Gabon is located on the western shores of the African continent and straddles the Equator. Its central, equatorial location gives it a tropical, humid climate and over 80% of Gabon is covered in rainforest. Gabon has been proactive in its efforts to protect and preserve its wildlife. In 2002, its president Omar Bonjo Ondimba allocated around 10% of Gabon’s land to be part of their national park system, which now includes 13 national parks.
Gabon is an ideal location for those interested in viewing primates and one the largest populations of western lowland gorillas can be found here along with large numbers other primates such as chimpanzees and mandrills. Due to the dense foliage and hot and humid conditions in Gabon, finding and viewing the wildlife can be difficult, much more difficult than in open areas such as Masai Mara, Kenya, Serengeti, Tanzania or Kruger, South Africa. Even more difficult to spot are the surfing hippos, which apparently have been seen bodysurfing in the ocean waves off of Gabon’s sandy beaches. It’s on these sandy beaches that one of the world’s largest populations of leatherback turtles nest.
In addition to the ‘traditional’ animals one expects to see on an African safari, whale-watching is also popular off the shores of Loango National Park. The sighting rates of humpback whales and dolphins for excursions between the months of mid-July through mid-September are purportedly close to 100%, making for a very productive outing.
Gabon is a sparsely inhabited country and much of its landscape is pristine, unvisited and uninhabited, making it a stellar safari destination for well-seasoned travelers. Its infrastructure is poor to non-existent and its lack of experience with tourism mean locals, and local police, are not completely sure how to deal with foreign tourists. The dense jungle and harsh conditions, coupled with the generally lower standards in accommodations, might make Gabon less desirable for first-time safari goers. Pricing remains competitive but the overall tourism infrastructure is of an overall lower standard and travelers planning on visiting Gabon should bear this in mind.