Gabon – back to Africa’s land of the surfing hippos
Gabon is probably the only place in the world where you can see Gorillas, Whales and Elephants on the beach in one day! The country remains one of the true areas of untouched and unknown wilderness in Central Africa. Gabon is a great Africa destination for those who has visited the continent a few times before. This stable but little-known country, made rich from off-shore oil reserves, is now turning its attention to the protection of its environmental assets with the recent creation of 13 national parks.
Gabon is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and the Congo. The 800km- (500-mile-) long sandy coastal strip is a series of palm-fringed bays, lagoons and estuaries. The lush tropical vegetation (which covers much of the interior) gives way in parts to the savannah.
80% of Gabon is covered by rainforest with 12 national parks, and the population density barely reaches four people per square kilometre, mostly concentrated in the cities. Unsurprisingly, it is home to the last great concentrations of West African mammals, with an elephant population of 64,000, 20,000 Lowland Gorillas and over 35,000 Chimpanzees. You may also be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some of the rarest African species such as the Mandrill, Sun-tailed monkey and Bongo. Over 680 species of birds have been recorded, and 320 species of orchid.
The Republic of Gabon moved peacefully into independence (from France) in 1960. President Omar Bongo, who succeeded Léon M’Ba as president on the latter’s death in 1967 was one of Africa’s longest serving heads of state. His son took over his precidency after he died last year.
What to expect
Gabon is an emerging destination and travelers must bear this in mind throughout their stay. Accommodation varies from tented camps to western style luxury lodges depending on which area you are visiting. Travel and transport in Gabon, as anywhere in Africa, can often be slow and unreliable. The traveler is advised to think of their visit to Gabon as an adventure. Often referred to as "The Garden of Eden" Gabon offers the traveler a multitude of different activities and often previously unexplored adventures. Although numbers of animals in parks like Loango and Lope are high, you have to be in the parks for a few days to increase the chances of actually seeing the animals. Elephants are forest elephants; smaller and more agressive and, in comparison to elephants seen in Kenya or Tanzania, not used of seeing humans. This also counts for the other animals in the parks. You have to be an experienced Africa traveler to be able to truly enjoy the unspoiled and rough Gabonese jungle.