The dark continent of Africa has long been a wellspring of stories of exploration and encounters with the weird. Here is a land that was long virtually untouched by outsiders, and which holds large swaths of territory that remain that way. It is a place that is easy to imagine being inhabited by mysterious creatures and monsters from beyond our understanding, and here are a few that have perhaps gone under the radar. Here we will look at some of the strangest and most little-known mystery monsters that are said to roam this unforgiving land.
From the deepest swamps of the country of Gambia have long emerged reports of an elusive, gigantic dinosaur-like beast locally referred to as the Ninki Nanka, or “Dragon Devil.” Natives tell of these beasts measuring between 30 and 50 feet long, with a body like a gargantuan lizard, a horned head, long neck, and fearsome gaping maw, and seemingly looking very much like an actual dragon from the myths of old. Superstitious locals have claimed that the Ninki Nanka is incredibly fierce, attacking on sight, and that it has the ability to cause witnesses to fall ill and die, with the creature often perceived as an omen of impending death. It is believed that the only way to fend the monster off is to show it its own reflection in a mirror, and it is widely considered to be very dangerous.
It seems that this must surely be a creature straight out of regional legend, but there are some who believe there might be something lying behind the reports. In 2006, cryptozoologist Richard Freeman, of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, launched an expedition into Gambia to track the Ninki Nanka down, the first such dedicated investigation ever carried out. Although the team did not find what they were looking for on their expedition, they were shown tracks allegedly left by the beast and collected many eyewitness reports from locals. Freeman himself has speculated that it could be some sort of undiscovered giant monitor lizard, but whatever it is has remained elusive.
Interestingly, Freeman has also claimed there is another cryptid lurking in Gambia, which is often referred to as Gambo. The aquatic monster is described as being around 15 feet long, with a long snout, numerous sharp teeth, and flippers. The carcass of one of these beasts was allegedly found on June 12th, 1983, by a 15-year-old local named Owen Burnham. On this day Owen had been making his way up along Bungalow Beach in Gambia, when he stumbled across the dead beast upon the shore. It was allegedly 15ft long and 5ft wide, with smooth skin that was dark brown on top of the creature and white on the bottom, a dolphin-like head with a long beak filled with 80 sharp teeth, four flippers, and a long pointed tail that measured 5ft long, but it lacked any dorsal fin.
Owen took detailed measurements, made sketches, and even drew a map of where the body was. He then went home and searched through information on the wildlife of the area but could find nothing quite like what he had seen. The following day, he allegedly went back to the location to try and get a sample of the carcass, but it had since been chopped up and discarded by ignorant locals who didn’t want it rotting there on the beach. Ideas as to what it might have been include that it was some sort of new species of dolphin, a deformed specimen of a known one, or even that is was a prehistoric beast such as a mosasaur. There is also the likelihood that it is all a tall tale, but without any remains left we are forced to merely speculate as to what Owen found at that beach, if anything.
If these are some sort of living dinosaurs in Africa they certainly would not be alone, and there are other more obscure such creatures that supposedly call these murky wildernesses home. In the Likouala Region of the Republic of Congo we have yet another apparent living dinosaur living in the same region as more well-known African mystery monsters such as the Mokele Mbembe and the Emela-ntouka. Here also dwells the one called the Mbielu-Mbielu-Mbielu, or literally “animal with planks growing out of its back.” As its name suggests its main feature is an array of protruding armored ridges running along its back, and is said to be almost completely aquatic in nature, rarely seen out of the water, and villagers of the region in which it is seen say that its back is typically covered with a sheen of green algae. If it is real, it sounds very similar to a stegosaurus.
This is rather similar to yet another Congo dwelling dino called the Nguma-monene, which allegedly takes the form of a massive lizard, or in some accounts a snake, with intimidating ridges down its back. The Nguma-monene is reported from along a tributary of the Ubangi River called Dongu-Mataba, and one of the most famous sightings by an outsider was made by a pastor Joseph Ellis in 1971, who saw it swimming alongside him as he rode a dugout canoe, and who described it as absolutely gigantic, with a portion of the tail alone measuring the same size as the vessel he was in, with clearly visible diamond shaped protrusions all along the top. The truly massive creature apparently created a rush of ripples and waves that were enough to threaten to overturn the canoe as it glided past. This creature is also apparently very aggressive, and supposedly hates hippos, killing them on sight.
Cameroon, is also thought to have a monster of supposedly truly epic proportions known locally as the M’kuoo M’bemboo. This creature is said to be truly gargantuan, with its head alone described as being the size of a full grown hippo. The M’kuoo M’bemboo is described as being a jet black in color, and has a flattened head that is reminiscent of that of a seal. The creature is known for its rumbling, gurgling roar, and it is said to kill hippos but not eat them. Hippos just can’t catch a break here. Cameroon is also purportedly home to what are called the Jago-Nini, and the Amali, which are said to be immense aquatic dinosaurs that glide through the rivers here, oddly not killing hippos. The adventurer and ivory trader Alfred Aloysius Smith wrote of these mysterious creatures thus:
Aye, and behind the Cameroon there’s things living we know nothing about. I could ‘a’ made books about many things. The Jago-Nini they say is still in the swamps and rivers. Giant diver it means. Comes out of the water and devours people. Old men’ll tell you what their grandfathers saw but they still believe its there. Same as the Amali I’ve always taken it to be. I’ve seen the Amali’s footprint. About the size of a good frying pan in circumference and three claws instead of five.
Tales of another truly strange monster come to us from the jungle choked interior of the vast African Congolese jungles. Here along remote waterways is said to lurk a creature called the Dingonek, which is typically described as being a large amphibious beast anywhere between 3 to 6 metres (9-18 feet) in length, with mottled, scaled skin, a blocky cat-like head sporting two long, curved walrus-like tusks, which has led it to be commonly referred to as the “Jungle Walrus,” and a long finned tail that possesses at its tip a formidable bony stinger which purportedly carries deadly poison and is used in the same manner as that of a scorpion. The Dingonek is said by natives of the region to be extremely territorial and aggressive, likely to viciously attack hippos, crocodiles, humans, or anything else foolish enough to enter its domain with little provocation. Although the local tribes living deep within the isolated jungles have known of this creature for centuries, the Dingonek was long mostly totally unknown to the outside world.
The most well-known, and indeed perhaps the only recorded firsthand account of an encounter with the mysterious Dingonek by outsiders occurred in the early 1900s, at a time when explorers were uncovering a wealth of large new animal species in the impenetrable interior jungles of Africa, such as the bongo and okapi. In a 1910 book of travel essays, the explorer and big game hunter Edgar Beecher Bronson wrote of a harrowing confrontation he claimed to have had with the mysterious beast. Bronson relates that he was marching along the shores of Kenya’s River Maggori when he reportedly came across an enormous beast the likes of which he had never seen before. During their trek, some of the native guides who had scouted ahead came rushing back through the thick jungle in a panic and told Bronson that they had seen a beast which they said looked like “a cross between a sea serpent, a leopard, and a whale,” but the explorer had dismissed the story and told them that he’d believe it when he saw it. Apparently he did not have long to wait, as he soon saw it for himself wallowing in the river. Bronson described this initial sight of the creature thusly:
Holy saints, but he was a sight—fourteen or fifteen feet long, head big as that of a lioness but shaped and marked like a leopard, two long white fangs sticking down straight out of his upper jaw, back broad as a hippo, scaled like an armadillo, but colored and marked like a leopard, and a broad fin tail, with slow, lazy swishes of which he was easily holding himself level in the swift current, headed up stream. Gad! but he was a hideous old haunter of a nightmare, was that beast-fish, that made you want an aeroplane to feel safe of him; for while he lay up stream of me, I had been brought down to the river bank precisely where he had taken water, and there all about me in the soft mud and loam were the imprints of feet wide of diameter as a hippo’s but clawed like a reptile’s, feet you knew could carry him ashore and claws you could be bally well sure no man could ever get loose from once they had nipped him. Blast that blighter’s fangs, but they looked long enough to go clean through a man.
Bronson then stood there in bafflement watching the beast for a time as it swam about in the water oblivious to his presence. When the hunter began to fear that it might notice him and attack, he got out his .303 rifle and fired at the creature, hitting it “behind its leopard ear,” which caused it to leap straight up out of the water in a rage. Bronson then claimed that he had run away as fast as he had ever run before into the jungle. When he returned later there was no sign of where the creature had gone, no body, and the perplexed hunter would describe the puzzling scene as follows:
Gory wonder, was that fellow; a .303, where placed, should have killed anything, for he was less than ten yards from me when I shot, but though we watched waters and shores over a range of several miles for two days, no sight did we get of him or his tracks.
Smaller that any of these creatures we have looked at so far, but no less weird is an anomalous, snake-like beast said to live in the remote areas of the Drakensberg Range of South Africa. Called the Dassieadder, or also the “Das-adder,” its name comes from a combination of the words “adder,” as in the venomous snake, and “Dassie,” which is an alternate word for hyrax, as in the small, rodent-like mammal. It is said to have a thick, muscular body that looks very much like that of an adder, with yellow coloration and red stripes, which is all topped off with a mammalian head that looks like a hyrax, with ears that form a sort of crest. It sounds almost cute so far, doesn’t it? However, to locals of the region there is nothing cute about it, as it is supposedly extremely mean, venomous, and with the ability to hypnotize its prey with a stare.
There are a few flying beasts throughout Africa that are lesser known as well. One is a winged monster known as the Kongamato, supposedly found in the thick, forbidding swamps of Western Zambia, Angola and Congo. They are reported as being somewhat bat-like, with a wingspan of up to 10 feet across, and witnesses have described tham as looking very much like the extinct pterosaur. The name literally translates into “breaker of boats,” and according to local tales the Kongamato certainly lives up to this, said to prowl the rivers to attack and sink fishing boats. It is also not uncommon for villagers to claim that mysterious wounds on their bodies were caused by the aggressive creatures, and the beasts are often blamed for people who have vanished without a trace.
The Kongamato is known to explorers to these regions as well, with one solid eyewitness account coming from a J.P.F. Brown, who in 1956 was working in the region at Fort Rosebery, near Lake Bangweulu in what is now Zambia. Brown would claim to have seen two of the creatures soaring through the sky, and that they had massive wingspans, long thin tails, and long, protruding snouts. It certainly sounds very much like pterosaurs or something similar. There is also an account from explorer Frank Melland, who wrote in his 1923 book In Witch-bound Africa that during an expedition when the native Kaonde tribe were asked to point out what they though these were in a book on dinosaurs, they invariably became excited and pointed at pictures of pterosaurs.
From the wilds of Gambia, we also have the mysterious Kikiyaon, or “Soul Eater,” which is said to be a bird-like flying humanoid covered with short greenish grey hair and standing about 5 to 6 feet tall, with thickly feathered wings sprouting from its back and muscular limbs tipped with vicious talons. It is known for its shrieking wail, the horrific stench it purportedly exudes, and sheer aggressiveness and overwhelming strength and speed. The creature is steeped in folklore, with one of the most common stories being that supposedly the bite of a Kikiyaon will steal the victim’s soul to turn them into a wandering, mindless zombie, and it is also believed to be able to travel to the dream world to haunt people in their nightmares.
Africa is certainly a realm unto itself. With its uncharted wildernesses and strange accounts of monsters running amok it might as well be another alien planet at times, it would seem. What are these people seeing out here in these rugged badlands? Are these surviving dinosaurs, or something else? Considering the sheer remoteness of some of these locales it seems we are not really close to getting any full answers, and that wild lost world exists on, much as it always has, and just might for some time to come.