Going On Safari In Gabon — Part 2

You ready to go back out into the Gabonese wilderness and this time go on safari with some more enticing wildlife? For instance, hallucinating elephants (yeah, that’s a thing) and swimming elephants, as well. Plus we can head deep into the jungle to find gorillas in their natural habitat.

We last left off in Gabon, where I had ten days total to enjoy the country. Upon my arrival, I visited the capital of Libreville, where I enjoyed some fine French food and saw some of the city sights before heading off on another adventure. I spent a few days at a nice lodge where I got to go on multiple safaris to see wild elephants, and I met some interesting characters.

An elephant spotted on a safari from the lodge

After leaving the lodge, I spent one night back in Libreville before taking off early the next morning for Loango National Park in the west of Gabon. Loango is one of the most famous national parks in West Africa, as it’s widely considered to be one of the last great coastal wildernesses on the continent.

Join us now as we continue on our wild adventure in Gabon.

Transportation Troubles

I took an early flight from Libreville toward Loango with Afrijet Airline. They have their own terminal, which is quite nice and feels like a private jet although it’s a regular flight. It was only a thirty-minute flight to Port-Gentil, which is Gabon’s second-largest city. It’s in the south, and it’s quite wealthy because of the oil industry there.

Ready to touchdown in Port-Gentil

Driving overland from Libreville to Port-Gentil would have taken thirty hours because it goes a long way through the jungle and takes a big detour, but the flight is only thirty minutes. Because of that, the flight was packed with other people who didn’t want to take the long road. After landing, I got picked up by a car and was driven to a seaside restaurant for breakfast. From there, my driver took me the rest of the way to Loango Park.

It should have only taken about three or four hours by car. However, around an hour before our expected arrival at the park, the car broke down in the middle of nowhere in the savannah. We tried to fix the car but to no avail. We tried many different things, but nothing worked. Finally, we caught a ride to a nearby village where we tried to fix it, but nothing helped. 😩

There’s nothing worse than car problems on a hot day.

Luckily, something like 45 minutes later, there was another truck coming. Earlier, no truck had been coming for us, so my guide had to walk about 50 minutes to the next village while I stayed in the car and waited for his return. The car coming had three French guys who were also on their way to Loango Park. They tried to fix the car, but after another hour of trying, still, nothing was working. I don’t know what the issue was, but in the end, I left the driver alone with the car to figure it out. I had already lost two and a half hours and didn’t want to be late for my safari. ⌛

I was lucky that those three guys had an extra space and they offered to take me with them to the park. One of the guys was a French expat living in Libreville, and the other two were his friends coming to visit him. It was nice to drive there together and talk with the guys a bit. It took about one more hour on very bumpy roads before we finally made it to Loango Park.

Settling into Camp

We started at a lagoon, where we traded in the car in favor of a boat. The boat took us to the other side of the lagoon, and from there we had another half-hour drive to camp in a safari vehicle. On the way to the camp, we already saw our first animals, although we hadn’t spotted any elephants yet. Loango is famous for its elephants, but we would see those later.

Some rare red river hogs

I stayed at the camp on the lagoon, which was very scenic. The lagoon is close to the ocean, so you could hear the waves breaking all the way from camp. The big lagoon actually looks more like a river. It’s about 50 meters to the other side, with a sand bank on one side and mangroves on the other. I stayed there, directly over the water, in a house on stilts.

My digs for the next few days

There was a nice sign there that warned people against swimming because of the crocodiles, sharks, hippos, and so on. 😰

Sharks and hippos and crocs. Oh my!

It was a very small camp, and I was just there with the French guys that I had met along the way. There was a small bar at the camp and a little restaurant where we went to enjoy our meals.

The Game Begins

That afternoon we were going for a game drive, so we went back to the safari vehicle and drove around the area, searching for wildlife. We were mostly looking for elephants, monkeys, and deer. Similar to the last park I visited, we saw lots of elephants in Loango.

The nice thing about Loango is that you can sometimes see them directly at the beach. Sometimes they even wade in the Atlantic Ocean and surf in the waves. Unfortunately, we didn’t really see that, but we did see lots and lots of elephants around the park. Interestingly, the elephants in Loango are also known to have a bit of a hallucinogenic habit. They eat a lot of a local plant called iboga, which is known to have psychedelic effects. 😵‍💫

A happy herd

We saw the herds and watched them graze around the beach, although I didn’t get a nice photo of them on the sand because the angle was bad. But basically, the elephants were always about 20 meters from the ocean.

Trotting together alongside the ocean

We saw other animals as well, such as crocodiles, monkeys, and even some gorillas. There were hippos around as well, and some different types of antelopes. There are no big cats there, at least that I saw. Supposedly there are some leopards around, but it would be very difficult to spot them.

There were so many beautiful animals.

Gorilla Day

The next day was a big day, as we would go to see the gorillas, which we were all very excited about. Visiting the gorillas is one of the main things for tourists to do in Gabon. This would already be my third encounter with gorillas, after Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic in December. In the CAR I had seen lowland gorillas, which is what I saw in Gabon as well. So it was my second experience with the lowland gorillas, and I would have my third just a few days later in Congo (the other Congo 😂).

We took a boat to some kind of island or peninsula, where we were required to take covid tests. Gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases, so we had to take a rapid antigen test to protect the gorillas. We also had to wear a mask so that we wouldn’t spread anything to the gorillas. 😷

View from the boat

We got back in the boat and took off. There were trackers around that told us where the gorillas were so we could find them easily. After about ten minutes on the boat, we walked for another 20 minutes through the jungle, which was pretty easy, although we went deep into the jungle to see the gorilla family.

A gorilla deep in the jungle

It was a nice experience, even though I had already done it twice before. In the CAR, we’d had to hike a lot, but here it was a pretty basic hike to find the family. We stayed about one hour and watched the gorillas in their natural habitat.

There was one big silverback, some females, and some babies riding on top of the other gorillas.

A mother and her infant 🥺

Getting to see wild gorillas again was an exciting experience. Even though the gorillas are tracked here, they’re completely wild, living in their nice habitat near the Atlantic Ocean. Sometimes they even venture to the beach as well, but mostly they stay in the forest, where they can forage for food.

This was the first time that I got to observe gorillas climbing. The other two times I had seen them, the gorillas were mostly on the ground and didn’t go in the trees. This time, I got to see how the gorillas climb the trees, moving through the treetops and jumping from branch to branch.

I felt like I could watch them forever. Luckily I won’t have to wait long to see them again!

More and More Elephants

After seeing the gorillas in the morning, we went out for another safari in the afternoon. The next morning we went on yet another safari, so basically, we got to see more and more elephants.

An adorable family enjoying a day at the beach

Another cool thing we did was a canoe tour. My guide and I jumped into a canoe from our lodge and just explored the area more quietly in the canoe. We got pretty close to some elephants that were directly at the shore drinking water.

I couldn’t believe we got so close to these gigantic creatures in the water!

We had the amazing experience of getting to see elephants wading through the lagoon.

This was an amazing experience.

They had to swim to cross from one side to another. That was the first time I had the opportunity to see swimming elephants, and it was cool to see.

Elephants swimming across!

We also got to see some monkeys and hippos. At some point, we switched from the canoe back to the boat and went on another safari to see more elephants and stuff like that.

A perfect day

Back in Libreville

Finally, after a nice long time at the lodge, it was time to go. Fortunately, unlike my first day in Gabon, the drive back was fairly quick and uneventful with no car problems. This time I had a good car and a good driver who took me to the airport, where I flew directly to Libreville.

I got picked up in Libreville and had two more nights to spend at a hotel there. The next day I was supposed to visit a nice beach on the other side of the estuary. However, as I mentioned last time, the beach was closed for the Gabonese president and Moroccan king to have a nice holiday.

So I had to choose an alternative program, which consisted of sightseeing around Libreville. There’s a nice church there with lots of wood-carving art, which was nice to see. I saw some other places around the city too, but nothing too special.

The intricate carved church

I did want to go to the beach, and I had some work to catch up on since there hadn’t been any internet in Loango National Park. I spent the afternoon chilling out at the hotel, working and enjoying the nice pool there.

I got to enjoy some Gabonese street food too!

The next day, I was ready to say goodbye to Gabon and head to Congo. I took a direct flight from Libreville to Brazzaville and went off to spend five days in Congo.

Join in next time to continue on our African adventure!