In a region of exploding population growth, rampant poverty, political corruption and ecological ruin it is encouraging to stumble upon a nation where none of these are a factor. Gabon has always held a strong fascination for western travelers, with such 19th century luminaries as travel writer Mary Kingsley, and explorer Pierre de Brazza, fixated on the beauty and worth of this country, and more recent explorers such as biologist Michael Fay of Mega Transect fame likewise.
Gabon is a land of rainforest, rivers and beaches, with a glitzy urban backdrop and a distribution of wealth uncharacteristically even. The per capita income of Gabon is some four times the average of sub-Saharan Africa. With significant oil wealth the economy has tended to be rather mono-dimensional, but with so much to offer the nation’s tourist industry has since the turn of the century enjoyed the impetuous of determined government investment and support.
An extraordinary 10 percent of the Gabonese landmass has in recent years been turned over to conservation, with much of this focused on estuarine, rain forest and riparian ecologies, and with healthy populations of such deeply threatened species as Forest Elephant, lowland gorilla and a diversity of other primates, Gabon ranks as one of the most important gene banks of global tropical diversity. All in all this country is a travelers and tourists haven.
Travel To & Within Gabon
Why Travel To Gabon
There are very few places left in Africa where untrammeled expanses of equatorial rainforest are open to access without the threat either of extreme poverty, war or ecological catastrophe. The care with which the natural heritage of Gabon is being preserved is an example to the rest of the continent, and vital to the success of these efforts is vibrant eco-tourism industries. It is these that help provide some of the economic incentive for such efforts to be undertaken at all. Gabon has 13 national parks covering the complete spectrum of the nation’s diverse natural heritage.
Akanda National Park Batéké National Park Birougou National Park Crystal Mountain National Park Ivindo National Park Loango National Park Lopé National Park Mayumba National Park Mwangné National Park Pongara National Park Waka National Park
The population of Gabon is principally of Bantu stock, with limited language diversity within some fifty separate ethnic groups. The population is predominantly Christian, and noticeably lacking is the vitality and color of nations situated further west along the Gulf of Guinea. Nonetheless Gabon is rich in cultural interest, with music, dance and arts representing the core of Gabonese cultural expression.
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In a wider region of fantastic beaches and beach culture Gabon ranks very high. With one of the sparsest population densities in Africa the long Atlantic coastline is replete with vast stretches of open sandy beach lying almost untouched by human commerce. Again this is a rarity in Africa, and just another of the many compelling reasons to put Gabon on the your African travel itinerary.
When To Visit Gabon
While the high rainfall and humidity of the tropics is what lavishes Gabon with its intense verdure and crazy masses of plant and animal biology, it can also make life extremely sticky and uncomfortable, particularly in the middle of the wet season. It therefore makes sense to avoid the period between September and May when rainfall and humidity are at their most intense.
Being on the equator, however, the temperature variant is minimal, and for most of the year daytime temperatures hover around 30ºC. Between June and August the days are slightly cooler and the rain somewhat diminished.
There is a low threat of terrorism in Gabon, and a comparatively low rate of crime. The major urban centers, however, and anywhere where large numbers of tourists congregate, are susceptible to criminal elements. Some incidences of carjacking have been reported, and in both urban and rural areas precautions should be taken after dark.
Gabon enjoys reasonable political stability with very rare incidences of public violence or demonstrations.
Road conditions are generally poor, particularly in the wet season. Driving habits are also questionable, so caution on the roads in always advisable.
Health facilities in the country are basic. HIV/AIDS infection rates are comparatively low, but caution in this regard is always advisable. Malaria is widespread.