Wednesday, 16 May 2018

GABON: Gabon A Wealthy Country With Poor People In Equatorial Africa. Plenty Of Wildlife

Gabon is a country in Western Central Africa. It lies on the Equator, on the Atlantic Ocean coast, between the Republic of the Congo to the south and east, Equatorial Guinea to the northwest and Cameroon to the north.

A small population, as well as oil and mineral reserves have helped Gabon become one of Africa's wealthier countries.

The country has generally been able to maintain and conserve its pristine rain forest and rich biodiversity.

Gabon officially the Gabonese Republic, is a sovereign state on the west coast of Central Africa. Located on the equator, Gabon is bordered by Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, the Republic of the Congo on the east and south, and the Gulf of Guinea to the west.

Gabon has an area of nearly 270,000 square kilometres (100,000 sq mi) and its population is estimated at 2 million people. Its capital and largest city is Libreville.

Since its independence from France in 1960, Gabon has had three presidents.

In the early 1990s, Gabon introduced a multi-party system and a new democratic constitution that allowed for a more transparent electoral process and reformed many governmental institutions.

Gabon was also a temporary member of the United Nations Security Council for the 2010–2011 term.

Abundant petroleum and foreign private investment have helped make Gabon one of the most prosperous countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the 4th highest HDI and the fourth highest GDP per capita (PPP) after Mauritius, Equatorial Guinea and Seychelles in the region.

GDP grew by more than 6% per year from 2010 to 2012. However, because of inequality in income distribution, a significant proportion of the population remains poor.

The earliest inhabitants of the area were Pygmy peoples. They were largely replaced and absorbed by Bantu tribes as they migrated.

The nation's present name originates from Gabão, Portuguese for cloak, which is roughly the shape of the estuary of the Komo River close to the capital of Libreville.

French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza led his first mission to the Gabon-Congo area in 1875. He founded the town of Franceville, and was later colonial governor.

Several Bantu groups lived in the area that is now Gabon when France officially occupied it in 1885.

In 1910, Gabon became one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa, a federation that survived until 1959. These territories became independent on August 17, 1960.

Since independence, Gabon has been one of the more stable African countries. President Omar Bongo was in power from 1967 until his death in 2009.

Gabon introduced a multiparty system and a new constitution in the early 1990s that allowed for a more transparent electoral process and for reforms of governmental institutions.

A small population, abundant natural resources, and considerable foreign support have helped make Gabon one of the more prosperous sub-Saharan African countries.

Despite being made up of more than 40 ethnic groups, Gabon has escaped the strife afflicting other West African states.

The earliest inhabitants of the area were Pygmy peoples. They were largely replaced and absorbed by Bantu tribes as they migrated.

In the 15th century, the first Europeans arrived. By the 18th century, a Myeni speaking kingdom known as Orungu formed in Gabon.

On February 10, 1722, Bartholomew Roberts, a Welsh pirate known as Black Bart, died at sea off Cape Lopez. He raided ships off the Americas and West Africa from 1719 to 1722.

French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza led his first mission to the Gabon-Congo area in 1875. He founded the town of Franceville, and was later colonial governor.

Several Bantu groups lived in the area that is now Gabon when France officially occupied it in 1885.

In 1910, Gabon became one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa, a federation that survived until 1959.

In World War II, the Allies invaded Gabon in order to overthrow the pro-Vichy France colonial administration. The territories of French Equatorial Africa became independent on August 17, 1960.

The first president of Gabon, elected in 1961, was Leon M'ba, with Omar Bongo Ondimba as his vice president.

After M'ba's accession to power, the press was suppressed, political demonstrations banned, freedom of expression curtailed, other political parties gradually excluded from power, and the Constitution changed along French lines to vest power in the Presidency, a post that M'ba assumed himself.

However, when M'ba dissolved the National Assembly in January 1964 to institute one-party rule, an army coup sought to oust him from power and restore parliamentary democracy.

French paratroopers flew in within 24 hours to restore M'ba to power.

After a few days of fighting, the coup ended and the opposition was imprisoned, despite widespread protests and riots.

French soldiers still remain in the Camp de Gaulle on the outskirts of Gabon's capital to this day. When M'Ba died in 1967, Bongo replaced him as president.

In March 1968, Bongo declared Gabon a one-party state by dissolving the BDG and establishing a new party—the Parti Democratique Gabonais (PDG).

He invited all Gabonese, regardless of previous political affiliation, to participate.

Bongo sought to forge a single national movement in support of the government's development policies, using the PDG as a tool to submerge the regional and tribal rivalries that had divided Gabonese politics in the past.

Bongo was elected President in February 1975; in April 1975, the position of vice president was abolished and replaced by the position of prime minister, who had no right to automatic succession.

Bongo was re-elected President in both December 1979 and November 1986 to 7-year terms.

In early 1990 economic discontent and a desire for political liberalization provoked violent demonstrations and strikes by students and workers.

In response to grievances by workers, Bongo negotiated with them on a sector-by-sector basis, making significant wage concessions.

In addition, he promised to open up the PDG and to organize a national political conference in March–April 1990 to discuss Gabon's future political system. The PDG and 74 political organizations attended the conference.

Participants essentially divided into two loose coalitions, the ruling PDG and its allies, and the United Front of Opposition Associations and Parties, consisting of the breakaway Morena Fundamental and the Gabonese Progress Party.

The April 1990 conference approved sweeping political reforms, including creation of a national Senate, decentralization of the budgetary process, freedom of assembly and press, and cancellation of an exit visa requirement.

In an attempt to guide the political system's transformation to multiparty democracy, Bongo resigned as PDG chairman and created a transitional government headed by a new Prime Minister, Casimir Oye-Mba.

The Gabonese Social Democratic Grouping (RSDG), as the resulting government was called, was smaller than the previous government and included representatives from several opposition parties in its cabinet.

The RSDG drafted a provisional constitution in May 1990 that provided a basic bill of rights and an independent judiciary but retained strong executive powers for the president.

After further review by a constitutional committee and the National Assembly, this document came into force in March 1991.

Opposition to the PDG continued after the April 1990 conference, however, and in September 1990, two coup d'état attempts were uncovered and aborted.

Despite anti-government demonstrations after the untimely death of an opposition leader, the first multiparty National Assembly elections in almost 30 years took place in September–October 1990, with the PDG garnering a large majority.

Following President Omar Bongo's re-election in December 1993 with 51% of the vote, opposition candidates refused to validate the election results.

Serious civil disturbances led to an agreement between the government and opposition factions to work toward a political settlement.

These talks led to the Paris Accords in November 1994, under which several opposition figures were included in a government of national unity.

This arrangement soon broke down, however, and the 1996 and 1997 legislative and municipal elections provided the background for renewed partisan politics.

The PDG won a landslide victory in the legislative election, but several major cities, including Libreville, elected opposition mayors during the 1997 local election.

Facing a divided opposition, President Omar Bongo coasted to easy re-election in December 1998, with large majorities of the vote.
While Bongo's major opponents rejected the outcome as fraudulent, some international observers characterized the results as representative despite many perceived irregularities, and there were none of the civil disturbances that followed the 1993 election.

Peaceful though flawed legislative elections held in 2001–2002, which were boycotted by a number of smaller opposition parties and were widely criticized for their administrative weaknesses, produced a National Assembly almost completely dominated by the PDG and allied independents.

In November 2005 President Omar Bongo was elected for his sixth term. He won re-election easily, but opponents claim that the balloting process was marred by irregularities.

There were some instances of violence following the announcement of his win, but Gabon generally remained peaceful.

National Assembly elections were held again in December 2006. Several seats contested because of voting irregularities were overturned by the Constitutional Court, but the subsequent run-off elections in early 2007 again yielded a PDG-controlled National Assembly.

On June 8, 2009, President Omar Bongo died of cardiac arrest at a Spanish hospital in Barcelona, ushering in a new era in Gabonese politics.

In accordance with the amended constitution, Rose Francine Rogombe, the President of the Senate, became Interim President on June 10, 2009.

The first contested elections in Gabon's history that did not include Omar Bongo as a candidate were held on August 30, 2009 with 18 candidates for president.

The lead-up to the elections saw some isolated protests, but no significant disturbances.

Omar Bongo's son, ruling party leader Ali Bongo Ondimba, was formally declared the winner after a 3-week review by the Constitutional Court; his inauguration took place on October 16, 2009.

The court's review had been prompted by claims of fraud by the many opposition candidates, with the initial announcement of election results sparking unprecedented violent protests in Port-Gentil, the country's second-largest city and a long-time bastion of opposition to PDG rule.

The citizens of Port-Gentil took to the streets, and numerous shops and residences were burned, including the French Consulate and a local prison.

Officially, only four deaths occurred during the riots, but opposition and local leaders claim many more.

Gendarmes and the military were deployed to Port-Gentil to support the beleaguered police, and a curfew was in effect for more than three months.

A partial legislative by-election was held in June 2010. A newly created coalition of parties, the Union Nationale (UN), participated for the first time.

he UN is composed largely of PDG defectors who left the party after Omar Bongo's death. Of the five hotly contested seats, the PDG won three and the UN won two; both sides claimed victory.

Gabon is located on the Atlantic coast of central Africa. Located on the equator, between latitudes 3°N and 4°S, and longitudes 8° and 15°E. Gabon generally has an equatorial climate with an extensive system of rainforests covering 85% of the country.

There are three distinct regions: the coastal plains ranging between 20 and 300 km from the ocean's shore, the mountains - Cristal Mountains to the northeast of Libreville, the Chaillu Massif in the centre, and the savanna in the east.

The coastal plains form a large section of the World Wildlife Fund's Atlantic Equatorial coastal forests ecoregion and contain patches of Central African mangroves especially on the Muni River estuary on the border with Equatorial Guinea.

Gabon's largest river is the Ogooue which is 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) long. Gabon has three karst areas where there are hundreds of caves located in the dolomite and limestone rocks.

Some of the caves include Grotte du Lastoursville, Grotte du Lebamba, Grotte du Bongolo, and Grotte du Kessipougou.

Many caves have not been explored yet. A National Geographic Expedition visited the caves in the summer of 2008 to document them.

Gabon is also noted for efforts to preserve the natural environment. In 2002, President Omar Bongo Ondimba designated roughly 10% of the nation's territory to be part of its national park system with 13 parks in total.

One of the largest proportions of nature parkland in the world. The National Agency for National Parks manages Gabon's national park system.

Natural resources include petroleum, magnesium, iron, gold, uranium, and forests.

Gabon's economy is dominated by oil. Oil revenues comprise roughly 46% of the government's budget, 43% of the gross domestic product (GDP), and 81% of exports.

Oil production is currently declining rapidly from its high point of 370,000 barrels per day in 1997. Some estimates suggest that Gabonese oil will be expended by 2025.

In spite of the decreasing oil revenues, planning is only now beginning for an after-oil scenario. The Grondin Oil Field was discovered in 50 m (160 ft) water depths 40 km (25 mi) offshore.

And produces from the Batanga sandstones of Maastrichtian age forming an anticline salt structural trap which is about 2 km (1.2 mi) deep.

Gabonese public expenditures from the years of significant oil revenues were not spent efficiently. Overspending on the Trans-Gabon Railway, the CFA franc devaluation of 1994, and periods of low oil prices caused serious debt problems that still plague the country.

Gabon earned a poor reputation with the Paris Club and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over the management of its debt and revenues.

Successive IMF missions have criticized the government for overspending on off-budget items in good years and bad, over-borrowing from the Central Bank, and slipping on the schedule for privatization and administrative reform.

However, in September 2005 Gabon successfully concluded a 15-month Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF. Another 3-year Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF was approved in May 2007.

Because of the financial crisis and social developments surrounding the death of President Omar Bongo and the elections, Gabon was unable to meet its economic goals under the Stand-By Arrangement in 2009.

Gabon's oil revenues have given it a per capita GDP of $8,600, unusually high for the region. However, a skewed income distribution and poor social indicators are evident.

The richest 20% of the population earn over 90% of the income while about a third of the Gabonese population lives in poverty.

The economy is highly dependent on extraction, but primary materials are abundant. Before the discovery of oil, logging was the pillar of the Gabonese economy.

Logging and manganese mining are the next-most-important income generators. Recent explorations suggest the presence of the world's largest unexploited iron ore deposit.

For many who live in rural areas without access to employment opportunity in extractive industries, remittances from family members in urban areas or subsistence activities provide income.

Foreign and local observers have lamented the lack of diversity in the Gabonese economy. Various factors have so far limited the development of new industries:

- the market is small, about a million

- dependent on imports from France

- unable to capitalize on regional markets

- entrepreneurial zeal not always present among the Gabonese

- a fairly regular stream of oil rent, even if it is diminishing

Further investment in the agricultural or tourism sectors is complicated by poor infrastructure. The small processing and service sectors that do exist are largely dominated by a few prominent local investors.

At World Bank and IMF insistence, the government embarked in the 1990s on a program of privatization of its state-owned companies and administrative reform, including reducing public sector employment and salary growth, but progress has been slow.

The new government has voiced a commitment to work toward an economic transformation of the country but faces significant challenges to realize this goal.

Gabon has a population of approximately 2 million. Historical and environmental factors caused Gabon's population to decline between 1900 and 1940.

Gabon has one of the lowest population densities of any country in Africa, and the fourth highest Human Development Index in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Almost all Gabonese are of Bantu origin. Gabon has at least forty ethnic groups with differing languages and cultures.

The Fang are thought to be the largest, although recent census data seem to favor the Nzebi.

Others include the Myene, Kota, Shira, Puru, and Kande.

There are also various Pygmy peoples, the Bongo, Kota, and Baka; the latter speak the only non-Bantu language in Gabon. More than 10,000 native French live in Gabon, including an estimated 2,000 dual nationals.

Ethnic boundaries are less sharply drawn in Gabon than elsewhere in Africa. Most ethnicities are spread throughout Gabon, leading to constant contact and interaction among the groups, and there is no ethnic tension.

One important reason for this is that intermarriage is extremely common and every Gabonese person is connected by blood to many different tribes.

Indeed, intermarriage is often required because among many tribes, marriage within the same tribe is prohibited because it is regarded as incest.

This is because those tribes comprise of the descendants of a specific ancestor, and therefore all members of the tribe are regarded as close kin to each other.

French, the language of its former colonial ruler, is a unifying force. The Democratic Party of Gabon (PDG)'s historical dominance also has served to unite various ethnicities and local interests into a larger whole.

Cities in Gabon and populations

1. Libreville

2. Port-Gentil

3. Franceville

4. Oyem

5. Moanda

6. Mouila

7. Lambarene

8. Tchibanga

9. Koulamoutou

10. Makokou

It is estimated that 80% of Gabon's population can speak French, and that 30% of Libreville residents are native speakers of the language. Nationally, 32% of the Gabonese people speak the Fang language as a mother tongue.

In October 2012, just before the 14th summit of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, the country declared an intention to add English as a second official language.

This reportedly in response to an investigation by France into corruption in the African country, though a government spokesman insisted it was for practical reasons only.

It was later clarified that the country intended to introduce English as a first foreign language in schools, while keeping French as the general medium of instruction and the sole official language.

Major religions practiced in Gabon include Christianity - Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, Bwiti, Islam, and indigenous animistic religion.

Many persons practice elements of both Christianity and traditional indigenous religious beliefs.Approximately 73 percent of the population, including noncitizens, practice at least some elements of Christianity, including the syncretistic Bwiti.
12 percent practice Islam of whom 80 to 90 percent are foreigners, 10 percent practice traditional indigenous religious beliefs exclusively.

5 percent practice no religion or are atheists. A vivid description of taboos and magic is provided by Schweitzer.

A country with a primarily oral tradition up until the spread of literacy in the 21st century, Gabon is rich in folklore and mythology.

Raconteurs are currently working to keep traditions alive such as the mvett among the Fangs and the ingwala among the Nzebis.

Gabon also features internationally celebrated masks, such as the n'goltang (Fang) and the reliquary figures of the Kota. Each group has its own set of masks used for various reasons.

They are mostly used in traditional ceremonies such as marriage, birth and funerals. Traditionalists mainly work with rare local woods and other precious materials.

Gabonese music is lesser-known in comparison with regional giants like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon.

The country boasts an array of folk styles, as well as pop stars like Patience Dabany and Annie-Flore Batchiellilys, a Gabonese singer and renowned live performer.

Also known are guitarists like Georges Oyendze, La Rose Mbadou and Sylvain Avara, and the singer Oliver N'Goma.

Imported rock and hip hop from the US and UK are popular in Gabon, as are rumba, makossa and soukous. Gabonese folk instruments include the obala, the ngombi, the balafon and traditional drums.

The Gabon national football team has represented the nation since 1962. The Under-23 football team won the 2011 CAF U-23 Championship and qualified for the 2012 London Olympics.

Gabon were joint hosts, along with Equatorial Guinea, of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, and the sole hosts of the competition's 2017 tournament. Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang plays for Gabon national team.

The Gabon national basketball team, nicknamed Les Pantheres, finished 8th at the AfroBasket 2015, its best performance ever.

Gabon has competed at most Summer Olympics since 1972. The country's sole Olympic medalist is Anthony Obame, won a silver medal in taekwondo at the 2012 Olympics, held in London.

Libreville The Capital City Of Gabon

Libreville is the capital and largest city of Gabon, in western central Africa.

The city is a port on the Komo River, near the Gulf of Guinea, and a trade center for a timber region. As of 2013 its census population was 703,904.

The area was inhabited by the Mpongwe tribe long before the French acquired the land in 1839.

In 1842, American missionaries from New England established a mission in Baraka, Gabon, on what is now Libreville.

In 1846, the Brazilian slave ship L'Elizia, carrying slaves from the Congo, was captured near Loango by the French navy which was tasked with contributing the British Blockade of Africa.

Fifty-two of the freed slaves were resettled on the site of Libreville in 1849. It was the chief port of French Equatorial Africa from 1934 to 1946 and was the central focus of the Battle of Gabon in 1940.

In 1910, French Equatorial Africa or Afrique equatoriale française, AEF was created, and French companies were allowed to exploit the Middle Congo the modern-day Congo Brazzaville.

It soon became necessary to build a railroad that would connect Brazzaville, the terminus of the river navigation on the Congo River and the Ubangui River, with the Atlantic coast.

As rapids make it impossible to navigate on the Congo River past Brazzaville, and the coastal railroad terminus site had to allow for the construction of a deep-sea port, authorities chose the site of Ponta Negra instead of Libreville as originally envisaged.

Construction of the Congo-Ocean Railway began in 1921, and Libreville was surpassed by the rapid growth of Pointe-Noire, farther down the coast.

Libreville was named in imitation of Freetown and grew only slowly as a trading post and a minor administrative centre to a population of 32,000 on independence in 1960.

It only received its first bank branch when Bank of West Africa (BAO) opened a branch in 1930. Since independence, the city has grown rapidly and now houses nearly half the national population.

From north to south, major districts of the city are the residential area Batterie IV, Quartier Louis known for its nightlife.

Mont-Bouet and Nombakele the busy commercial areas, Glass which was the first European settlement in Gabon, Oloumi a major industrial area and Lalala, a residential area.

The city's port and train station on the Trans-Gabon Railway line to Franceville lie in Owendo, south of the main built-up area. Inland from these districts lie poorer residential areas.

North-west of the Equatorial Guinea is where the city stands, labeling the city as a part of North-west Gabon.

In terms of the country's surrounding boundaries, north is Cameroon, east is Congo, and south-east is the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It also rides the shores of the South Atlantic Ocean, which is on the country's west coast for reference. Additionally, in terms of aquatic geography, the Komo River passes through the city and empties into the ocean.

The Komo River also stands as a potential hydroelectric source of power for the city which could generate supportive amounts of energy and power.

Several city districts provide distinct and separate benefits throughout the city as well. In terms of night life, the Quartier Louis sector is most renown.

One of this zone's sides includes the coast and this heavily influences the possibilities in terms of activities available in the area.

Commercial areas within Libreville are housed in the Mont-Bouet and Nombakele which feature several shopping centers and stations selling purchasable goods.

Industry within the capital city is heavy in Oloumi, integrating production separately from the districts that focus upon other aspects.

Lalala and Batterie IV serve as residential and housing sectors, where much of the populous are placed.

Libreville International Airport is the largest airport in Gabon and is located around 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) north of the city.

National Taxis operate around the city. Each district has a colour for its taxis and Libreville's is red.

The National Society of Transport (SOGATRA) launched the new taxis that operate on a counter system.

The Gabonese Transport Company operates a bus service to all districts of Libreville.

Sights in Libreville include:

- the National Museum of Arts and Traditions

- the French cultural centre

- St Marie's Cathedral, seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Libreville

- the carved wood church of St Michael, Nkembo

- the Arboretum de Sibang

- two cultural villages

Libreville's main market lies in Mont-Bouet. Gabon's school of administration and school of law are in Libreville. Libreville also hosts the Omar Bongo University established in 1970, various research institutes and a library.

Alongside the Komo estuary is the Pongara National Park of 929 km2. Behind Cap Esterias is Akanda National Park, famed for its large congregations of migrating waterbirds.

The city is served by Libreville Hospital.

There are several high-end international schools in Libreville, including:

- American International School of Libreville – American curriculum

- Lycee Blaise Pascal de Libreville – French curriculum

- International School of Gabon Ruban Vert – IB curriculum

Libreville is one of several African cities where French is truly becoming a native language, with some local features.

The city is home to a shipbuilding industry, brewing industry, and sawmills. The city exports raw materials such as wood, rubber and cocoa from the city's main port, and the deepwater port at Owendo.

Gabon Airlines has its headquarters in Libreville. Prior to their dissolutions, both Air Gabon and Gabon Express were headquartered on the grounds of Libreville International Airport.

Notable residents of Libreville

- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, footballer who plays for Arsenal and the Gabon Team

- Charles Tchen, Honorary consul for the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Gabon

- Marcel Lefebvre, traditionalist Roman Catholic bishop, served as a missionary in Libreville

- Daniel Cousin, footballer who played for Larissa FC and the Gabon National Team

- Anthony Obame, Olympic silver medalist in the men's Taekwondo 80+ kg at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

- Nadege Noele Ango-Obiang, writer and economist

Tropical; always hot, humid. During the months of June to September, the climate is a little cooler (20-25°C).

Narrow coastal plain; hilly interior; savannah in east and south. Highest point is Mont Iboundji at 1,575 metres.

Independence Day: 17 August 1960 (from France)

National holiday: Founding of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), 12 March (1968)

Regions of Gabon

- Coastal Plain (Libreville, Gamba, Loango National Park, Kango, Mayumba, Tchibanga)
flat riverplains and lagoons with dense rainforest on the Atlantic coast as well the capital city and majority of the population

- Central Highlands, the Cristal Mountains and Chaillou Massif with huge tracts of highland rainforest
Jungle Interior (Franceville)

- Eastern region mostly bordering Republic of the Congo; more rainforest.

Destinations worth a visit in Gabon

- Akanda National Park, mangroves & tidal flats are home to migratory birds and turtles.

- Banteke Plateau National Park, savannah crossed by rivers with rope bridges for the locals; home to forest elephants, buffalo and antelope.

- Crystal Mountains National Park, misty forests rich in orchids, begonias, & other flora.

- Ivindo National Park, two of Central Africa's most magnificent waterfalls; gorillas, chimpanzees, & forest elephants gather around its rivers and waterholes.

- Loango National Park, a 100km stretch of virgin beaches and adjacent rainforest, both scenic and a place to view leopards, elephants, gorillas, & monkeys on the beach.

Loango National Park is on the Atlantic coast of Gabon, in Central Africa. It protects wilderness areas of beach, forest, savanna, and wetlands around the Iguela Lagoon.

Mammals in the park include forest elephants, lowland gorillas, buffalo, leopards and hippos.

Large pods of humpback whales, orcas and dolphins swim offshore. Rare bird species include the Loango weaver and African river martin.

- Lope National Park, mix of savanna & dense forest along the Ogooue River, float along the river in pirogue, view ancient rock engravings, or track gorillas or mandrill monkeys with a pygmy guide.

- Mayumba National Park, sandy peninsula home to the world's largest population of nesting leatherback turtles.

- Minkebe National Park, highland forest with large sandstone domes, home to elephants and forest-dwelling antelope and giant hogs.

- Port-Gentil, is a seaport in Gabon, a country on the coast of Central Africa. The city, which is a center for the petroleum industry, is on the Cape Lopez peninsula and has a sheltered harbor and beaches like Plage du Dahu.

The 1927 St. Louis Church is among the city’s landmarks. At the tip of the peninsula is the 20th-century Cape Lopez Lighthouse. To the south, the Ogooue River is known for its many fish species.

- Lambarene, is a town on the Ogooue River in western Gabon. It’s known for the Albert Schweitzer Hospital, built by the German doctor in the early 20th century to treat tropical diseases.

The Hospital Museum has photographs, paintings and personal items belonging to the doctor. Motorized pirogues (canoes) head southwest to the Ezanga, Evaro and Onague lakes, which support birdlife like pelicans and herons.

Nationals of Morocco, Mauritius and Tunisia may enter Gabon visa-free. Nationals of South Africa may obtain a visa on arrival. All other nationals must apply for a visa before travel.

The fee for a visa to enter the country is typically €70 via the e-Visa website from one (1) to three (3) months single entry, €185 for six (6) months with multiple entries.

Both have a €15 processing fee. Fees can also be paid in XAF. Payments are made on arrival at the delivery of the e-visa sticker.

The visa usually takes 72 hours to be issued. This can only be issued when you visit Gabon by air via Leon Mba International Airport in Libreville.

Air France and Gabon Airlines fly from Paris to Libreville, and Royal Air Maroc flies from Casablanca to Gabon.

Air Service also flies to Douala (Cameroon), and Ethiopian Airlines flies from Addis Ababa. There are also on occasion flights to Brazzaville, Congo.

Interair flies from Johannesburg (South Africa) to Libreville on Monday with a stopover in Brazzaville/Congo - returning via the same route every Wednesday.

South African Airways SAA flies direct from Johannesburg South Africa to Libreville and back on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Turkish Airlines has direct flights from Istanbul to Libreville.

There are several border crossings, though the roads are not good and a 4x4 is recommended.

The easiest way to get around is by bus. There are many and they are very cheap. Additionally, taxis are plentiful in the Libreville area and relatively well maintained.

Air Service has scheduled flights to Oyem, Makouko and Franceville/Mvengue. Air Nationale flies to Franceville/Mvengue. There are flights to Franceville/Mvengue every day of the week except Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Africa's Connection has daily scheduled flights between Libreville and Port Gentil, weekly flights from Port-Gentil / Libreville to Sao Tome & Principe and to Loango National Park.

There are lots of paved roads in Gabon, if you are staying in one of the major cities a car should suffice. If you plan on venturing onto some of the unpaved roads outside the major cities a 4x4 is recommended.

There are less than 800km of tarred roads in Gabon - some of them in a bad condition. During the rainy season it is difficult to travel outside the major city areas even in a 4x4 vehicle.

The Trans-Gabon railroad goes from Owendo to Franceville. The trip takes 12-18 hours, there is a train every day of the week.

November 2006: There are only 3 trains per week to Franceville: Tuesdays leaving Owendo at 09:00 - arriving in Franceville at 17:00 according to the timetable, which is not completely reliable.

On Thursdays and Saturdays train travels through the night.

A few wealthy Gabonese entrepreneurs have invested in new buses for bus lines to service the larger interior cities. Mostly these buses serve the cities with paved roads leading to and from them.

Since Air Gabon closed down, these bus lines have greatly increased their routes.

Boat travel is available all along the coast of Gabon and dozens of miles up the Ogooue river to Lambarene. Boats leave daily to/from Libreville and Port Gentil.

River trips from the mouth of the big river at Port Gentil to Lambarene (Albert Schweitzer Hospital) are available every few days.

Hotel Olako arranges weekly boat transfers between Port Gentil and Omboue close to Loango National Park, transfers take between 3 and 4.5 hours depending on the type of boat and engine.

The official language is French. Around 80% of the population speak fluent French, and one-third of the population of Libreville speak French as their native language.

Other than French, the three most common languages are Fang, Mbere, and Sira. Other indigenous languages are spoken by much smaller numbers.

Very few people speak English in Gabon, so some knowledge of French is so important.

Tourist attractions in Gabon include beaches, waterfalls, national parks, ocean and inland fishing facilities and the Crystal Mountains.

Chez Beti - a small seaside safari camp near the village of Nyonie owned and operated by a French ex-pat. Clean, air-conditioned cottages and all-inclusive family style meals accompany the evening Landcruiser and sunrise walking safaris.

Wildlife sightings can include elephants, buffalo, monkeys, parrots, hornbills and other local fauna. The camp is located just a few km south of the equator, along a pristine stretch of beach.

Prices are very reasonable and include round trip transportation from the marina in Libreville; consisting of an hour long boat transit to a small landing in the mangroves, followed by a 45 minute 4x4 trip along jungle roads to the camp.

The Balbool restaurant serves delicious western food with very cheap prices. Ask for the big Balbool soup.

The cheapest local beer is Regab, it costs from XAF350-1000 and comes in a 650ml bottle. There are fantastic fruit juices available: D'jino Pampelmousse (grapefruit), Ananas (pineapple), Citron (Lemon) in 300ml bottles at CFA 400 and in a 1,5L bottle at XAF900 if bought in a shop.

There are three international name hotels - Le Meridien, Intercontinental and the Novotel. Apart from these, there are several other budget and economy hotels.

Long term lease on apartments is also an option.

A visa and letter of invitation are required for foreigners working in Gabon.

Malaria is common, so visitors should take malaria pills and a mosquito net when travelling in Gabon. HIV/AIDS is, unfortunately, a common disease in Gabon with 5.1% (1 in 20) of adults affected.

The people are generally very friendly, respectful and helpful to visitors.

Do I Need Vaccines for Gabon?

Yes, some vaccines are recommended or required for Gabon. The CDC and WHO recommend the following vaccines for Gabon: typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, cholera, yellow fever, rabies, and influenza.

- Typhoid from Contaminated Food or Water

- Hepatitis A from Contaminated Food or Water

- Hepatitis B from Contaminated Body Fluids such as Sex, needles, etc.

- Cholera from Contaminated Food or Water

- Yellow Fever Mosquito-borne

- Rabies from infected Animals

- Influenza from Airborne Droplets

Yellow fever is a serious risk in Gabon. Make sure you’re protected with a vaccination. Proof of yellow fever vaccination is also required for entry to Gabon.

Malaria is present in Gabon. Be sure to take antimalarials with you as part of your travel kit. A Passport Health travel specialist can help you identify your risk factors for the disease.

Dengue and chikungunya are two more mosquito-borne diseases found in Gabon. Both are preventable through proper use of repellents, netting and wearing proper clothing.

Medical facilities in urban areas may meet some needs, but they are limited. Medical facilities expect payment before services and do not accept credit cards. Medical facilities can not be found in rural areas.

Make sure to bring your own prescription and medicine as they will most likely not be available in Gabon.

Tourism Observer
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