With a vast sprawl of virgin rainforests and teeming wildlife, its major cities, however, are a sophisticated bustle of glitz, lights and casinos. Gabon offers a little of everything to just about everyone.
COUNTRY IN BRIEF
Official Name : Gabonese Republic
Capital : Libreville
Major Cities : Libreville, Gamba, Kango and Lucina
Government : Republic
Area : 257,670 sq km
Population : 1,545,255 (2010 est.)
Time Zone : GMT +1
Languages : French (official), Fang, Myene, Nzebi, Bapounou/Eschira, Bandjabi
Religion : Muslim 1%, Christian 95%, Indigenous beliefs 4%
Currency : Central African CFA Franc (CFA)
This West African country with the Atlantic as its western border is also bounded by Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, and the Congo. Its area is slightly less than Colorado's. Most of the country is covered by a dense tropical forest.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Although boasting magnificent beaches on its Atlantic seaboard, Gabon’s major attractions are its rainforest, vast variety of birds, and many species of primate. The rainforest is rich in wildlife and contains more than 8,000 species of plant and 600 species of bird. The forest, the savannah, swamps and rivers provide an ideal habitat for elephant, buffalo, panther, anthelope, hippopotami, crocodile, gorilla, chimpanzee, brilliant butterflies and colorful birds, including the gray parrot, emblem of Air Gabon. The many rivers and lagoons are teaming with fish and the long Atlantic seaboard makes Gabon a paradise for deep-sea fishing. It is said that Gabon is home to four fifths of Africa’s gorilla’s and chimpanzees. Although numerous, these shy primates are not used to tourists so sightings may be fleeting and unpredictable.
Even though Gabon is rich in natural resources, poor fiscal management has hindered the economy though improvements are underway. The oil industry is the key to Gabon's economy. Manganese mining is another key industry. Gabon also has a wealth of agricultural and fishery resources though largely neglected. Most of the population however relies on subsistence farming.
Gabon is an average Joe as far as equatorial climate go – hot, humid and cloudy. Throughout the year temperatures hover around the 30°C (86°F) mark and rarely drop below 20°C (68°F). June to August provides slightly cooler days and some respite from the rain.
Gabon has a diverse ethnic makeup, although most of the inhabitants are Bantu-speaking. Of the country's approximately 40 ethnic groups, most belong to the Fang, Mpongwe, M'Bete, and Punu groups. Europeans, mostly French, are a minority. Pygmies, believed to be the original inhabitants, are only a few thousand. About 90 percent of the population is Christian, primarily Roman Catholic, and about 5 percent is Muslim.
Masks have been very important in the tribal life of Gabon. Each mask represented the spirit linked to the life of the village and gave support and rules to individuals. Those that did not follow them were punished. The mask carved by an artist was approved of by the priest and introduced in a ceremony. At the end of their life, masks were destroyed according to specific rites which enabled them to pass their occult powers on to other masks. Masks were as varied and different as were tribes. Folklore is an important element in Gabonese culture. Its music has not been touched by outside influences, even though modern music has evolved separately. Gabon's folklore seems close to the ancient art of the minstrel, where a storyteller, accompanying himself on the harp, recites half spoken, half sung epics. The shape and the playing of musical instruments has remained practically unchanged throughout the years. Drums, Tom-tom, balafon or xylophone are some common musical instruments.
Gabonese cuisine is the cooking traditions, practices, foods and dishes associated with the sovereign state of Gabon. French cuisine is prevalent as a notable influence, and in larger cities various French specialties are available. In rural areas, food staples such as cassava, rice and yams are commonly used. Meats, when available, include chicken and fish, and bush meats such as antelope, wild boar and monkey. Sauces are often utilized, with hot red pepper berbere paste used commonly. Fruits include bananas, papayas, guavas, mangoes, pineapples, coconuts, avocado and peanuts. Plantains, tomatoes, corn, and eggplant are also used.
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With its big ocean-view hotels, office buildings, wide highway, fancy shops and cavalcade of taxis, Libreville looks more like a Miami Beach than a major African city. Just to prove the point, its prices are big-time cosmopolitan as well: Libreville is one of the most expensive cities in the world. There is no lack of nightline, either: the African quarters are full of fairly cheap places to eat and drink. They are easy to get to, not half as dangerous or rough as some other African capitals and the hard-partying locals are always up for a beer or (just as likely), a French Champagne.
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The oil town of Port-gentil is built on an island (Ille de Mandji) at the mouth of the Ogooue River. The northern part of the island, Cap Lopez, is full of expatriates, top-end hotels and the only decent beach. Port-Gentil has more restaurant, stores and clubs per capita than any other African city. The African quarters are cheaper than the top-end of town and offer a host of inexpensive restaurants, bars and clubs that are as lively and interesting as those in Libreville and even safer to visit. A casino and a decent hospital are also available.
Cirque de Lekoni
East of Franceville, the savanna rises up into the Bateke Plateu, a dry, cool and flat stretch of land that extends south and east into Congo. Lekoni is a small, quiet place and a few
kilometers out of town is the spectacular Cirque de Lekoni, a deep, circular red-rock canyon that looks like somethong from the American southwest.
Mayumba would be Gabon’s premier beach resort if it were not so hard to get to. Anyone who does get this far will discover miles and miles of deserted beaches, mangrove swamps and small fishing villages as well as the small town of Mayumba, where you will probably be offered a place to stay in a private home. The town is at the end of a long spit of land with ocean on one side and a brackish lagoon on the other and locals will offer to take you on fishing trips or boat tours of the region for a small price. It is a great place to spend a few lazy beach days enjoying the sun, the waves, fresh seafood, peace and quiet.
Reserve de la Lope
The Reserve de la Lope is Gabon’s most accessible wildlife reserve, where you stand a good chance of seeing forest elephants, buffalos and a variety of primates. Recently the reserve has initiated gorilla walks in an attempt to habituate the gorilla population to the presence of small groups of humans. Tours by pirogue, jeep and foot are available.
OIC Tourism Directory