The home of “Africa’s Last Eden,” Gabon, sandwiched between Congo and Cameroon on the continent’s central Atlantic coast, may not have an ecotourism infrastructure like hot spots Botswana or Kenya. What Gabon does have, however, are 13 unspoiled national parks that cover 10% of the country. (Independent from France since only 1960, Gabon is considered by the U.N. to be a global leader in fighting climate change.)
Loango National Park, a 35-minute flight from Léon-Mba International Airport in the capital city of Libreville, followed by a three-and-a-half hour car or boat ride, is one of the few places on the planet where rainforest meets ocean, which means that in those 380,000 acres, visitors can see an extraordinarily diverse array of animals from water to land to sky, including elephants, leopards, humpback whales, buffalo, gorillas, leatherback turtles, 355 bird species, and the “surfing hippos” that wowed President Obama in last year’s Our Great National Parks streaming docuseries.
Luxury cruise company Swan Hellenic will for the first time include those hippo-frequented beaches of Loango in its Unspoilt Wilds of Southwest Africa spring cruise. And those wanting to stay inside the park will have an easier time finding a bed this year, with additional tents being added to the newly opened N’dola, a luxury tented camp, and Akaka, a rustic jungle lodge that’s recently expanded. Western lowland gorilla treks are arranged through the Gabonese park service and may be accompanied by staff from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Limited to four people and two guides, the daily treks are a unique chance to glimpse gorillas’ social behavior and feeding habits.
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