Welcome to Gabon
I almost didn’t make it over the starting line to visit Gabon. Afrijet has its own terminal, but it’s not equipped to deal with the issue of visas. So, I have to wait till everyone else is stamped in and then I’m bundled into a black police car and driven round the airport. It’s not the most auspicious of beginnings and it’s a bit scary. Especially as they then refuse to accept my authorisation of visa documents as they are a copy of the originals printed out from an email. Thank goodness I’m now in a French speaking country rather than Portuguese. No-one here has any English. I give them the phone number of my contacts in Libreville and amazingly someone arrives with acceptable papers. (Or a bribe - I'm not sure which.) Half an hour later I’m allowed in.
I’m supposed to be met by a man with the unlikely name of Fifi. He’s elusive, but eventually I bump into a Robert, who is asking around for a Suzanne and he has access to a Man with a Van, who takes me to my hotel and agrees to fetch me again in the morning for my flight to Loango Game Park.
Is Gabon a Poor Country?
Gabon has rich reserves of manganese, iron, petroleum and timber and offshore oil was discovered in the 1970s, helping to make Gabon one of the most prosperous countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. In spite of this five percent of the population still live below the poverty line.
Gabon - Snippets of Information
- The entire country of Gabon is just slightly smaller than the state of Colorado in the United States.
- Almost 80-85% of Gabon is covered by rainforests, 11% of which has been designated as national parks - some of the largest natural parks in the world. The rainforests of Gabon are home to 777 species of birds.
Who Colonised Gabon?
- The region was initially inhabited by the pygmy peoples, followed by peoples of the Bantu tribes. In the 18th century, Orungu, the Myeni kingdom was established in Gabon. The French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza arrived here in 1875 and founded the town of Franceville. In 1885, Gabon was annexed into the territories of French Equatorial Africa. This federation lasted for almost five decades.
- Gabon is a presidential republic; the first president of Gabon was Léon M’ba, who was elected in 1961. Omar Bongo Ondimba served as his vice president and later became the president. He is the longest serving head of state ever, ruling over Gabon from 1967 to 2009 (the year of his death). According to the French weekly L’Autre Afrique, President Bongo owned more real estate in Paris than any other foreign leader.
Is it Safe to Visit Gabon?
- Gabon is a relatively safe place to travel. Tropical disease, most notably malaria, poses the biggest safety threat. However tourists are something of a novelty, The more upmarket hotels and facilities have been built to cater for those who work in the oil business. And hardly anyone speaks English
Where to Travel in Gabon?
- The highlight of Gabon is Loango National Park.
- But I also toured Libreville - well sort of.