Gabon Trip Report
Replies: 4 - Last Post: Oct 24, 2012 8:02 PM Last Post By: michel11
Sep 9, 2012 9:17 PM
Gabon Trip ReportHere my report about a trip to Gabon and Republic of Congo in August 2012. Generally for me it was very save and the people were friendly and polite. Unlike other countries in Western Africa ther is no "white man" yelling if you are coming along.
Landed in Libreville Airport, absolutely hasslefree. There are moneychangers arround, giving the official rate of 656CFA for 1€, so change a lot, as Gabon is pretty expensive by African standards. You can also change money at the newspaper kiosk, rate is 655CFA there. As everything is done quite opely, it seems to be legal.
We stayed at the Somotel, a double room is 35000CFA, including breakfast. The room was ok and clean, but nothing special. The Somotel has a good restaurant, mains arround 4000 CFA.
Libreville is not very interesting and there is not that much to see, as it was weekend we spent a day at the beach in Point Denis, which is nice, but a hangout for the rich Africans and the expats. There is a boat going from Port Mole arround 9am, returning 4pm, costing 10000CFA. I think the boat is on weekends only.
Went on to Lambarene by shared Taxi from PK8, 8000CFA in a car shared with 4 people, so everybody gets his own seat, yes!! As there are no signs which cars go where, and the area is quite big, the best might be to take a taxi there as the drivers know where the cars are located exatly, 2000CFA. The trip took 4 hours.
In Lambarene we stayed at Mission Soeurs de lmmaculee Conception. The place is fantastic, the nuns are nice, there was even WiFi. 8000 CFA per person. Lambarene is in a superb location of rivers and lakes, it is easy to spend the time by just walking arround and looking at the scenery, as the town is quite widespread. The hospital is interesting and a must, inexpensive shared taxis go there or you can walk. We made a half day boat trip with one of the guys which are on a list in the nuns' place. This was expensive with 80000CFA, but not too bad. We went to a very isolated former mission post having a big church and saw hippos from a hugh distance, in East Africa you can see them a lot closer.
There are food stalls in the town center, selling inexpensive fish in the evening and some restaurants, but those are not cheap. Breakfast is a little difficult to find, but the nuns have a fully equipped kitchen.
From Lambarene we went to Lope National Park. As we were three, we got a car taking us to a place called Ndjole for 24000CFA, where we were told there is transport on to Lope. Well, there is definitly the train, but it is only once per day, leaving Libreville at arround 8pm. It is 6 times per week.
As we reached Ndjole arround 10am, we tried to get a car or bus, but as the road to Franceville is no tarmac road there is no regualr transport. All the transport went either to Oyem or Makokou or Libreville. So after hanging arruond and asking everybody, we finally found a guy with a Pick up, who went to Franceville. He took us and other passengers, who wanted to go to places on the way. We payed 6000CFA, very cheap by Gabonese standards. At the petrol station there are cars going to Lope and I assume to many other places on a private charter base, but those guys asked for 100000CFA.
The road to Lope is ok, it took arround 4 hours, but again, I think it was just by chance we got the ride. It might be a better potion returning to Libreville and getting the train from there. There seem to be even scheduled busses between Lambarene and Libreville, we saw signs, one seems to be in the morning and one in the evening. There are also boats between Lambarene and Port Gentil but no idea, when they go. There are several boats per day between Libreville and Port Gentil, costing roughly 25000CFA.
In Lope there is only one budget place to stay, called "Case de Passage". One room is 5000CFA, it has clean shared facilities. Restaurants are thin on the ground, there is a motel, called something like „The Lope Hotel Annexe“ and a little restaurant on the way out of town in the direction of Franceville, run by a nice lady. The „Lope Annexe“ restaurant is expensive, for breakfast consisting of omlette and bread and nescafe it was 5000 CFA. The „Lope Hotel“ itself is nice, but room prices start from 50000 CFA, not including the meals.
There safaris are good value though, 30000CFA per person for a walk in the morning and a game drive in the evening in a kind of safari car used in East Africa.
We wanted to do our Safari with „Lope Ecotours“ first, located in the center, asking 35000CFA fort the same. We made a morning walk to a forrest close to the village, but did not see a lot of animals, just an antilope. The game drive was cancelled, as there was no car available and it was cancelled again the next morning, as now the car had battery problems… Even I can start a car without a battery. At least we got one part of the money back without any problem. However, we walked to the „Lope Hotel“ and booked the game drive there. We saw several elephants, bufallos, a chimpanze from a big distance and even mandrills. We also met the „Lope Ecotour“ car, so they might be more reliable as they showed us.
The scenery arround Lope is great, especially the river, we walked on the bank for several hours.
From Lope we took the train to Franceville, which reaches Lope between 1 and 2am. We got the tickets the day before. It costed between 25000 and 30000CFA 1st class, 2nd class is a little cheaper. The train is on an almost European standard and was not overcrowded at all. As said before, there is one train in either direction 6 times per week, leaving either Libreville or Franceville in the evening. There is one express train, and a second one stopping at every station. We got on the express one, as it happened to go on the day we wanted to.
We did not stay in Franceville, but needed to change money there, which was not easy. A taxi was driving us arround, and finally the Poubara Hotel was willing to change, after some Western Union branches did not. The rate was 650 CFA for 1€.
We took a car to Leconi, 20000CFA for the car. Stayed at the Leconi Hotel, 15000CFA for a twin room. They also have a restaurant, mains around 5000CFA. From there we made a trip to a kind of nature reserve in the morning, having lots of imported dear from South Africa, like orynxes and others of which I don’t know the English names. In the afternoon, we went to the Rose Canyon, an impressive erosion phenomena, of rose and redish colours. The whole day costed 55000 CFA.
Border crossing into Congo: Difficult! There is no public transport at all. We waited for one and a half days. At the crossroads there is a yellow house, which seems to be a kind of meeting point, for people looking for transport. So we left our telephone number there and got called at 4 am, and then a pick up came to the hotel. They were willing to take us for 30000CFA per person, but were reluctant to go back to the immigration which is before Leconi, coming from Franceville. It is not that far away, but under no circumstances they agreed to go back. I guess they were smuggling something. The next day we went to the immigration, and the chief helped us to arrange transport somehow. But it was not very clear, if a vehicle will go or not. Some hours later, a guy appeared, who was willing to take us for 50000CFA each. So finally we left at around 2pm to a town called Ewo. It took 5 hours over really rough roads, not sure, if they are passable during the rainy season.
The problem with immigration is, that it is before Leconi. So if you get stamped out and cannot find transport, I am not sure if they will let you go back into Gabon again. As we had a double entry visa, for us this had not been a problem, but it might become one having only single entry.
Details about the Congolese side of the border will follow in the Congolese section.
Over all, Gabon is one of the most interesting countries in West Africa, but transport is sometimes hard to find, and it is expensive!
Sep 10, 2012 10:08 PM
Sep 11, 2012 7:16 PM
2Thanks so much for your detailed report! I am going to Gabon in November and right now I am sure that anything that is planned will turn out differently. And that will be a way-cool bonus, I'm sure.
Sep 26, 2012 1:52 PM
please could you share where/how/which docs needed you managed to get your visa for independent travel in Gabon?
Oct 24, 2012 8:02 PM
4Sorry for the late reply!
My travel mate got all the visas in London, also the Congolese. I sent him my passport. We needed a hotel reservation, the plane ticket, and I think the yellow fever vaccination copy. For the hotel, we booked the Sheraton and cancelled once we got the visa. As we asked for a double entry for no reason we got a bussiness visa, which was 150 for him beeing British and 170 British Pounds for me beeing German. We should have got the tourist one for 120 each...
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