Gabon Travel Guide: Essential Facts and Information

Gabon Travel Guide Essential Facts and Information
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Gabon is a beautiful Central African destination known for its lush national parks, which together account for around 10% of the country's total land mass. These parks protect a bounty of rare wildlife – including the elusive forest elephant and the critically endangered western lowland gorilla. Outside its parks, Gabon boasts pristine beaches and a reputation for political stability. The capital, Libreville, is a modern urban playground. 

Location:

Gabon is located on Africa's Atlantic coast, just north of the Republic of Congo and south of Equatorial Guinea. It is intersected by the equator and shares an inland border with Cameroon.

Geography:

Gabon covers a total area of 103,346 square miles/267,667 square kilometers, making it comparable in size to New Zealand, or slightly smaller than Colorado.

Capital City:

The capital of Gabon is Libreville

Population:

According to the CIA World Factbook, July 2018 estimates put Gabon's population at just over 2.1 million people. 

Languages:

The official language of Gabon is French. More than 40 indigenous languages are spoken as a first or second tongue, the most prevalent of which is Fang. 

Religion:

Christianity is the dominant religion in Gabon, with Catholicism being the most popular denomination. In total, 82% of the population identifies as Christian while Islam accounts for nearly 10%.

Currency:

Gabon's currency is the Central African CFA Franc. Use this website for up-to-date exchange rates. 

Climate: 

Gabon has an equatorial climate defined by warm temperatures and high humidity. The dry season lasts from June to August, while the main rainy season falls between October and May. Temperatures remain constant throughout the year, with an average of around 77°F/25 ℃. 

When to Go:

The best time to travel to Gabon is during the June to August dry season. At this time, the weather is better, the roads are more navigable and there are fewer mosquitoes (therefore reducing your chances of contracting mosquito-borne diseases). The dry season is also a good time for going on safari as animals tend to congregate around water sources, making them easier to spot. 

Key Attractions:

Gabon's capital is a thriving city with upmarket hotels and restaurants for the luxury traveler. It also offers beautiful beaches and a choice of lively markets that together provide a more authentic insight into urban Africa. The Museum of Arts and Traditions and the Gabon National Museum are cultural highlights, while the capital is known for its vibrant nightlife and music scene.

Bordered on one side by the Atlantic Ocean, beautiful Loango National Park offers a unique blend of coastal adventure and inland safari. Sometimes, the wildlife of the forest even ventures out onto the park's idyllic white sand beaches. Top sightings include gorillas, leopards and elephants, while nesting turtles and migrating whales can be spotted on the coast in-season. 

Lopé National Park is the easiest national park to get to from Libreville, making it the country's most popular destination for wildlife-viewing. It is especially known for its rare primate species, including western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees and colorful mandrills. It is also one of the best spots for birders, providing a home for bucket list species like the grey-necked rockfowl and the rosy bee-eater.

Separated from Libreville by the Gabon Estuary, Pointe Denis is the country's most popular seaside resort. It offers a number of luxury hotels and several stunning beaches, all of which are perfect for watersports ranging from sailing to snorkeling. Nearby Pongara National Park is renowned as a breeding site for the vulnerable leatherback turtle. 

Getting There:

Libreville's Léon M'ba International Airport (LBV) is the main port of entry for most overseas visitors. It is serviced by several major airlines, including Air France, Ethiopian Airways and Turkish Airlines. Visitors from most countries (including Europe, Australia, Canada and the U.S.) need a visa to enter the country. You can apply for your Gabon visa online - see this website for more information. 

Medical Requirements:

Yellow fever vaccination is an entry requirement for visitors from all countries. This means that you will need to provide proof of vaccination before you are allowed to board your plane. If you live in the U.S., be aware that shortages of the yellow fever vaccine mean that you should organize yours several months in advance. Be prepared to travel some distance to reach your nearest clinic.

Other recommended vaccines include hepatitis A and typhoid, while anti-malaria pills are also required. Cases of Zika virus have been reported in Gabon, so pregnant women or those that are trying to conceive should consult their doctor about the risks of traveling there. For a full list of health advice, see the CDC website

This article was updated and re-written in part by Jessica Macdonald on April 26, 2019. 

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