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Lambaréné/Gabon

Introducing Lambaréné

'Everyone has his Lambaréné', Nobel winner Albert Schweitzer said. This, then, is his, with its glossy lakes, fast-flowing rivers, thick green foliage and ingrained sweetness. The town is somehow kinder and gentler than the rest of Gabon, as if the profound humanitarian efforts of Schweitzer ('the greatest man in the world' said Life magazine in 1947) changed the character of the land. And his legacy is indeed felt everywhere, from the wonderful, still-operational hospital (which Schweitzer founded in 1924 to treat people with leprosy) to the volunteer-staffed lab that researches malaria and other tropical diseases. At the hospital museum, housed in the former hospital building (it moved to the new, current premises in 1981) you can see photos, paintings and the impeccably arranged house and artefacts of Schweitzer and his wife on a guided tour. There's also a small zoo, the animals of which include descendents of Schweitzer's beloved pelican Parzival. You're also able to see the graves of Schweitzer, his wife and colleagues.

The town is divided into three areas spanning the river, quite close to each other. The near bank has the Schweitzer hospital grounds; across the bridge is the island with the main markets, the river port, and Le Tribune, from where shared taxis leave; across another bridge is the Quartier Isaac, where you'll find nightlife, restaurants and most hotels. Short taxi rides around town vary from CFA300 to CFA800 depending on how many bridge crossings you make.

Explore the many lakes by pirogue, arranged at the port in town, through the Ogooué Palace hotel. A long boat trip will cost around CFA40,000 but can be split with many people.