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.
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.
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.
Pongara National Park
Perhaps the easiest place to get into the wild expanses of Gabon if you're only in the country for a few days, Pongara National Park is an expanse of forest, savannah and empty beaches that backs onto Point Denis. Recently opened within the park is the very charming La Baie des Tortues, with an enviable location miles from anywhere right on the beach.
Though it sounds like the stuff of honeymoon fantasies, Cocobeach won't have you getting down on one knee in a hurry. But if it's adventure you're after, this dusty little seaside town is a pirogue (traditional canoe; CFA5000) trip away from Equatorial Guinea's Cogo, the gateway to handsome Isla Corisco (now we're talking).
Franceville & Batéké Plateau
Birthplace of the late Omar Bongo (check out the statue of him in town), Gabon's third city, Franceville, is quite literally the end of the line, as the impressive Transgabonaise railway line terminates here. There's nothing much to see in the town itself, but it's a good jumping-off point for the amazing scenery around the stunning Batéké Plateau.