Capital | Libreville
Population | 1,514,993 (July 2009 est.)
Area | 267, 667 sq km
Official language | French
Holidays | Independence Day, 17 August (1960)
Currency | Central African CFA franc (XAF)
Time Zone | UTC+1
Best time to visit | May to September (dry season)
Connecting with the Culture | Visiting Albert Schweitzer’s jungle hospital in the wildlife-rich lakes region of Lambarene. Swimming, exploring, eating and relaing in Mayumba – an untouristed beach town. Walking through the forests of Reserve de la Lope, Gabon’s best wildlife park, with elephants, monkeys and, if you’re lucky, gorillas. Camping at the Cirque de Leconi, a spectacular red-rock canyon on the Bateke Plateau.
Read |`African Silences’, by Peter Matthiessen, a book about Albert Schweitzer from an African perpective.
Eat | manioc paste (or rice) served in a spicy sauce.
Drink | a Castel – or better yet, a Regab – beer from the Sobraga brewers but never, ever the tap water.
In a word | Mbolo (hello, in Fang)
Characteristics | The wealthiest nation in sub-Saharan Africa; the slow pace of life, steamy rainforest; Albert Schweitzer. The jungle is full of wildlife – elephants, leopards, gorillas, hippos, pythons and ecotourism. The Pont de Liane south of Franceville is a bridge made of vines, which locals use to cross the river;
Surprises | Outside Libreville, its air conditioned capital, Gabon is a laid back country of small villages, steamy rainforest, roaring rivers and imposing mountains. It’s one of the richest and most stable countries in Africa, but also a place where people know the value of relaxation. Gabon has been ruled since 1967 by President El Hadj Omar Bomgo.