Tag Archives: gamba

Road Trip Around Gabon. Part 5: Heading Back to Gamba and My Final Thoughts on Traveling Around Gabon

continued from road trip around Gabon part 4

After our visit to the gorillas (and changing one tire that developed a leak on the way here) we were back on the road. Today was the beginning of the end…we had no more exciting stops planned, just getting back to Gamba in time for our friends to catch flights back home. As we backtracked north on the road that would lead us to Koulamoutou we heard a pop…yup the spare tire Teun had put on just blew…. Luckily Teun had put a patch on the tire with the hole that he took off, just in case. So we all piled out of the car, mainly to watch Teun change the tire (well done Teun!).

Not knowing how long the patch would hold, we knew we would have to buy a new tire in the next town we came across. We weren’t far from Moanda, so that would be our stop.

There were several auto repair shops and tire stores so it was easy to find a place to buy a replacement. We left the car at the shop and explored Moanda a bit,

getting some delicious little pancake like cookies from the market

wandering around the market and looking at shops. It always amazes me what you can find in small towns in Gabon. You’re in the middle of absolutely nowhere, a place that is notoriously difficult and expensive to get goods in and you find the craziest things. One music shop was selling large amplifiers and speakers from well known brands as well as home made CDs. My friend Neha, after listening to the same playlist for the last week and half, decided to buy one of the local music mixes…unfortunately she never got it to play in her CD player…

The road to Koulamoutou was good and we arrived in the later part of the afternoon. We hadn’t booked a hotel in advance so we drove around to several hotels in the center of town advised by the guidebook, but none had hot water, and after a couple days of short, cold showers I, and everyone, was really keen for a decent shower, so we decided on a business hotel just on the outskirts of town. This hotel was great, AC great showers, a welcome surprise. After cleaning up we went in search of dinner. The first place we stopped only had drinks, so we sat down and enjoyed a beer. A couple of friendly, and rather drunk, locals came up to talk to us, showing us their secret stash of their homemade palm wine. We tried a couple more recommended restaurants, but they weren’t open so we finally found a Pizzaria and were served a delicious fish dinner there (welcome to the randomness of Gabon) by a happy hostess that must have had some of that secret palm wine.

Fish (not pizza)

The next day we had a nice breakfast at the hotel and then hopped in the car and headed west.

Day 11 – rough roads and bridges between Koulamoutou and Tchibanga

We were headed to Tchibanga and as the distance to get there wasn’t much were hopeful we could make it there by the early afternoon, which would give us enough daylight to make to an area on the coast near the ferry where we could camp and be first in line for the ferry the next morning. Well, the national road that we headed out on that morning soon turned into the worst of the trip. It was a horribly narrow, extremely rough and ¬†potholed dirt road with thick vegetation or steep hillside on either side. We were often going at a snails pace. It was painful. Needless to say we slept in Tchibanga that night.

 

 

roadside villages. The first time I’ve seen a domestic pig in Gabon
our hotel in Tchibanga

After leaving Tchibanga it only took a few hours to reach the ferry and we were back in Gamba in the late afternoon. It was hard to believe our trip had come to end, but it was also nice to be back in our comfortable beds ūüėČ

 

My final thoughts about traveling around Gabon:

Gabon is not a really easy place to travel around…there are very few signs and roads in towns are not named (the best way to get around is to ask someone on the street, people were usually very helpful), there are many police stops/checkpoints (some of which will keep you for long periods of time), knowing at least some French is necessary, there are very few websites to use for information/bookings, bookings usually have to be done over the phone and even then you have to get lucky to find the correct phone number and that someone actually answers, and there is little emphasis/money put into tourism so getting to interesting places and the level of service and accommodations is of a much lower standard than in South or East Africa. It is also important to consider the weather…as Gabon is located on the equator there is no summer or winter, but rather rainy and dry seasons. The long dry season is June-September and the short dry season is the end of December to mid January. As you may have noticed some of the roads we took are dirt or laterite, and during the rainy season these can become horribly bumpy and muddy messes. Even the tarmac roads often develop severe potholes during the rainy season. And if you plan on hiking be prepared for thunder storms, very heavy downpours and hot and humid conditions. Animals also move around depending on the weather and what plants are fruiting. We planned our trip for the long dry season, which meant the roads were easy to travel on, the temperature was cooler and less humid, and hiking was easy, but, as you can see from the photos, it is usually gray and cloudy. ¬†Another issue is that one of the main draws to come here is to see the amazing wildlife endemic to and still thriving here. Really the only way to do that is to go to the parks (or spend a lot of time hanging out around Gamba/Yenzi ūüėČ ), but staying in and visiting the national parks is often very expensive, often the accommodations are very basic, and even when you’re in the parks there is no guarantee that you will even see any animals. Animals here are still hunted and even within the national parks there is still problems with illegal hunting, so most animals would prefer to keep their distance from humans.¬†That being said, Gabon is an absolutely amazing and unique place that I can highly recommend ¬†visiting. Gabon has so much to offer! From gorgeous, lush forests, to stunning white sand beaches, and absolutely incredible wildlife. It is essential when traveling here to have an open mind and a good sense of humor, be friendly and considerate (even in frustrating situations), and have bucket loads of patience. If you do decide to travel around Gabon I wish you the best of luck and hope you enjoy it as much as all of us did! Bon Voyage!

Group photo at Leconi, overlooking Gabon and Congo

 

Sea Turtles in Gamba, Gabon

Four species of sea turtles occur in Gabon: leatherbacks, green turtles, olive ridleys and hawksbills.  All of these species are in danger of extinction worldwide, with their numbers are declining sharply.

IMGP9082Every year between October and January female sea turtles make their way to their birth place on the beaches of Gabon to lay their eggs. ¬†Gamba is one of their prime nesting sites and we have the opportunity to join local researchers on their nightly walks to monitor the beaches for nesting turtles. IMGP0213As the turtles only lay their eggs at night the walk along the beach (that is home to a variety of other nocturnal animals including elephants and hippos) doesn’t begin before 9pm. And because the bright white light of a flashlight may confuse the turtles this is done
IMGP9129mostly with just the light of the moon and the stars. It’s actually very fun, if you don’t mind walking up to 12 kilometers in sand, and you actually get to see a turtle (mother nature doesn’t always/usually cooperate ūüėČ ).

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my first turtle sighting…a green turtle

IMGP0219Females lay around 50-100 eggs in each nest. ¬†During oviposition (the name for the process of laying the eggs), the turtle enters a kind of trance and is insensitive to disturbance.¬† During¬†this time it is safe to approach a nesting turtle to observe her quietly and take some pictures. This is also when the researchers measure the length of the turtles and put a tag on them (if they don’t already have one) for identification and tracking.

DSC06446Gabon has the largest population of nesting Leatherbacks in the world! These turtles are the largest of the sea turtle species and also the most unique-looking.  They have a soft leathery shell with longitudinal ridges and white spots.  A  full grown adult can measure over 180 cm in length! Last year during a turtle walk with friends I saw one and as you can see from the photos, it was massive!

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newly hatched leatherback

_IMG1496After the female lays the eggs and returns to the sea, the¬†nest incubates for approximately two months, buried in the sand.¬†Due to the fact that the sea turtles are endangered the researchers in Gamba have set up a turtle nursery where they _IMG1591move nests to if they feel that the nest was laid in an area that endangers the eggs (such as in tracks cars drive on). When these eggs hatch sometimes local residents¬†are lucky enough to be invited to see the baby turtles and carry them down to the water to be released in the ocean. It’s an incredible experiance to see and touch these tiny, beautiful babies.

itty bitty olive ridley
itty bitty olive ridley
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Yenzi residents bidding the babies farewell
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going…

 

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going…
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gone…to its home in the sea

Our First Visitor…Ariana Visits Gabon….Part 2

20151103-IMGP8108After an amazing, but short visit up to the Shell Hut and Loango National Park (because Ariana absolutely detested the hut…) we headed back to Gamba. The next couple of¬†days we spent exploring more beaches, searching for oysters, a picnic in Vera Plains, and doing a bit more kayaking.

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20151106-IMG_5910 Then it was time head back to Libreville to drop Ariana off for her flight back to California. But first we arranged to visit Baie¬†des Tortues resort across the bay from Libreville. And it was AMAZING. 20151106-IMG_5929Truly a little slice of paradise just minutes away from the chaos of Libreville. We arrived by boat and once on land were immediately offered a welcome drink that we sipped while we sat under the trees gazing out over the turquoise water and pristine white sand beaches. We spent the morning walking down the beach and back before laying claim to a few beach loungers and dividing our time between napping and swimming in the crystal clear sea. Lunch was an amazing affair, 3 delicious courses that left us stuffed to the brim. Then we went back to lounging about, with cocktails this time, and swimming. It was a perfect final day of Ariana’s trip! Around 5pm we were shuttled back to Libreville and after collecting Ariana’s bags we headed to the airport to bid her a fond farewell.

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Camping in Vera Plains, near Gamba, Gabon

20150926-IMGP7293Not far from us, hidden between the beaches and the large Ndogo lagoon, is the a beautiful place called Vera Plains. It consists of large¬†sprawling open meadows, dotted with patches of¬†dense forest. 20150926-IMGP7310One weekend¬†we went with a group of friends to camp in one of the prettiest spots in the area, a hilltop that offers panoramic views over the plains, forests and nearby lagoon. It’s about an hour drive from our house through rough dirt paths winding through the forests and hills of the plains.

It’s not the easiest spot to get to, often areas of the road are blocked by fallen20150926-IMGP7311 trees or debris from a newly build plantation. Usually nothing a little muscle and machete work can’t fix, though.

 

20150926-IMGP7315¬†But one you get to the view point it makes all your effort worth it…

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The boys worked on cooking dinner while the girls enjoyed the view and sipped on some cocktails….

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20150926-IMGP7337Soon the darkness came and we all huddled around the campfire, or rather very large, bright¬†citronella candles in this case. You would have though they would have protected us from all insects, but in a strange twist of fate we were actually invaded by a large swarm of tiny beetles. At first was funny, as all the bugs seemed be attracted to our one friend, but as more and more came we decided to take¬†shelter in the car. After 15 minutes or so the coast was clear and we returned to our “camp fire” for a bit before heading to our tents for the night.

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Evading the swarm of beetles in the car
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Tiny beetles everywhere

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We woke up to a beautiful misty morning and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Vera Plains as we made our way back home.

 

 

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