And now for something slightly different! This post comes courtesy of Luba Fateeva – a food and travel blogger at Orange Holiday. Luba spent nine years living in the Netherlands and now resides in Gabon, located on the west coast of central Africa. Not on your radar? I have to admit it wasn’t on mine either, but after Luba gave the lowdown (complete with some pretty inspiring photos), I might just have to add it to my list of places to visit. Here’s what she had to say…
Every time I go back home, my family and friends ask me the same question about Gabon over and over again. Why visit? If you’ve never considered travelling to Gabon, check out these 12 reasons to visit this stunning country, which might just change your mind:
1. Gabon is the last Eden on Earth
… or so they say, and I couldn’t agree more! Anyone considering a trip to Gabon can look forward to plenty of adventure in a naturally stunning and non-touristy environment.
2. Photographer’s paradise
Gabon has amazing and unspoilt nature with diverse wildlife. Witnessing and photographing animals in their natural habitat is one of the primary reasons to visit Gabon. It is THE place to be for bird watchers and anyone enamoured with nature. The best thing here is that you won’t have to stand in line to buy entrance tickets or push your way through a crowd of tourists to take a picture – those prestige white sand beaches, national parks and jungle roads are just for you!
3. Elephants galore
90% of Gabon’s landmass is equatorial rainforest, 10% of that has national park status and it’s home to 50% of Africa’s forest elephants. It is absolutely incredible to watch elephants in their natural environment – a must see for any visitor here.
4. Turtle watching
Gabon hosts the world’s largest population of nesting leatherback turtles as well as the most significant nesting site for Olive Ridley turtles in the entire Atlantic Ocean basin. The season of turtles nesting and hatching is between October and March each year. This is the time when I am ready to receive a 6.00am or a midnight phone call from one of the local turtle watchers letting me know that the hatching or laying of eggs has began. That means I need to jump in the car as quickly as possible and drive to the beach (15-20 min away) to be on time to see the miracle take place. You simple cannot miss this opportunity to see it with your own eyes — it’s a real life experience of birth as they are released into the ocean, struggle to crawl, yet overcome all obstacles. It is very special and memorable moment.
5. Game fishing
For those who love fishing Gabon is the place to be. It is a renowned destination, especially the Loango National Park, for catching big carnage, carp rouge, barracudas, bars and giant African threadfins. Enjoy a full day fishing in the beautiful waters of Ndogo and Iguela lagoons and reap the rewards with freshly caught fish for dinner. Nothing tastes better!
6. Night time crocodile tracking
This one is still on my list to do. It is a thrilling (but safe) activity suitable for all ages. With an experienced guide, the boat will cruise close to the edge of the mangroves and the lagoon. The guide will shine powerful lights onto the riverbanks, so watch out for the red eyes reflection – that’s a crocodile!
7. Jeep or boat safari
The best way to explore Gabon at a slow and enjoyable pace is by car and boat. Whilst cruising through savanas or rivers you can see exceptional abundance of wildlife such as elephants, hippos, buffalos, antelopes, monkeys and a number of birds like the hornbill and turaco.
8. Visit a Bwiti village and witness some of their rituals
Consider yourself very lucky if you have ever had a chance to visit a local village in Gabon. Some places are still very traditional and due to their remoteness impossible to visit. But if you have a chance and a good guide with you, don’t miss this unique opportunity.
This is a full on action activity for true pioneers who want to trek and packraft across the Ivindo National Park and the Equator itself. You can explore two separate Gabonese river systems, the Djidji and the Kongou and packraft to Central Africa’s highest Djidji falls. On this journey be sure to see untouched paradise of thick jungle, white sand beaches and other-worldly landscapes.
10. Camping on the beach
Finding a good camping spot in Gabon is quite easy. You can set up your tent right on a beach or in the forest. Enjoying the sunset and the ocean view with a glass of wine is one of the most simple, yet amazing things in life.
11. Bike rides
This is one of my personal favourites. I love my regular escapes on the quad along the beach or to the hills of beautiful Vera Plaines near Gamba village. This is always a breath of fresh air for me and provides a feeling of great freedom.
12. Whale watching
Last, but not least on my list is whale watching – another very good reason to visit Gabon. From late June to mid-September the waters of Gabon are visited by migrating humpback whales, breeding off the coast of Gabon and then travelling back south to the cold waters of the Antartic where they feed. Going out on a boat with a skipper is a very special experience on its own. On top of that you will see these impressive, powerful mammals passing right by your boat. You might even be lucky to see them waving their tails at you!
Like what you see? Head over to Luba’s blog to see more inspiring stuff from Gabon and beyond.