Inspired by Michael Fay’s “Megatransect”, I dreamed of visiting Gabon to see the pristine rainforest and for an opportunity to see hippos and elephants surf in the ocean waves. Gabon did not disappoint and delivered an exclusive visit to Ivindo and Loango National Parks – how often have you been the only visitor in a national park?
The capital of Gabon is Libreville and was named because this is where the slaves were freed. This is commemorated by this half man/half woman statue on the Bord du Mer in Libreville. With a population of only 1.5 million in the entire country, Libreville is relaxed, uncongested and full of greenery.
Ivindo National Park
Traveling by overnight train followed by a 5 hour car trip, we arrived at Ivindo National Park and met our guides who would take us through the park. I traveled with Virginie for this part of the trip as this would have been very difficult without a proficiency in French. Inside the park we traveled by pirogue up the Ivindo river for 3 hours until we reached our camp at Kongou Falls.
Threatened by a project to dam the falls, it was a huge surprise to discover the project had been cancelled – an environmental victory! The water in the Ivindo River looks just like iced tea due to the tannins from the leaves falling into the river. Note the foam too!
Hiking in the dense rainforest meant that you could hear a lot of things, but it was tough to see the animals. We saw many birds, butterflies and insects and were very close to chimps, red river hogs and loads of primates. You could see primates such as putty-nosed monkeys and moustached guenons better from the boat on the river as they moved or slept in the trees along the banks.