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Gabon - 10 days
Prices from £3,049
Prices from £3,049
Gabon has been described as a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts, with a huge proportion of its land designated as national parks and home to some of the continent’s most impressive wildlife. This short Gabon tour takes you to the heart of its rainforests, a land of primeval jungles, wetlands and savannah, made famous by the explorer Mike Fay in his epic trek through Central Africa. Starting in Libreville we delve into the secrets of Bwiti, a bizarre and fascinating belief system found nowhere else, and are privileged to witness a unique local ceremony and gain insights into this almost mystical religion. We travel to the old colonial town of Lambarene and take a thrilling boat journey on the Ogooué River, penetrating further into the rainforest. At Lake Oguemoue we stay in a tented camp as part of a community based tourism project, and explore the surrounding forest and waterways in search of Gabon’s rich wildlife, and also have opportunities to meet local villagers going about their daily lives. This short trip offers the chance to see Africa at its wildest, where nature rules supreme and the jungle is king. Gabon has often been called ‘Africa’s last Eden’ – come and find out why.
Day 1 – Libreville
Arrive in Libreville and transfer to your hotel.
Days 2-3 – Libreville – Mitshogo village
Explore Libreville and spend time in a village in the forest to see a very special – and unique to Gabon – ritual, the Bwiti ceremony.
Day 4 – Lambarene
Head to Lambarene, on an island in the Ogooué River.
Day 5 – Oguemoue Lake
This morning we continue by boat to the town of Omboué and then head to Oguemoue Lake.
Days 6-8 – Oguemoue Lake
Three full days to explore Oguemoue. Accompanied by local guides we venture into the forests and along the lake each day in search of the iconic wildlife that lives here.
Day 9 – Lambarene
Return to Lambarene.
Day 10 – Libreville
Return to Libreville and explore the city before transferring to the airport for your flight home.
Day 1 – Libreville
Arrive in Libreville and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Tropicana Hotel or similar.
Like most African cities, Libreville is a fairly modern creation, having been established as a settlement for freed slaves in the mid 19th century – hence the name. Initially consisting of little more than a trading post, it grew enormously after independence and today is home to around 40% of Gabon’s population. One of Africa’s more expensive cities, Libreville has a rather odd feel to it – oil money means that it has more than its fair share of glitzy modern buildings, although hidden away are of course the inevitable shanty towns. With few sights to speak of, the city is interesting for presenting a very different side to Africa than you may have seen before.
Days 2-3 – Libreville – Mitshogo village
Explore the city, visiting its markets and seeing some of the remaining examples of early colonial architecture. From here we drive to forested interior, reaching a village populated by the Mitshogo and Babongo people. While here we witness a very special – and unique to Gabon – ceremony, that of the Bwiti belief system. This is a ‘secret’ society based on indigenous beliefs, where initiates seek to communicate with spirit world, and a highlight of the trip. Overnight camping or local house. (Day 2 – BD, Day 3 – BLD)
Day 4 – Lambarene
Head to Lambarene, on an island in the Ogooué River. Lambarene is known for its lakes, with several endemic bird and fish species, as well as the Schweitzer Hospital, established in the early 20th century and a centre for research into malaria. We spend the night in the hospital guest rooms for a sense of the history of this town. (BLD)
Day 5 – Oguemoue Lake
This morning we continue by boat along the Ogooué River, a stunning journey which gives a sense of how the first European explorers of this region must have felt. We then reach our base for the next few days, Oguemoue Lake. Overnight tented camp. (BLD)
Days 6-8 – Oguemoue Lake
Three full days to explore Oguemoue. The wildlife here is rich and includes elephant, hippos, crocodiles, gorillas, chimpanzees and numerous antelope species, as well as a huge number of bird species. Accompanied by local guides we venture into the forests and along the lake each day in search of the iconic wildlife that lives here. We also have the opportunity to visit local communities and learn about their traditions. Overnight tented camp. (BLD)
Lake Oguemoué lies in the southern chain of lakes along the Ogooué River south of Lambaréné, Gabon. The lakes and river form part of the Bas-Ogooué Ramsar Site, a wetland of international importance and the largest Ramsar Site in Gabon. Oguemoué’s surrounding forests are home to forest elephants, lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, African forest buffalo and other Congo Basin forest wildlife. Sandbars in the lakes host nesting colonies of rare birds and hippopotamuses and African manatees can be found in river and lake waters, though their populations are thought to be rapidly declining due to over-hunting.
While here, we stay at a community based tourism project, set up to provide jobs and income for local people while protecting the biodiversity of the area.
Western lowland gorillas
Western lowland gorillas are endangered, but they remain far more common than their relatives, the mountain gorilla. They live in dense rain forests, and it is difficult for scientists to accurately estimate how many survive in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Western lowland gorillas can be distinguished from other gorilla subspecies by their slightly smaller size, their brown-grey coats and auburn chests. They also have wider skulls with more pronounced brow ridges and smaller ears. Large numbers have not protected the western lowland gorilla from decline. Because of poaching and disease, the gorilla’s numbers have declined by more than 60% over the last 20 to 25 years. Even if all of the threats to western lowland gorillas were removed, scientists calculate that the population would require some 75 years to recover. However in Gabon they appear to have suffered much less than in neighbouring countries.
Gorillas are present at Oguemoue, but are very difficult to see, so please don’t expect the same type of experience as you might have in Uganda or Rwanda.
Day 9 – Lambarene
After a final morning excursion we make our way back to Lambarene in the afternoon. Overnight Schweitzer Hospital Guestrooms. (BLD)
Day 10 – Libreville
Return to Libreville and spend a final couple of hours exploring the city before transferring to the airport for your flight home. (B)
Please note that we sell this trip in conjunction with our local partner, so there may be other nationalities in this group.
Airport transfers – We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers.
Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.
Accommodation – Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.
Guides – In most cases you will be accompanied by one guide from start to finish. However there may be occasions when this is not practical, for example if your trip covers a number of different countries. In these cases it often makes more sense to include different guides for each place, to take advantage of their specific knowledge of the destination.
Meals – As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.
Entrance fees – Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.
What’s not included:
Visas – We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as The Visa Machine (www.thevisamachine.com) can assist.
Airport taxes – If there are any departure taxes to pay that are not included within the cost of your ticket, you’ll need to pay these yourself.
International flights – Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.
Travel Insurance – If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.
Most travellers will require a visa to enter Gabon. You may need an invitation letter in order to obtain this, depending on the requirements of the embassy that you apply at – we can provide this for you. Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.
Health and vaccinations
We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.
A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required for entry to Gabon and you must bring this with you.
It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.
Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.
Arrival and departure taxes
There are no arrival or departure taxes applicable for Gabon.
The local currency in Gabon is the Central African CFA, a currency that is shared with many other countries in the region. It is not however the same as the West African CFA, and the two are not interchangeable. It is best to bring Euros for exchange purposes as the CFA is not obtainable outside of the region.
It’s not difficult to change money in Gabon, but only in the larger cities – once you leave these your opportunity for changing funds is slim to non-existent, and so we recommend that you change enough at the start of the tour to last for the duration that you are in Gabon. Your guide will be able to assist with this. ATMs exist but are not always reliable and so it is best to think of them as a back up rather than a main means of obtaining money.
Credit cards are accepted in larger hotels and better restaurants (usually in Libreville and Port Gentil) but are not commonly accepted elsewhere.
When to go
Gabon is hot and humid all year round, sitting neatly on the equator, but experiences two dry seasons – the long dry season from June to September, and the short dry season from December to January.
Culture – language and religion
Gabon is home to a number of different ethnic groups, each with their own language, but the official language in the country is French.
The majority – around three quarters – of the population are Christian, with around 10% Muslim and others following indigenous beliefs. Of particular interest is the Bwiti religion which originates with the forest dwelling Babongo people and centres around the use of iboga, a plant with hallucinogenic properties. This religion has become absorbed into mainstream Gabonese society and many others combine it with their own beliefs.
Eating and drinking
Gabon’s cuisine is generally dominated by the usual African fare of starch plus vegetables and / or meat. Depending on where you are in the country this could be pounded yam, maize or millet as starch, and most likely beef, goat or chicken as meat, usually accompanied by some sort of spicy sauce. In the north, sauces made from ground peanuts are more common.
Hotels will serve some sort of western fare, although it may be fairly limited in variety. Nearer to the coast, fish is popular, readily available and inexpensive.
With many forested areas, the Gabonese are great eaters of bush meat which can range from antelope to porcupine to monkey. We don’t recommend that you eat these as it contributes to the depletion of local populations.
You should advise us when you book if you have any special dietary requirements. We will try to accommodate you as much as possible, but we cannot always guarantee this.
Luggage and packing
The first rule of packing is not to bring too much. There will be plenty of occasions where you’ll need to carry your luggage yourself and so you should be able to do this without help. Most people are surprised at how little they actually need to bring, and it’s normally possible to get laundry done along the way. It doesn’t matter whether you bring a suitcase, rucksack or holdall, but please don’t bring more than 20kg of luggage as this may be difficult to accommodate in the vehicles we use. You’ll also need a day pack.
A waterproof jacket is also a good idea as it can rain here at any time.
In terms of footwear, you will be walking in forests as some areas are only accessible on foot – this will involve uneven ground and quite probably swampy / muddy tracks. Boots are advisable but even waterproof boots are likely to get wet inside, so we recommend bringing a pair of sandals or simpler footwear for evenings. Bring a light sleeping bag for the nights spent camping.
Insect repellent will also be helpful, as the forest is home to huge numbers of insects, some of which bite. You should also bring a torch.
For safaris in Loango National Park you should bring dark coloured clothing – black, brown, green dark blue etc – to blend in better with the environment and not frighten the wildlife. This will allow better viewing.
You don’t need to be especially fit to join our trips in Gabon, but you will be walking extensively in Loango National Park, so you will find this more enjoyable if you are moderately fit.
In Gabon, like many of the destinations we offer, environmental thinking is not at the forefront of everyday life and you will see a lot of litter in places. However, we ask that you don’t contribute to this and to please take all litter back to the hotel where it can be disposed of properly, including cigarette butts.
Especially in the larger cities, you may come across beggars. There’s no hard and fast answer on this and everyone has a different view – some feel that giving simply encourages begging while others see it as helping someone in need. Some guidebooks will tell you that you should only give if you see a local person also giving, to determine whether the beggar is genuine. The issue is particularly difficult when it comes to children, but we’d ask that you don’t give to children as in poor communities this can often act as a discouragement to going to school. If you feel that you’d like to contribute then speak with your guide who will be able to make appropriate suggestions.
Most people like to take photos, and it’s sometimes easy to forget that the photogenic person in front of you may not want their picture taken. Always ask if it’s okay, and respect their wishes if they say no. You’ll often find that in remote villages or among more traditional communities the older generation, and women in particular, are not comfortable with having their picture taken.
On the subject of photography, it’s often forbidden to take photos of ‘sensitive’ areas such as military buildings or border posts, and doing so can land you in trouble with the authorities. If you’re not sure, ask your guide.
If you’re happy with the services of your guide then we would recommend leaving a tip for them at the end of your trip. The amount is entirely up to you, but a reasonable amount for a group to tip would be between CFA60-70,000 to the guide, and less for boatmen and drivers who perform shorter services – however it is not obligatory and if you do not wish to tip then this is up to you.
When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.
We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to any parts of Gabon.
This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.
Travels in West Africa
The State of Africa
Gabon – The Bradt Guide
Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Updated 23 September 2016
|26 July 2018||£3,049||£150||Available||
|25 July 2019||£3,049||£150||Available||