Gabon is a West African country with the Atlantic as its western border. It is also bounded by Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, and the Congo and is the least densely populated country in Central Africa because more than 70 percent of the country is covered by tropical rainforest. This makes it a special place for nature tourists and for eco-tourism.
Gabon is roughly the size of France and the average population density is only four people per square km – most live in the cities. The two main reasons people come to Gabon is Gorillas and Oil. But there are many more reasons to come to this green lung of Africa.
Gabon stands out as an environmental treasure mainly because of what is inside its forests. Up to 20 percent of Gabon’s plant species are found nowhere else in the world; there are more than 60,000 forest elephants and Gabon is home to more than 700 species of birds. 70 species of reptiles, 100 species of amphibians, and an estimated 190 mammal species—including large numbers of lowland gorillas and chimpanzees are found in this eco-tourism paradise.
Gabon’s cities are expensive for tourists
While Gabon is one of Africa’s top oil-producing nations, it has always essentially remained a renter-state – it controls little of the means of production. International corporations hold concessions for oil exploration in Gabon, which mean large expense accounts which in turn lead to price gouging. Because of this, Libreville and Port Gentil are among the world’s most expensive cities, ahead of New York, Paris, and London.
Libreville, Capital of Gabon
Libreville, the largest city and the Capital of Gabon began as a settlement for freed slaves on the site of a naval fortress. The city is a port on the Gabon River, near the Gulf of Guinea, and a trade center for the timber region. Its wealth is apparent in the glamorous nightclubs, weekend cruises, golf, sailing, tennis and riding clubs, overflowing champagne glasses and expensive hotel rooms. Libreville is home to almost as many foreigners as it is to local Gabonese.
What to see in Libreville
-Musee des Arts et Traditions du Gabon (Museum of Art and Culture)
-Arboretum de Sibang
-St Maries Cathedral
Libreville is a city of modern office buildings, smart shops, supermarkets and white, sandy beaches inside city limits. The Boulevard l’Independance runs along the waterside and is a primary point of orientation.
Not far away (140 km) on the south coast is Port Gentil on Ile de Mandji, a coastal island in the Ogooué River estuary east of Cape Lopez. Underpinned by oil funds and high wages, the town also has good restaurants, night clubs and shops.
But despite the high flying city life, with around eleven percent of the country’s land area set aside for the National Parks, Gabon is uniquely positioned to become the eco-tourism hub of Africa.
ECOFAC is an EU based organization that deals with rainforests in Central Africa. The ECOFAC program combines two basic and complementary principles: conservation and development. It is a tangible expression of the European Union’s commitment to the protection and rational utilization of Central Africa’s forest ecosystems. They do a lot of work in Gabon and their website is a handy resource for anyone who wants to travel to Central Africa.