Country guides Africa
Things to do in Gabon
Gabon is a rewarding travel destination, but exploring the country isn't a straightforward exercise. Infrastructure is limited, the tourism industry is in its infancy, and getting around in the country can often prove rather expensive.
Although the wildlife and landscapes are magnificent, foreigners shouldn't expect world-class museums and amenities just yet. The main tourist attractions in Gabon are wildlife safaris, nature treks and national parks; it's therefore a gem of a destination for the adventurous traveller who doesn't mind roughing it a little.
Most tourists arrive in the capital Libreville but never linger long because, despite having some treats for sightseers, it can be thoroughly explored in a day or two. A trip to the colourful and busy markets, a stroll down the lovely coastal boulevard, and a sampling of the local cuisine in the city's restaurants are the highlights.
There are some wonderful excursions from Libreville though, with the beautiful beaches of Pointe Denis a short ferry ride away, and the Pongara National Park extending beyond it and offering a tantalising mix of rolling savannah, pristine coastline and tropical forest.
One of Gabon's greatest drawcards for visitors are the leatherback turtles that nest on its beaches, and Pointe Denis is the perfect place to seek them out. The baby turtles emerge in December and January, making this the best time to visit Gabon for those keen on seeing this great natural phenomenon.
There are 13 national parks in Gabon, covering a whopping 10 percent of the country, but not all of them are easily accessible. The most famous is Loango National Park in western Gabon, which is widely considered one of the most beautiful swathes of Africa, and has become well known for its surfing hippos, western gorillas and various other native wildlife.
Home to over half the population of Gabon, Libreville is the business and cultural hub of the country. It was named in honour of the freed slaves that built the port and has develo…
Home to over half the population of Gabon, Libreville is the business and cultural hub of the country. It was named in honour of the freed slaves that built the port and has developed into one of the more glamorous African capitals. It is considered a very expensive city and travellers should come prepared for hefty price tags. Despite this, it's a laidback place with a relaxed atmosphere. Although not generally a picturesque city, Libreville does have a pretty coastal strip, where many of the more expensive shops and hotels can be found, as well as some lovely beaches. Tourists tend to use the city as a transport hub and usually just pass through in transit, but there are a few worthwhile attractions for visitors. Travellers should head to the seafront to laze by the Atlantic Ocean, visit the Arboretum de Sybang to see thousands of species of indigenous trees or explore the bustling markets at Mbolo and Bord De Mer. The Musee des Arts et Traditions has a large collection of tribal crafts and cultural artefacts, and for a living experience of Bwiti culture, the Ebando Association is worth visiting. The Louis Quarter is the area with the best nightlife and boasts some stylish clubs, fine dining restaurants and lively bars. The resort island of Pointe Denis is a short boat ride from the city, another very popular tourist excursion that has some of Gabon's best beaches.
Pointe Denis Beach
Point Denis has Gabon's best known beach resorts and is a popular excursion from Libreville. It is a peninsula dividing the Atlantic Ocean and the Gabon Estuary, with some mansions…
Pointe Denis Beach
Point Denis has Gabon's best known beach resorts and is a popular excursion from Libreville. It is a peninsula dividing the Atlantic Ocean and the Gabon Estuary, with some mansions, lodges and restaurants on the city-side and wilder, more pristine stretches of beach on the ocean-side. Point Denis is a beautiful place, easily reached by a 30-minute ferry ride from Libreville. For thrill seekers the peninsula is also reachable by jet ski, and the ride takes about 30 to 40 minutes.
The beaches at Point Denis are some of the best in the country, the shoreline is perfect for long strolls and it is easy to find a secluded spot to enjoy paradise privately. There are palm trees for shade and the sea is generally very calm and good for swimming. There are several beach bars and seafood restaurants strewn along the coast and, for those that want to spend a few days there are lodges, bungalows and camping facilities. It is also easily possible to avoid all the development and picnic somewhere wild and unspoilt. Those who wish can take a break from the sun, sea and sand by hiking right off the beach into the jungle, or take a guided jungle safari to seek out wildlife. A visit to Point Denis is fun for the whole family and it is a favorite weekend getaway for locals, expats and tourists. While Point Denis offers some of the best untouched stretches of beach and nearby rainforest, travellers should be aware that safety can be compromised by quick sand and wildlife. In addition, it's best to respect the forest as it is a sacred place for locals. Visitors should be sure not to infringe on any sacred rites or ceremonies.
Pongara National Park
The stunning Pongara National Park includes the popular weekend getaway of Pointe Denis, but extends far beyond the beaches frequented by tourists to cover an area of more than 577…
Pongara National Park
The stunning Pongara National Park includes the popular weekend getaway of Pointe Denis, but extends far beyond the beaches frequented by tourists to cover an area of more than 577 square miles (929 sq km) of savannah and forest. Although the pristine coastline is a major draw, the reserve also has plentiful wildlife including elephants, buffaloes, monkeys, lots of birdlife, humpback whales off the coast, and, most famously, leatherback turtles. Nyonie Camp, south of Pointe Denis, is a rustic and friendly place to stay to experience the beauty of the national park and go on forest treks to seek out animals. July to September is whale season, when humpback whales mate off the coast of Gabon, and during this period whale-watching expeditions can be organised.
The most incredible thing to do in the Pongara National Park, however, is to witness the baby turtles being born in December and January. The reserve is a breeding ground for leatherback turtles, which are an endangered species and a real privilege to encounter in the wild. La Maringa, located in Pointe Denis, has a research centre and museum dedicated to turtle conservation and in season it is possible to go on nighttime tours of the nesting grounds to watch the babies hatching and making their way down to the sea. This profound experience is one of the primary things that attracts tourists to Gabon.
The second largest city in Gabon and a leading seaport, Port Gentil has two sides. On the one hand it is a ramshackle place with only a few tarred roads, surrounded by tropical rai…
The second largest city in Gabon and a leading seaport, Port Gentil has two sides. On the one hand it is a ramshackle place with only a few tarred roads, surrounded by tropical rainforest. On the other hand, it is a booming petroleum centre with a population of wealthy expats and the attendant glitzy clubs, casinos, restaurants and even a golf course. Port Gentil is situated on a peninsula and is isolated from the mainland by the ocean and a dense jungle, accessible only by boat or plane. The most notable historic landmark in the city is St Louis Church, built in 1927, but visitors travel here to enjoy the unexpectedly vibrant nightlife, the beautiful white sandy beaches, and treks into the jungle, either on foot or by 4x4.