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Gabon travel Guide - Travel S Helper


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Gabon, formally the Gabonese Republic, is a sovereign state on Central Africa’s west coast. Gabon is located on the equator and is bounded to the northwest by Equatorial Guinea, to the north by Cameroon, to the east and south by the Republic of the Congo, and to the west by the Gulf of Guinea. It has a land area of about 270,000 square kilometers (100,000 square miles) and a population of 1.5 million people. Libreville is the country’s capital and largest city.

Gabon has had three presidents since its independence from France in 1960. Gabon established a multi-party system and a new democratic constitution in the early 1990s, allowing for a more transparent electoral process and reforming numerous administrative institutions. Gabon also served as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council from 2010 to 2011.

Abundant petroleum and foreign private investment have helped Gabon become one of the most wealthy nations in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the fourth highest HDI and the third highest GDP per capita (PPP) in the area (after Equatorial Guinea and Botswana). From 2010 to 2012, GDP increased by more than 6% every year. However, due to income disparity, a sizable segment of the population remains impoverished.

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Gabon - Info Card




Central African CFA franc (XAF)

Time zone



267,667 km2 (103,347 sq mi)

Calling code


Official language


Gabon - Introduction


Gabon has a population of around 1.5 million people. Between 1900 and 1940, Gabon’s population declined due to historical and environmental causes. Gabon has one of Africa’s lowest population densities and the fourth highest Human Development Index in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ethnic groups

Almost every Gabonese person is of Bantu ancestry. Gabon is home to at least forty ethnic groups, each with its own language and culture. Although the Fang are usually believed to be the biggest, new census statistics seem to favor the Nzebi. The Myene, Kota, Shira, Puru, and Kande are among the others. Gabon’s ethnic borders are less defined than in other African countries. There are also Pygmy peoples like as the Bongo, Kota, and Baka, who speak the sole non-Bantu language in Gabon.

The majority of ethnicities are dispersed across Gabon, resulting in continuous contact and interaction amongst the groups. Interethnic marriage is very frequent, which helps to alleviate ethnic conflicts. The language of its previous colonial master, French, is a uniting factor. The historical dominance of the Democratic Party of Gabon (PDG) has also helped to unify different nationalities and local interests into a broader whole. Gabon is home to about 10,000 native French people, including an estimated 2,000 dual nationalities.


Gabon’s major faiths include Christianity (Roman Catholicism and Protestantism), Bwiti, Islam, and indigenous animistic religion. Many people practice aspects of both Christianity and ancient indigenous religious systems. Approximately 73 percent of the population, including noncitizens, practice at least some elements of Christianity, including the syncretistic Bwiti; 12 percent practice Islam (of whom 80 to 90 percent are foreigners); 10 percent practice traditional indigenous religious beliefs exclusively; and 5 percent practice no religion or are atheists.


Gabon is a country in central Africa on the Atlantic coast. Between latitudes 3°N and 4°S, and longitudes 8° and 15°E, it is located on the equator. Gabon has an equatorial climate with a vast network of rainforests spanning 85 percent of the nation.

There are three different regions: the coastal plains (between 20 and 300 kilometers [10 and 190 miles] from the ocean’s coastline), the mountains (the Cristal Mountains to the northeast of Libreville, the Chaillu Massif in the center, and the savanna to the east). The coastal plains are part of the World Wildlife Fund’s Atlantic Equatorial coastal forests ecoregion, and they include pockets of Central African mangroves, particularly around the Muni River estuary on the Equatorial Guinea border.

Gabon’s longest river, the Ogooué, is 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) long. Gabon has three karst regions, each with hundreds of caverns carved out of dolomite and limestone rocks. Grotte du Lastoursville, Grotte du Lebamba, Grotte du Bongolo, and Grotte du Kessipougou are among the caves. Many caverns are still to be discovered. In the summer of 2008, a National Geographic Expedition visited the caverns to record them.

Gabon is also known for its efforts to protect the environment. President Omar Bongo Ondimba firmly established Gabon as an important future ecotourism destination in 2002 by designating approximately 10% of the country’s area as part of its national park system (with 13 parks in total), one of the world’s biggest amounts of natural parkland. Gabon’s national park system is managed by the National Agency for National Parks.

Petroleum, magnesium, iron, gold, uranium, and forests are examples of natural resources.


It is believed that 80 percent of Gabonese people can communicate in French, with 30 percent of Libreville inhabitants being native speakers. The Fang language is spoken as a mother tongue by 32 percent of Gabonese people.

The country announced its intention to add English as a second official language in October 2012, just before the 14th summit of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, reportedly in response to a French investigation into corruption in the African country, though a government spokesman insisted it was for practical reasons only. Later clarifications revealed that the nation planned to teach English as a first foreign language in schools while maintaining French as the primary medium of instruction.


The economy of Gabon is driven by oil. Oil earnings account for approximately 46 percent of the government’s budget, 43 percent of GDP, and 81 percent of exports. Oil output is presently falling fast, having peaked at 370,000 barrels per day in 1997. According to some predictions, Gabonese oil will be depleted by 2025. Despite declining oil income, preparation for an after-oil future is just now starting. The Grondin Oil Field was found in 1971 at 50 m (160 ft) sea depths 40 km (25 mi) offshore and produces from Maastrichtian age Batanga sandstones producing an anticline salt structural trap about 2 km (1.2 mi) deep.

Gabonese governmental expenditures from years of substantial oil wealth were inefficiently spent. Overspending on the Trans-Gabon Railway, the depreciation of the CFA franc in 1994, and years of low oil prices all contributed to severe financial issues that continue to haunt the nation.

Gabon has a bad reputation with the Paris Club and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) due to poor debt and income management. Successive IMF missions have chastised the government for overspending on non-budget items (both in good and poor years), overborrowing from the Central Bank, and delaying privatization and administrative reform. Gabon, on the other hand, successfully completed a 15-month Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF in September 2005. In May 2007, a new three-year Stand-By Agreement with the IMF was agreed. Gabon was unable to achieve its economic objectives under the Stand-By Arrangement in 2009 due to the financial crisis and social events surrounding the death of President Omar Bongo and the elections. Negotiations with the IMF were still under progress.

Gabon’s oil earnings have resulted in an exceptionally high per capita GDP of $8,600 for the area. However, there is a lopsided economic distribution and low social indices. The wealthiest 20% of the population make more than 90% of the income, while about one-third of Gabonese people live in poverty.

The economy is heavily reliant on extraction, although basic resources are plentiful. Prior to the discovery of oil, the Gabonese economy was based on forestry. Today, logging and manganese mining are the two most significant sources of revenue. Recent investigations have led to the discovery of the world’s biggest unexploited iron ore deposit. Remittances from family members in metropolitan areas or subsistence activities offer income for many people who reside in rural regions and do not have access to job opportunities in extractive sectors.

Foreign and domestic commentators have criticized the Gabonese economy’s lack of variety.

Further investment in agriculture or tourism is hampered by a lack of infrastructure. The few notable local investors dominate the limited processing and service industries that do exist.

The government began in the 1990s on a program of privatization of its state-owned businesses and administrative reform, including decreasing public sector employment and pay increases, at the request of the World Bank and IMF, but progress has been sluggish. The new administration has stated its intention to strive toward the country’s economic reform, although this objective will be difficult to achieve.

Entry Requirements For Gabon

A visa to visit the Gabon costs about €70. On arrival, the visa may be bought in euros or local francs in the right hand queue after leaving the aircraft. According to reports, this is no longer allowed as of August 2010, and employees coming in Gabon must have a valid visa upon arrival or they would be deported. Most recent foreign visitors in Gabon say that the visa price has risen, claiming to have spent almost €122 for a three-month single-entry visa and more for multiple-entry visas.

How To Travel To Gabon

Get In - By plane

From Paris, Air France and Gabon Airlines travel to Libreville, while from Casablanca, Royal Air Maroc flies to Gabon. Air Service flies from Addis Ababa to Douala (Cameroon), and Ethiopian Airlines flies from Addis Ababa to Douala (Cameroon). There are additional flights to Brazzaville, Congo, on occasion.

On Mondays, Interair flies from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Libreville, Congo, with a layover at Brazzaville, and returns on Wednesdays. On Wednesdays and Fridays, “SAA” flies straight from Johannesburg (South Africa) to Libreville.

From Frankfurt, Lufthansa flies five times each week.

Get In - By car

Although there are many border crossings, the roads are poor and a 4×4 is advised.

How To Travel Around Gabon

Outside of cities, the bus is the most convenient mode of transportation (typically 6- or 9-seater cars, but sometimes minibuses). There are a lot of them, and they’re all extremely inexpensive (e.g. 7000 XAF to go from Libreville to Lamberene). Taxis are abundant and inexpensive inside cities. For one individual, no fare shall exceed 5000. The cost of a ticket is determined on the distance traveled (and whether the driver will be able to find more fares at your destination). A two- or three-minute drive will set you back 100 XAF, while a trip from Owendo railway station to Libreville’s downtown area would set you back 2000 XAF. After 21 hours, taxi rates usually increase.

Get Around - By plane

Oyem, Makouko, and Franceville/Mvengue are among the destinations served by Air Service. Franceville/Mvengue is served by Air Nationale. Except on Tuesdays and Thursdays, there are flights to Franceville/Mvengue every day of the week. Africa’s Connection operates daily flights between Libreville and Port Gentil, as well as weekly flights between Port-Gentil/Libreville and So Tomé and Prncipe and Loango National Park.

Get Around - By car

Although Gabon has some paved roads, a vehicle should sufficient if you are staying in one of the main towns. A 4×4 is needed if you intend on going into any of the dirt roads outside of the main towns. Gabon has fewer than 800 kilometers of asphalt roads, some of which are in poor condition. Even with a 4×4 car, traveling outside of large metropolitan areas during the rainy season is challenging.

Get Around - By train

From Owendo to Franceville, the Trans-Gabon railroad runs. The journey takes 12 to 18 hours and is often delayed. Seasonal variations in train schedules exist. Trains run both directions on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays, according to the current schedule (Basse 2014 as of March 2015). The Omnibus and the Express are the two trains in operation. Both take about the same amount of time, although the Express makes fewer stops at smaller stations. On the Express, air conditioning is available in VIP, 1st, and 2nd class, but only in VIP and 1st class on the omnibus.

Get Around - By bus

A few well-heeled Gabonese businessmen have invested in new buses for bus lines that serve the country’s major cities. Most of these buses go between and within cities with paved highways. These bus companies have significantly expanded their routes after Air Gabon ceased operations.

Get Around - By boat

Boat transport is accessible along Gabon’s coast and hundreds of kilometers up the Ogooue River to Lambarene. Every day, boats depart for Libreville and Port Gentil. Every few days, river excursions are offered from the mouth of the main river at Port Gentil to Lambarene (Albert Schweitzer Hospital). Weekly boat trips between Port Gentil and Omboué (near Loango National Park) are organized by Hotel Olako and last between 3 and 4,5 hours (depending on the type of boat and engine).

Destinations in Gabon

Cities in Gabon

  • Libreville – Capital
  • Cap Lopez
  • Franceville
  • Gamba
  • Kango
  • Lambarene
  • Mayumba
  • Owendo
  • Port-Gentil bordered to the coast of the South Atlantic Ocean

Other destinations in Gabon

  • Akanda National Park — Migratory birds and turtles may be found in Akanda National Park’s mangroves and tidal flats.
  • Banteke Plateau National Park — Forest elephants, buffalo, and antelope live in the Banteke Plateau National Park, which is a savanna connected by rivers with rope bridges for residents.
  • Crystal Mountains National Park — Misty woods rich in orchids, begonias, and other vegetation may be found in Crystal Mountains National Park.
  • Ivindo National Park — Ivindo National Park is home to two of Central Africa’s most beautiful waterfalls, as well as gorillas, chimps, and forest elephants that congregate around the park’s rivers and waterholes.
  • Loango National Park — Loango National Park is a 100-kilometer length of pristine beaches and surrounding rainforest that is both beautiful and a great location to see leopards, elephants, gorillas, and monkeys on the beach.
  • Lopé National Park — a combination of grassland and thick forest along the Ogooue River; take a pirogue ride down the river, see old rock carvings, or follow gorillas or mandrill monkeys with a pygmy guide.
  • Mayumba National Park — Mayumba National Park is a sandy peninsula that is home to the world’s biggest nesting leatherback turtle population.
  • Minkebe National Park — Minkebe National Park is a highland forest with huge sandstone domes where elephants, forest-dwelling antelope, and big pigs may be found.

Money & Shopping in Gabon

Gabon uses the Central African CFA franc (XAF). Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of Congo, and Equatorial Guinea all use it. While the CFA franc (XAF) and the Western African CFA franc (XOF) are technically distinct currencies, they are used interchangeably in all CFA franc (XAF & XOF)-using nations.

The French Treasury backs both CFA francs, which are linked to the euro at €1 = XAF655.957. Banknotes in denominations of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5000, and 10,000 are in circulation.

All Ecobank ATMs in Gabon accept Mastercard and Visa cards for cash withdrawals since 2014.

Festivals & Holidays in Gabon

  • January 1: New Year’s Day
  • March 12: Renovation Day
  • April 1: Easter Monday
  • April 17: Women’s Day
  • May 1: Labour Day
  • May 6: Martyr’s Day
  • May 20: Whit Monday
  • August 15: Assumption
  • August 16: Independence Days
  • August 8: Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
  • November 1: All Saints’ Day
  • October 15: Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
  • December 25: Christmas Day

Culture Of Gabon

Gabon is a nation rich in folklore and mythology, with an oral culture that predates the advent of literacy in the twenty-first century. “Raconteurs” are presently trying to preserve Fang and Nzebis customs like as the mvett and the ingwala.

Gabon is also home to globally renowned masks like the n’goltang (Fang) and the Kota relicary figures. Each tribe has its own collection of masks that are utilized for a variety of purposes. They’re most often seen at traditional rituals like weddings, births, and funerals. Traditionalists primarily use rare local timbers and other valuable materials in their work.


In contrast to regional heavyweights such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon, Gabonese music is less well-known. Patience Dabany, a Gabonese singer and famous live performer, and Annie Flore Batchiellilys, a Gabonese singer and renowned live performer, are among the country’s folk stars. Guitarists Georges Oyendze, La Rose Mbadou, and Sylvain Avara, as well as vocalist Oliver N’Goma, are also well-known.

Rock and hip hop from the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as rumba, makossa, and soukous, are all popular in Gabon. The obala, ngombi (fr), balafon, and traditional drums are all Gabonese folk instruments.


Radio-Diffusion The government-owned and managed Télévision Gabonaise (RTG) transmits in French and indigenous languages. In large cities, color television broadcasts have been launched. Africa No. 1, a commercial radio station, started broadcasting in 1981. It is the continent’s most powerful radio station, with involvement from the French and Gabonese governments, as well as commercial European media.

Two radio stations were held by the government in 2004, while the other seven were privately owned. There were also two government-run and four privately owned television channels. For every 1,000 individuals in 2003, there were an estimated 488 radios and 308 television sets. Cable customers accounted for 11.5 out of every 1,000 individuals. In addition, there were 22.4 personal computers per 1,000 persons in 2003, and 26 people per 1,000 had Internet connection. The Gabonese Press Agency is the country’s press agency, and it produces Gabon-Matin, a daily newspaper (circulation 18,000 as of 2002).

In 2002, the government-controlled daily newspaper L’Union in Libreville had an average daily readership of 40,000. The Ministry of Communications publishes the weekly Gabon d’Aujourdhui. About nine privately held magazines, either independent or associated with political parties, are available. These are published in tiny quantities and are often postponed due to budgetary limitations. Gabon’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression and the press, and the government supports these rights. Several publications openly criticize the government, and international publications are readily accessible.

History of Gabon

Pygmy peoples were the first to settle in the region. As they moved, Bantu tribes mainly supplanted and assimilated them.

The first Europeans came in the 15th century. In Gabon, a Myeni-speaking monarchy known as Orungu emerged in the 18th century.

Bartholomew Roberts, a Welsh pirate known as Black Bart, perished at sea off the coast of Cape Lopez on February 10, 1722. From 1719 through 1722, he attacked ships along the coasts of the Americas and West Africa.

In 1875, the first expedition to the Gabon-Congo region was conducted by French adventurer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza. He established Franceville and subsequently served as colonial governor. When France formally conquered Gabon in 1885, many Bantu tribes resided in the region that is today Gabon.

Gabon joined the four regions of French Equatorial Africa in 1910, forming a federation that lasted until 1959. On August 17, 1960, these regions gained independence. Léon M’ba was Gabon’s first president, elected in 1961, alongside Omar Bongo Ondimba as his vice president.

Following M’ba’s rise to power, the press was repressed, political rallies were outlawed, freedom of speech was restricted, other political parties were progressively pushed out of power, and the Constitution was modified following French lines to vest power in the Presidency, which M’ba took. When M’ba dissolved the National Assembly to establish one-party rule in January 1964, an army coup attempted to depose him and restore parliamentary democracy. Within 24 hours, French paratroopers arrived to restore M’ba to power.

Despite massive demonstrations and rioting, the coup ended after a few days of combat and the opposition was imprisoned. To this day, French troops are stationed at the Camp de Gaulle on the outskirts of Gabon’s city. Bongo took over as president when M’Ba died in 1967.

Bongo proclaimed Gabon a one-party state in March 1968, dissolving the BDG and founding the Parti Democratique Gabonais (PDG). He welcomed all Gabonese to join, regardless of their past political allegiance. Bongo used the PDG as a vehicle to drown the regional and tribal conflicts that had previously split Gabonese politics in order to create a unified national movement in favor of the government’s development goals. In February 1975, Bongo was elected President; in April 1975, the vice presidency was abolished and replaced with the prime ministership, which had no automatic succession rights. Bongo was re-elected to 7-year terms as President in December 1979 and November 1986.

Students and workers staged violent protests and strikes in the early 1990s, fueled by economic dissatisfaction and a desire for political reform. Bongo worked with employees on a sector-by-sector basis in response to their complaints, making substantial pay reductions. He also said that he would open the PDG and hold a national political conference in March–April 1990 to debate Gabon’s future political structure. The meeting was attended by the PDG and 74 political groups. The governing PDG and its supporters were split into two loose coalitions, the United Front of Opposition Associations and Parties, which included the breakaway Morena Fundamental and the Gabonese Progress Party.

The April 1990 conference endorsed significant political changes, including the establishment of a national Senate, decentralization of the budgeting process, freedom of assembly and press, and the elimination of the need for a departure visa. Bongo resigned as PDG chairman in an effort to lead the political system’s transition to multiparty democracy, and a transitional administration led by a new Prime Minister, Casimir Oye-Mba, was formed. The resultant administration, known as the Gabonese Social Democratic Grouping (RSDG), was smaller than the previous one and featured members of various opposition groups in its cabinet. In May 1990, the RSDG produced a temporary constitution that included a basic bill of rights and an independent judiciary, but gave the president broad administrative powers. This document went into effect in March 1991 after additional examination by a constitutional committee and the National Assembly.

However, opposition to the PDG persisted after the April 1990 meeting, and two coup attempts were discovered and foiled in September 1990. Despite anti-government protests after the unexpected death of an opposition leader, the PDG won a strong majority in the first multiparty National Assembly elections in almost 30 years in September–October 1990.

Following President Omar Bongo’s re-election with 51% of the vote in December 1993, opposition candidates refused to accept the results. Following serious civil unrest, the government and opposition groups agreed to work toward a political solution. These discussions resulted in the Paris Accords, which were signed in November 1994 and included many opposition leaders in a government of national unity. However, this arrangement quickly fell apart, and the 1996 and 1997 parliamentary and municipal elections set the stage for a return to partisan politics. The PDG scored a resounding win in the parliamentary election, but opposition mayors were elected in many large cities, including Libreville, at the 1997 municipal election.

In December 1998, President Omar Bongo cruised to re-election with huge majorities of the vote, despite a split opposition. Despite numerous alleged anomalies, several foreign observers described the results as representational, and there were none of the violent unrest that preceded the 1993 election. The PDG and associated independents controlled the National Assembly almost entirely after peaceful but faulty parliamentary elections in 2001–2002, which were boycotted by a number of minor opposition parties and severely condemned for administrative flaws. President Omar Bongo was re-elected in November 2005 for a sixth term. He was comfortably re-elected, although opponents allege that the election was plagued by irregularities. Following the announcement of his victory, there were a few incidents of violence, but Gabon remained calm overall.

In December 2006, new elections for the National Assembly were conducted. The Constitutional Court reversed many seats that had been challenged due to vote irregularities, but the PDG retained control of the National Assembly in the run-off elections in early 2007.

President Omar Bongo died of heart arrest on June 8, 2009, in a Spanish hospital in Barcelona, signaling the start of a new era in Gabonese politics. Rose Francine Rogombé, President of the Senate, was appointed Interim President on June 10, 2009, in line with the revised constitution. On August 30, 2009, the first competitive elections in Gabon’s history without Omar Bongo as a candidate were conducted, with 18 candidates for president. There were a few minor demonstrations in the run-up to the elections, but no major disruptions. After a three-week review by the Constitutional Court, Omar Bongo’s son, governing party head Ali Bongo Ondimba, was officially proclaimed the winner; his inauguration took place on October 16, 2009.

Many opposition candidates claimed election fraud, and the first release of election results sparked unusually violent demonstrations in Port-Gentil, the country’s second-largest city and a long-time stronghold of resistance to PDG administration. Port-Gentil residents rushed to the streets, torching a number of businesses and homes, including the French Consulate and a local jail. Only four people were killed in the riots, according to official figures, but opposition and local leaders say there were many more. To assist the struggling police, gendarmes and the military were sent to Port-Gentil, and a curfew was imposed for more than three months.

In June 2010, a partial legislative by-election was conducted. For the first time, a newly formed coalition of parties, the Union Nationale (UN), took part. PDG defectors who quit the party following Omar Bongo’s death make up the majority of the UN. The PDG won three of the five fiercely fought seats, while the UN gained two; both parties claimed victory.



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