Going On Safari In Gabon — Part 1

After making it away from the voodoo serpents of Benin, I was ready for a more traditional African animal experience.

It was time to travel to Gabon, yet another one of those Atlantic Coast countries in West Africa. Gabon has some interesting twists, including surprising prices, but also some quite accessible wildlife, which was very timely…

Welcome to Gabon

Arriving in Gabon

As I mentioned last time in Benin, I had planned to go to Nigeria but I had issues getting a visa. Instead, I got to spend ten full days in Gabon, which was just enough to thoroughly explore its incredible nature.

I left Benin and had a brief layover in Douala, Cameroon before landing in Libreville, Gabon. Gabon is a French-speaking country, as are many of the other countries that I visited on this trip, including Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Togo, the Ivory Coast, and Guinea.

What sets Gabon apart is that it is the wealthiest former French colony in the region. It used to be even wealthier than it is today, so it’s quite well developed and pretty expensive to travel.

It’s no Eiffel Tower, but it still looks French.

Gabon uses the Central African franc as their currency, similar to many other countries such as Guinea Bissau, but in Gabon, the prices are five times higher. They have outstanding service there, and high-quality food and so on (for African standards 😅), so it felt like a French experience.

Foie Gras with pears. Am I in Africa or Europe?

So I arrived at the airport, where I was picked up by my cool, young driver. Since it was quite early, I couldn’t check in to the hotel yet. I was very sleepy because I had left Benin early in the morning, but because I couldn’t check-in, we first took a little drive around Libreville. 🥱

Driving around Libreville

Welcome to Libreville

We went to the beach and saw the presidential villa. Gabon is theoretically a democratic country, but as you see in much of Africa, the people in power have been there for a long time.

Exploring the capital

When I visited, apparently the Gabonese president and the Moroccan king, who have a close friendship, were meeting. There was a big chunk of the beach that I wasn’t able to visit later because they were there, so it was blocked off. 🙄

It was too bad we couldn’t go down to the water.

Anyway, I visited the beach near the presidential villa, saw some fishermen catching fish, drove to the northern part of Libreville, saw the stadium there, and then I went to my hotel to rest.

Seeing the sights

In the afternoon, we had to stop to get some money because I didn’t have any of the local currency, which was an issue because my credit card had been blocked. I had to get to a Western Union, but it took quite a while to find an office, as had happened to me previously in Argentina. 🤦‍♂️

We visited the town a bit, had lunch at a local restaurant, and drove around the city, which has quite a skyline. We were basically waiting for the next day to arrive. We had a nice dinner in the evening and went to bed early in preparation for the next day.

I can’t complain about the food here 😋

Traveling to the Safari Lodge

Early the next day, I was brought to the pier of Libreville where I took a small boat with several other people. The boat went through the Gabon estuary. There’s a big river going into Gabon, separating Libreville from the other side, which is kind of a peninsula. It was about a half-hour boat ride to the other side.

I wonder how the SY Staatenlos would fare on these waters.

We took the boat down the river to arrive at a safari lodge on the other side. We went down the estuary through rivers that became smaller and smaller. It was very nice to pass through the jungle, which was teeming with life, including many mangroves and lots of birds.

I was pleasantly surprised by Gabon’s natural beauty.

The river continued to get narrower and narrower, and much shallower, so we could see the bottom from the surface. After an hour of driving in this very uncomfortable wooden boat, we finally reached the lodge’s pier. We got off the boat and jumped into the back of a land cruiser. We sat on benches and gritted our teeth through an extremely bumpy one-hour drive through the jungle to the lodge. 😬

It’s an interesting area to see. It isn’t flat, as I might have expected. There are lots of trees and many areas with nice savanna grasslands as well, where elephants and many other wild animals roam freely.

The beautiful landscape

The Usual Safari Stuff

We reached the lodge, where I was welcomed by the nice local French owner. It’s quite a basic lodge, but I got a nice hut. The amazing thing about this lodge is not only the bar, which had literally 30 types of alcohol for free, but also that you can walk around freely in this beautiful area directly on the beach.

Luckily I was not on a detox this time.

The beach there is amazing as the lodge is located directly by the gentle part of the sea, in the doldrums with no high waves. It’s pretty famous for having whales and dolphins, but I wasn’t there during the right season to see that. You can go for miles and miles along the beach there without seeing anyone, except for maybe some elephants or other big animals at the beach, but luckily that didn’t happen to me. 😅 The area is free of lions and other big cats, but you could still encounter big animals, theoretically.

This beautiful beach has a lot of wild animals passing through.

The main thing we did at the lodge was game drives, so, the usual safari stuff. We went for hours and hours around the park and saw some nice views. There are some hills with very scenic views that were nice to visit.

Ready for adventure in our sturdy safari vehicle 😅

We saw a lot of elephants, which are the main attraction of this park.

We found the herd.

Apparently, there are also gorillas and other monkeys, but we didn’t see them, so we mostly encountered elephants and some small deer.

Lone ranger

One elephant got very close to us. You could actually see that he was angry and wanted to attack, and he chased us. Luckily, our guide was faster than the elephant.

We managed to escape this angry elephant seconds before he attacked.

Interesting Characters

There were some interesting people at the lodge. On the weekend, practically anyone who has the money and the time goes to the lodge to drink.

The safari lodge

There was a funny German guy who told me about his life. In the fifties, he left Germany in his little car to drive from Munich to Cape Town. He got stuck in Gabon, got married, and basically is living out the rest of his life there.

He earned quite a bit of money from forestry, so he was pretty well off, and he spent some time complaining to me about the good old times when the Gabon franc was worth twice as much as the French franc and he was super-rich. He joked that he’s been waiting fifty years now for the replacement for his car so that he could get out of Gabon, and that’s why he’s stuck there. 😂

I chatted with some other people at the lodge, too, and we talked about my travels and lifestyle, which was interesting.

Last Day at the Lodge

Outside of the game drive, on our last morning at the lodge, we went for a game walk. We walked through the bushlands for a while to see the elephants, whom we got pretty close to. We also saw some other animals.

These buffalo seemed happy in their lush green home.

As I said, they have some amazing beaches where you can walk for miles and miles, so I took some time to enjoy walking down the beach, as well, the day before we left.

Enjoying a walk at the beach

There was no internet there, so I just did some work on my offline projects, including planning this year’s Heuereka. I enjoyed the beach and went swimming in the very gentle sea.

The water was so refreshing.

At some point, we had to take a bumpy car ride back to the pier, and then we took a boat from there. The weather was bad and unfortunately, we had no shelter on the boat, so we (and all of our belongings) got extremely wet along the way back to the mainland. 💦

More Adventures to Come…

We arrived back in Libreville in the early afternoon.

Back in Libreville

We saw some sights around the city, and I went back to the same hotel where I stayed before so that I could rest because the next morning I had to be up early to fly to Loango National Park. Loango is one of the most famous national parks in West Africa, which I will write all about next time.