Relatively peaceful than its neighbours, Gabon features a rich natural beauty that attracts intrepid travellers looking to avoid the crowds in the more popular spots in Africa. Gabon features a wide expanse of rainforests, which teem with wildlife such as lowland gorillas and elephants. The year 2003 is a good year for environmental protection in this country in Central Africa, as 10% of the land has become a protected area. National parks have been established in effect, which is a step to sustaining the wildlife and preserving their habitat.
Since its independence from the French in 1960, Gabon's growth as one of the most prosperous countries in the area has assured its political stability. The multi-party system and a democratic constitution ratified in the early 1990s have also kept the peace. It is ironic, though, that the majority of the people remain poor despite the income earned from crude oil and international aid. Roads and other useful infrastructure are also not visible apart from one sees in Libreville, the only city in Gabon.
What to see & do
Gabon's natural surroundings make it an emerging ecotourism spot in Central Africa. The country has 13 national parks to date, which can be delightful to explore due to its lack of crowds and curious tourists. One of the reserves to visit is Loango National Park. Featured by National Geographic in 2004, this park sustains a wide variety of species from leopards and gorillas to the hippopotamuses in the beach. That can be an amazing sight, especially when one sees the big, ungainly creature treading the water near the shore and enjoying the splash of waves on its body.
The distinction of Gabon's forests is particularly granted to La Lopé National Park. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site on 2007, this land features a significant ecosystem that does not just sustain a great diversity of species but also well-preserved remains of habitations. There are also 1,800 petroglyphs in the area, which can be fascinating to see given the crude instruments in the Neolithic and Iron Age periods.
The country is not all land, however, due to the presence of Makokou and Kongou Falls in the Ogooué-Ivindo region. The virgin surroundings make a fascinating backdrop to the place, especially when encountering an elephant tramping its way to the river. Upon reaching the falls, tourists can get drenched in the powerful plunge of water. Even at a small height, the sound of the water crashing against the rocks can be invigorating, which can attract one to the sides even at the risk of getting drenched by the spray.
Lambaréné is another destination to look forward to during a trip to Gabon. Other than the clear lakes and rivers, as well as the thick lush foliage, one will find here a hospital built with the humanitarian efforts of Schweitzer. A museum is also housed in the former hospital building with the photos and artefacts of Schweitzer and his wife, which commemorate their achievements that changed life in the community.
How to get around within Gabon
Gabon has a poor transportation system, which makes it difficult to explore the countryside. It is recommended for tourists going here to join a tour for more convenience or arrange for their own transport in the various communities. Renting a car is allowed only in Libreville, and it can be hard to rent a 4WD without a driver as well. If one would rather risk it, the regular mode of transport would be overcrowded taxis-brousses and minibuses. There is also the Transgabonaise that crosses the country, which can be a better alternative. Passenger boats are also available, for those going to the coast, riverside communities, and the like.
How to get there
Travellers going to Gabon can board flights to Libreville Leon M'ba International Airport. Airlines transporting passengers here are usually from within Africa, but there are also flights available via Air France and Turkish Airlines for those who will find it more convenient there. African airlines serving here include Afric Aviation, Africa's Connection STP, Air Côte d'Ivoire, ASKY Airlines, Camair-co, CEIBA Intercontinental, Douniah Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Nationale Regionale Transport, RwandAir, Royal Air Maroc, Sénégal Airlines, South African Airways, Trans Air Congo, and Westair Benin.
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