Loango National Park
The coastal Loango National Park is one of the country’s most prized and precious habitats comprising more than 1,550 km² of dense rainforest, open savannah, vast tidal lagoons and winding waterways with a breath-taking diversity of wildlife. Loango is one of the best places in the world to spend time with western lowland gorillas, trekking along forest trails to visit the large group of habituated gorillas that thrive here. On the wild Atlantic coastline, forest elephants, buffalo and hippos roam wild on the palm-fringed, white sand beaches while migrating dolphins, whales and nesting sea turtles can all be seen depending on the season. From mid-July to mid-September, humpback whales visit the coastal waters around Loango Lodge during their annual migration. A labyrinth of waterways cross-cross the park, dotted with tiny islands abundant with wildlife. We’ll take to the water to enjoy the wildlife including large troupes of monkeys and rare bird species such as rosy bee-eaters, quail finch, weavers and Congo River martins.
Lopé National Park
Located right on the equator and bordered by the beautiful Ogooué River, Lopé National Park is the oldest conservation area in Gabon and one of the most diverse tracts of rainforest in the Congo Basin. This lush mountain ecosystem – now a UNESCO World Heritage site – is interspersed with pockets of ancient grassland and savannah and features an extraordinary range of wildlife including forest elephant and buffalo, western lowland gorilla, chimpanzees, leopard, black colobus monekys, sun-tailed guenon, yellow-backed duiker and sitantunga. The Lope region was first inhabited in Palaeolithic times more than 40,000 years ago and the landscape is considered one of Africa’s most important prehistoric sites with archaeological treasures recording these ancient hunter-gatherer settlements. As well as spending time with gorillas, you’ll have the chance to take part in the Wildlife Conservation Society’s daily research programme studying wildlife behaviour including elephants and primates. Lope is the world’s most important refuge for mandrill monkeys and during the dry season in July and August, it’s possible to witness huge gatherings of this large colourful monkey mandrills – up to 800 individuals at a time.
Albert Schweitzer Hospital
Albert Schweitzer was a doctor, philosopher, missionary, musician and ecologist who founded his world-renowned hospital in Labarene over a century ago to atone, he said, for all the “terrible crimes” committed by European colonialists. Visiting the hospital is a fascinating experience, and there is also an excellent museum. The hospital has ensured adequate healthcare access for everyone in the region, with patients only contributing what they can afford.
Bwiti is a ritualistic belief system thought to have originated from the Babongo Pygmy people. The form of the Bwiti ceremony varies depending on the specific ethnic group, but the rites and rituals are almost always led by the “N’ganga”, a shamanic figure. The N’gangais performas rites accompanied by percussion, singing and music and participants’ ingestion of the psychoactive iboga plant – all said to induce healing and trance-like states. The Iboga plant has a similar significance in Gabonese tribal culture as ayahuasca does for indigenous peoples in South America. Please note that if we are able to attend a ceremony, we will be there as observers, not participants.