Gabon is a country in Central Africa with an array of landscapes and wildlife in its 13 national parks.
A small population, and 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.
|Coastal Plain (Libreville, Gamba, Loango National Park, 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, Makokou, Oyem)|
the eastern region mostly bordering Republic of the Congo; more rainforest.
- 1 Libreville - the capital
- 2 Franceville
- 3 Gamba
- 4 Mayumba
- 5 Port-Gentil - on the coast of the South Atlantic Ocean
- 1 Akanda National Park — mangroves and tidal flats are home to migratory birds and turtles.
- 2 Batéké Plateau National Park — savanna crossed by rivers with rope bridges for the locals; home to forest elephants, buffalo, & antelope.
- 3 Crystal Mountains National Park — misty forests rich in orchids, begonias, & other flora.
- 4 Ivindo National Park — two of Central Africa's most magnificent waterfalls; gorillas, chimpanzees, & forest elephants gather around its rivers and waterholes.
- 5 Loango National Park — a 100-km stretch of virgin beaches and adjacent rainforest, both scenic and a place to view leopards, elephants, gorillas, & monkeys on the beach.
- 6 Lopé 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.
- 7 Mayumba National Park — sandy peninsula home to the world's largest population of nesting leatherback turtles.
- 8 Minkebe National Park — highland forest with large sandstone domes, home to elephants and forest-dwelling antelope and giant hogs.
- 9 Mwagne National Park — a park in thick rainforest with a river running through it.
|Currency||Central African CFA franc (XAF)|
|Population||2 million (2017)|
|Electricity||220 volt / 50 hertz (Europlug)|
|Time zone||UTC+01:00, West Africa Time, Africa/Libreville|
|Emergencies||+241-1300 (emergency medical services), +241-1722 (police), 18 (fire department)|
|edit on Wikidata|
What is now Gabon has been inhabited for thousands of years, first by Pygmy hunter-gatherers and then starting perhaps as early as 1500 BC, various different Bantu tribes arrived in several waves. Portuguese explorers and traders were the first Europeans to arrive, in 1472. 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. Soon, Europeans were trading for natural resources and slaves. In the 19th century, the French became ascendant in the area. The coast was colonized by the French in 1839, and the remainder of Gabon in 1885. Gabon gained independence on 17 August 1960.
Since independence, Gabon has been one of the more stable African countries. Autocratic President Omar Bongo was in power from 1967 until his death in 2009. Gabon introduced a multi-party 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.
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; savanna in east and south. Highest point is Mont Iboundji at 1,575 metres. Gabon is crossed by the Ogooué, the country's longest river which is 1,200 kilometres long.
Independence Day: 17 August 1960 (from France)
National holiday: Founding of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), 12 March (1968)
Citizens of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritius, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia, and the G20 countries can enter without a visa. Citizens of European Union, Australia, Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, China(including Hong Kong and Macau), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, United States and United Arabic Emirates can obtain visa on arrival for 90 days. All holders of an entry authorisation issued by Immigration prior to arrival can also obtain visa on arrival. The e-visa system is usable by citizens of any country which requires a visa to visit Gabon. The visa is issued 72 hours after the application and is valid only for those arriving via Leon Mba International Airport in Libreville. The fee for a visa to enter the country is typically €70-85.
Air France flies to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, other airline mostly fly to inner-African destinations.
Air France fly from Paris to Libreville, Royal Air Maroc flies from Europe via Casablanca. Turkish Airlines fly from North America, Europe and Asia via Istanbul, RwandAir fly from Europe, West Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa via Kigali, Ethiopian Airlines fly from north America, Europe, east Africa, Southern Africa via Addis Ababa. There are also flights to Brazzaville, Congo with RwandAir.
There are several border crossings, though the roads are not good and a 4x4 is recommended.
The easiest way to get around outside of cities is by bus (typically 6- or 9-seater cars, but sometimes minibuses). There are many and they are very cheap (e.g., FCFA 7000 to go from Libreville to Lamberene). Within cities, taxis are plentiful and are very cheap. No fare should be more than FCFA 5000 for one person. Fares depend on distance (and whether the driver will be able to find more fares at your destination). A 2- or 3-minute drive will cost FCFA 100, and FCFA 2000 is plenty to go from Owendo train station to the centre of Libreville. Taxi prices typically double after 21:00.
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 São Tomé & Príncipe and to Loango National Park.
There are some 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 required. 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 railway goes from Owendo to Franceville. The trip takes 12-18 hours, and is often delayed. Train times change according to the season. The current timetable (Basse 2014 as of March 2015) has trains both ways on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. Two trains are in use - the Omnibus and the Express. Both take a similar time, but the Express stops at less small stations. Air-conditioning is present in VIP, 1st and 2nd on the Express, and only VIP and 1st on the omnibus.
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 Omboué (close to Loango National Park), transfers take between 3 and 4½ hours (depending on the type of boat and engine).
French is the sole national language, with 80% of the population able to speak it. There are various native languages as well, the most significant is Fang, spoken by 32% of the population as their mother tongue.
There are moves to promote English in education, but it is generally not widely spoken.
- 1 Cathédrale Sainte Marie. Built in 1958 by Bishop Adama, it sits close to the coastline on the site of the former Fort d'Aumale. Pope John Paul II visited here in 1981. The Notre Dame Church behind the Cathedrale Sainte Marie is actually from the 19th century, but its edifice looks like it's being eaten away by saltwater or Libreville's humidity.
- 2 Notre Dame de Lourdes (Our Lady of Lourdes Church), ☏ . The front facade and retable behind the altar have a hand-painted airy white and blue tapestry that is quite pacifying.
- 3 Church of St. Michael Nkembo (L'Eglise St-Michel). This church has a Pan-African type of mosaic on its pediment, and 31 wooden columns carved by Gabonese artist Zéphyrin Lendogno that depict stories from the Old and New Testament. It is quite a sight and Libreville landmark, even if you aren't the church-going type.
- 4 National Museum of Arts and Traditions (Musée National des Arts, Rites et Traditions). Tu-Sa 10:00-17:00, closed Su-M. Might be having a bit of a moment with regards to being in operation, but has an intriguing collections of sculptures and other art. Just check with the people at the chamber of commerce there if it's not appearing open.
- 5 Musée National du Gabon. Another museum whose status seems somewhat iffy, but it can be co-located with the Musée des Arts et Traditions du Gabon possibly.
- 6 Presidential Palace (Palais Presidentiel). The executive office of Gabonese government. Can only drive by, and no snaps with the camera either please or you'll get busted.
- 7 Cour Constitutionnelle du Gabon. Another Gabonese government building you'll get harangued over if you try to photograph.
- 8 Memorial Leon Mba. A memorial to the first president of Gabon post-independence 1960.
- Statuette debrazza de la Corniche.
- Franceville Stadium.
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 roundtrip 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. Contact information: tel. 07 57 14 23 or 06 03 36 36, e-mail: [email protected]
Exchange rates for CFA francs
As of January 2023:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The currency of the country is the Central African CFA franc, denoted FCFA (ISO currency code: XAF). It's also used by five other Central African countries. It is interchangeable at par with the West African CFA franc (XOF), which is used by six countries. Both currencies are fixed at a rate of 1 euro = 655.957 CFA francs.
All Ecobank ATMs in Gabon take Mastercard and Visa card for cash withdrawal.
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 FCFA 500-2000 and comes in a 650 mL bottle.
There are fantastic fruit juices available: "D'jino" Pampelmousse (grapefruit), Ananas (pineapple), Citron (Lemon) in 300 mL bottles at FCFA 400 and in a 1.5 L bottle at FCFA 900 if bought in a shop.
There is just one main international hotelier in operation in the country - Radisson in the form of Radisson Blu and Park Inn Radisson in Libreville. Apart from this, there are budget and economy hotels in the various municipalities of Gabon.
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 a common disease in Gabon with 8% (1 in 12) of adults infected.
Don't drink the tap water.
The people are generally very friendly, respectful and helpful to visitors.