its highest peak the Pico Basile at 3,012 m (9,882 ft).


Bioko has a total area of 2,017 km2 (779 sq mi). It is 70 km long from NNE to SSW and about 32 km across. It is volcanic and very mountainous with the highest peak Pico Basile (3,012 m (9,882 ft)). It thus resembles neighbouring islands São Tomé and Príncipe. Like them it lies on the Cameroon Line.

Bioko used to be the end of a peninsula attached to the mainland in what is now Cameroon, but it was cut off when sea levels rose 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.


The island has a population of 260,000 inhabitants (2001), most of whom belong to the Bubi people. The rest of the population are Fernandinos, Spaniards and immigrants from Río Muni, Nigeria and Cameroon.


Bioko's native name is Otcho from the Bube language.

The Portuguese navigator Fernão do Pó in 1472 named it Formosa Flora ('Beautiful Flower'), but in 1494 it was renamed after its discoverer Fernão do Pó.


The island was inhabited in the middle of the first millennium BC by Bantu tribes from the mainland who formed the Bubi ethnic group. Unlike other islands in the area, Bioko had an indigenous African population. Still a distinct ethnic group on the island today, these indigenous people, the Bubi, speak a Bantu language. The island was probably inhabited by this or other Bantu-speaking groups since before the 7th century BC.

In 1472, the Portuguese navigator Fernão do Pó was the first European to visit the island. He named it Formosa Flora ('Beautiful Flower'), but in 1494 it was renamed after it was claimed by the Portuguese (Fernando Pó). The Portuguese developed the island for sugarcane crops, and while considered poor quality, the refineries' output was such that Fernando Po sugar briefly dominated the trade centres in Europe.

In 1642, the Dutch East India Company established trade bases on the island without Portuguese consent, temporarily centralizing from there its slave trade in the Gulf of Guinea. The Portuguese appeared again on the island in 1648, replacing the Dutch Company with one of their own, also dedicated to slave trading and established in its neighbour island Corisco.

Parallel with this establishment, the Bubi clans began the slow process of establishing the core of a new kingdom on the island, especially after the activity of some local chiefs such as Molambo (approx. 1700–1760). During a period when enslavement was increasing in the region, local clans abandoned their coastal settlements and settled in the safer hinterland.

Bioko in the distance from Limbe, Cameroon

Under the Treaty of El Pardo in 1778, Portugal ceded to Spain Fernando Po, Annobón and the Guinea coast, Rio Muni, together forming modern Equatorial Guinea. The treaty was signed by Queen Mary I of Portugal and King Charles III of Spain, in exchange for territory on the American continent. Spain then mounted an expedition to Fernando Po, led by the Conde de Argelejos, who stayed for four months. In October 1778, Spain installed a governor on the island who stayed until 1780, when the Spanish mission left the island.

Chief Molambo was succeeded by another local leader, Lorite (1760–1810), who was succeeded by Lopoa (1810–1842). After abolishing their slave trade, from 1827 to 1843 the British leased bases at Port Clarence (modern Malabo) and San Carlos for their anti-slavery patrols. The settlement at Port Clarence (named after the Duke of Clarence) was constructed under the supervision of William Fitzwilliam Owen, who had previously mapped most of the coasts of Africa and was a zealous anti-slaver. During his three-year command, his forces detained 20 ships and liberated 2,500 slaves. The Court of Mixed Commission was moved from Freetown to Clarence to hasten the legal process.

In March 1843, Juan José Lerena planted the Spanish flag in Malabo, starting the decline of British influence on the island. The British lease was finally revoked in 1855. Madabita (1842–1860) and Sepoko (1860–1875) were principal local chiefs during the reestablishment of Spanish rule on the island. This period was also marked by the immigration of several hundred Afro-Cubans as well as tens of Spanish scholars and politicians.

In 1923–30 the League of Nations investigated the transportation of migrant labour between Liberia and the Spanish colony of Fernando Po. Although the League concentrated its attention on Liberia, a closer examination revealed labour abuse as the product of conditions on Fernando Po. In the last quarter of the 19th century, black planters on the island had shifted from palm oil trading to cocoa cultivation. Their dependence on migrant labour and increasing competition with Europeans resulted in an economic crisis in the first years of the twentieth century. Planters detained labour but failed to pay contracts, resulting in a situation akin to slavery.

During the Nigerian civil war in the 20th century, relief agencies used the island as a base for flights into Biafra.


Coastline of Bioko

Malabo is the capital city of Equatorial Guinea and the largest city on the island. The island is mostly covered by tropical rainforest.

Located on Punta Europa, west of Malabo, the Alba Gas Plant processes natural gas delivered from offshore production wells. The plant is operated by Marathon Oil Company through its subsidiary, Marathon Equatorial Guinea Production Limited (MEGPL). The plant produces natural gas liquids (NGL) including propane, butane, and condensate products. The majority of the residue gas from the Alba plant is delivered to a natural gas liquefaction plant operated by EG LNG. A portion of the Alba plant residue is also delivered to the Atlantic Methanol Production Company (AMPCO) and is used to produce methanol. The products from all three plants are loaded onto ocean going tanker ships for export.

A rectangular transport route links the four main cities, Malabo, Luba, Baney and Riaba.

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