BETA: Gabon

0.8037° S, 11.6094° E


Sometimes called the “Last Eden” this stunning country sits right along the equator in western Africa. The title often is given, thanks to Gabon’s environmental protections and natural wonders. In total, almost 90% of the country is covered in rainforest, of which almost 11% of that has been protected by national parks (the country has 14 total). Similarly, in 2018 Gabon received a mean score of 9.07/10 by the Forest Landscape Integrity Index, which ranked it 9th globally out of 172 countries.


If you are looking to get back to nature and see unspoiled biodiverse ecological systems, then Gabon is definitely a great place to start. While the country is still modernizing (meaning infrastructure is still not amazing), that only (at least for us) adds to the appeal of the place.



Fast Facts

  • Gabon is located on the west coast of Central Africa. Located on the equator, Gabon is bordered by Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, the Republic of the Congo on the east and south, and the Gulf of Guinea to the west.

  • The capital, and largest city, is Libreville while the official language is French.

  • Abundant petroleum and foreign private investment have helped make Gabon one of the most prosperous countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the 7th highest HDI and the fourth-highest GDP per capita (PPP) in the region.

  • In the 15th century, the first Europeans arrived. By the 18th century, a Myeni speaking kingdom known as Orungu formed in Gabon.

  • On February 10, 1722, Bartholomew Roberts, Barti Ddu, a Welsh pirate known in English as Black Bart, died at sea off Cape Lopez. He raided ships off the Americas and West Africa from 1719 to 1722.

  • In 1910, Gabon became one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa, a federation that survived until 1958. In World War II, the Allies invaded Gabon in order to overthrow the pro-Vichy France colonial administration.

  • On November 28, 1958, Gabon became an autonomous republic within the French Community, and on August 17, 1960, it became fully independent.

  • Gabon generally has an equatorial climate with an extensive system of rainforests, with 89.3% of its land area forested.

All facts from here.



Fun Facts

  • Most of Gabon (~80-85%) is covered by rainforests, 11% of which has been dedicated as national parks - making these parks some of the largest nature parks in the world. Of Gabon’s 14 national parks, 13 were all declared on the same day, August 30, 2002, by the late President El Hadj Omar Bongo.

  • Gabon had a 2018 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 9.07/10, ranking it 9th globally out of 172 countries.

  • Gabon's largest river is the Ogooué which is 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) long. Gabon has three karst areas where there are hundreds of caves located in the dolomite and limestone rocks. Many caves have not been explored yet - though a National Geographic Expedition visited the caves in the summer of 2008 to document them.

  • Gabon was the center of slave trading activity. Libreville (“free town”), the capital of Gabon, was founded by freed slaves.

  • Gabon is home to around 80% of Africa’s Gorilla population. Similarly, a giant share of baboons in Africa live within the country: 8 out of 10 baboons are found in Gabon.

  • Loango National Park in Gabon has more than 175 kilometers of uninhabited shoreline. It’s regarded as one of Africa’s last great coastal wildernesses.

More facts can be found here.



Adventures


| Loango National Park: sometimes called the “crown jewel” of all of Gabon’s 13 national parks, Loango is an amazing place to seek out if you are looking for wildlife. In addition to the famous surfing hippos captured by a National Geographic crew in 2004 (what?), you will also be able to see gorillas, elephants, whales, dolphins, buffalo, and more. Another thing to know is that this is one of the last places on Earth where these animals have access to the sea.


| Pongara National Park: another awesome spot to check out for the wildlife alone (including endangered leatherback turtles who come ashore to lay their eggs). Besides the coastal beach area, you can also explore Forests, mangrove flats, and savannah topography - and have the opportunity to see elephants, monkeys and buffalo.


| Fernan Vaz Lagoon: if you are looking to combine nature, conservancy, and history into one spot, then Fernan Vaz Lagoon is the place to go. Discovered in the 15th century by Portuguese explorers, the lagoon is located in the south-west region of Gabon along the Atlantic Coast. It is home to a gorilla sanctuary (including four adult gorillas that were saved from the bushmeat trade, which you can see in person) as well as other rehabilitation centers for gorillas that have the opportunity to be released back into the wild. Another interesting site on the lagoon is the historic Mission St. Anne, which was built by Gustav Eiffel in the late 1800s. Today you can see the old (now red) mission standing starkly in contrast on the island.


| Ivindo National Park: for a truly remote, off the beaten path adventure, head to this park for the opportunity to spot some of the areas 450+ bird species, head out on the namesake river, see elephants, and spot waterfalls. As well as elephants, you might also have the opportunity to spot Gorillas, chimps, colobus, mandrill, mangebey, sitatunga, duikers, giant pangolin, bush pig, and more animals can all be spotted across this 3,000 square kilometer park. But no visit to Ivindo NP is complete without stopping off at Kongou, a giant waterfall with a 60-meter drop. The closest town to the falls, Makokou, is rather isolated but does have air, rail, and river access. Plus, Pygmies live in the forest surrounding the village, and by using the village as a base camp for exploring the area, you have a good opportunity to interact with the locals.


Find more Gabon adventures here.


More Information


History and culture of Gabon: https://www.britannica.com/place/Gabon

More information on things to do and see in Gabon: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/africa/gabon/

More information on travel in Gabon: https://www.wanderlust.co.uk/destinations/gabon/

Video on the importance of national parks: https://youtu.be/hWQu279Jcr8