Southern Gabon covers the lower half of the country, from the Ogooué River, south to the Republic of Congo border. Be sure to visit the riverside town Lambaréné, where the hospital set up by the great German humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, is still operational. The coastal Loango National Park is the area’s biggest drawcard.
Mayumba National Park
Closer to the Republic of Congo than to Libreville, Mayumba feels like the edge of the earth. No wonder expats whisper about it – the national park is the domain of barnacled whales and shy sea turtles, and the land, if you listen to the locals, is hushed by the spirits of ancestors.
Minkébé National Park
Shingled with cacti and rock-dome inselbergs, Minkébé is one of Gabon's most inaccessible parks, the home of forest elephants, gorillas, cheetahs and isolated ethnic groups. Conservation programs are in place through the WWF, which is trying to boost the income of villagers through artistic endeavours. Though travel here is tricky, it's not an impossibility.
Gamba & Setté Cama
Loango National Park can be entered from its southern end, and while the experience won't be written up in Condé Nast Traveller any time soon, it's a far better deal than coming from the north, and the experience can certainly compare to if not always equal that of a luxurious safari based at Loango Lodge.
Oyem is a town of fat tree trunks, apricot-coloured lanes and pretty lakes. Though it's the heart of Fang culture, few travellers make it here due to its isolated location. But if you do take the road less travelled you'll find a pleasant little lakeside town surrounded by forest villages. It's also a good spot to cross into Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon.
Réserve de la Lopé
Smack bang on the equator, Gabon's calling card doesn't disappoint. Undulating hills meet scrubby patches of savannah and enclaves of rain forest where elephants, buffalo, gorillas and some of the biggest mandrill troupes in the world can be found. There are vehicle and foot safaris (from CFA5000) on offer and there's an eco-museum near the park entrance.