In Gabon adventures are a plenty. It is impossible to visit without seeing elephants: close-up viewings from a boat, or beach sightings are wonderful treats from each season.
The highlight for many though is lowland gorilla trekking, in Loango.
Trekking in Loango for the African primate that many people adore...the gorilla! Often people pay high prices to enter into their world. In Loango we are able to offer gorillas trekking permits at much lower prices than anywhere else because Gabon is a very stable country with more protected areas than its neighbours. Despite this, western lowland gorillas are critically endangered and do still need our help and protection.
Western lowland gorillas live in social groups consisting of one silverback, several adult females, and their offspring. Silverbacks protect their females and offspring from other gorilla groups, predators, and other threats. Gorillas are vegetarian, with their diet consisting of fruit, leaves, and herbaceous vegetation. Their daily routine consists of feeding for a few hours, resting, feeding, resting, during which they will move several kilometers distance through their 20 km2 home range. Gorillas do not have set territories, but groups have overlapping home ranges. Western gorillas spend as much as 30% of their time in the trees, making them much more arboreal than mountain gorillas. Social interactions among gorillas include resting together, grooming, and play by the infants and juveniles.
Loango National Park is the only place where it is possible to trek habituated western lowland gorillas
Despite gorillas being the largest primate species, it is difficult to see unhabituated gorillas in forest because they are naturally afraid of humans and typically will flee or aggressively charge if people get too close to them. Gorillas that are visited by people have undergone ‘habituation’. This refers to the process, where through daily peaceful contact with humans, gorillas have slowly lost their strong fear of humans and have learned to view them as neutral beings in their environment.
The best time to visit the gorillas in Loango is late January – May, when they do not travel very much per day. During the dry season (June – October), the gorillas travel a lot, moving between fruiting trees and the swamps, making it the most difficult time to visit them. The gorillas move through the forest in an unpredictable way so we cannot know in advance exactly where we will find them. Therefore, it may take several hours of hiking before you see the gorillas. Hiking in the forest is likely to include walking through mud, small streams, and swamps so expect to get wet and muddy. It is necessary to be physically fit to visit the gorillas.
Check out our Gorilla Trekking Blog!
Game Drives in a 4x4 pickup are an easy and comfortable way to view the wildlife in the more open areas of Gabon’s National Parks. In Loango & Pongara you can and see wildlife such as buffalo, elephant, red river hogs and sitatunga as they venture out of their forest homes and into the myriad of savannas. You may even spot a Leopard or Chimpanzee. In Loango in the rainy season, from November to April, you can find large mammals roaming freely on the beach. Enjoy sun downers on the beach at the end of your safari drive.
Boat Safaris & Lagoon Tours take you to areas inaccessible by car. The many waterways of Gabon take you on magical journeys to deep in the jungle in places that look like they are straight out of Tarzan, probably because Tarzan was filmed here!
In the dry season Loango’s interior jungles become hotspots for their animal visitors. Offering the chance to take a boat safari through the narrow lagoons that pass by bais where elephants, sitatunga, and many more are dining and travelling. You can get up really close and personal with a boat safari. It is also a bird watchers paradise.
Soon, in Ivindo, Pirogue trips will feature as part of the journey to the breath-taking Koungou falls.
Hikes & Guided Trails in the forests are unbeatable for a real submersion into the parks. You never know what you will find. Huge trees, the width of a football team is not impossible to encounter. There are multiple forest types with varying degrees of difficulty to navigate. From the easy and more open forest pockets dotted among the savannas, to the dense jungles toward the interior. In the forest everything is alive. Beware of biting ants underfoot, while keeping your eyes and ears tuned to your surroundings, on the lookout for elephants that do an astounding job of hiding! Walk quietly while listening to the many birdsongs, cicada bugs, and take in all of the forests' scents for an overwhelming sensory overload radiating from the huge diversities of animal & plant life. Feel Gabon!
We are incredibly excited at the prospect of offering Ivindo National Park later in the year, where hikes combined with kayak or pirogue trips will deliver absolutely stunning waterfall and rainforest combinations.
Tranquil Kayaking tours are available in Loango. Perfect for exploring forgotten lands in peaceful serenity.
Sportfishing in Gabon is a favourite for avid fans & brings in hundreds of tourists each year. 100kgs+ is not an unusual catch, and each park manages this sport through it's park protection and fisheries to ensure fishing pressure is limited to local subsistence fishing and only verified tourist operations who adhere to practices of safe practice and sustainability.
In Loango, the lagoon, adjacent beaches, and isolated coastal lagoons are prime sport fishing territory. At times the numbers and quality of fish is incredulous and is partly explained by the fact that the 220km² Iguéla lagoon is a rich nursery for juvenile fish that as adults are concentrated within a relatively small area.
Other popular sportfishing destinations are Sette Cama and Mayumba.
Whale Watching is a marvellous spectacle of Loango & Pongara. Every year from mid-July to mid-September, humpback whales visit the coastline of these National Parks for breeding & calving. During the breeding season males make impressive displays to the females by jumping out of the water, breaching. This is a spectacle to be seen, especially as they come within metres of the boat.
Go out on a boat with our skipper to look for these enticing, playful mammals, and more...it is not unusual to see dolphins too.
Turtle Patrols in search of nesting Leatherback & Olive Ridley turtles are a big highlight every November to February. Witness the mothers as they haul themselves out of the water and onto the shores, making awkward looking ascents to dig their nest and lay their eggs before covering them up and returning to the ocean for another year.
Pongara is the best place to get you fill of turtle time, here they visit in higher densities than in Loango, therefore increasing your chances of seeing them. In Pongara in December to April you can also take a guided tour in search of the little hatchling as they first come into the world and start their huge adventure by dashing into the Ocean.
Birdwatching in Loango National Park is a paradise for the dedicated birder who wants to track down 100's of forest and Congo basin species. Request your birding list for more info. Also, take a moment to check out some of the awesome photos taken by our previous guest (Planet Still Alive) on their website:https://www.planetstillalive.com/africa/gabon/
Mandrill Trekking in Lopé National Park is coming as soon as general tourism and primate tourism reopens in Gabon. Take a guided trek to find wild Mandrills. Usually Mandrills live in "hordes" that average 615 individuals. But it is difficult to see such a horde in 1 viewing, they usually disperse a little while going about their daily Mandrill business, so you likely see only part of the horde.
These rare, elusive, and spectacular monkeys will not fail to impress you, with their technicolour butts and males with faces of the brightest colours in the primate world. From May the males start to express these mating colours most beautifully. Between October and April these colours dull down somewhat. An enthralling experience in the forests and mountains of Lopé.
The mandrils are not habituated so you can not get super close to them. Around 30 - 50 meters so it's a different experience to gorilla trekking. Yet extremely magical to be in the forest, surrounded by a large horde and absorb the sounds… they vocalise in a variety of sounds and it's really special, with a more intensity than a gorilla trekking experience. Mandrils are constantly moving so people must be mobile and strong hikers.
Each visit lasts anything from 4 - 6 hours, depending on the terrain and the behaviour of the mandrils.