At a Glance
Dates: June 21st - July 6th, 2023
Extension: We offer a two-night pre-extension to Pongara NP and Akanda NP.
Prices: £11,850 pp sharing (with a £650 single supplement), excluding international flights.
In a sentence: More than anywhere else on the continent, Gabon requires visitors to come prepared with a spirit of adventure and an open mind - but those who do will be rewarded with some of the richest and most diverse ecosystems on the continent.
Many of those who follow the emergence of safari destinations across Africa will be extremely familiar with Gabon. In the early 21st century, it was lauded as being home to the most pristine wildernesses in Africa, routinely delivering game-viewing that most visitors could scarcely believe. Then, in the late 2010s, it seemed as though some areas of Gabon had lost their way - Minkebe was essentially poached-out, despite once having the highest densities of forest elephant in Africa, and the world-famous Lope NP had lost much of its game. As a result, the steady stream of glowing trip reports begin to dry up. The truth is that, like many destinations on the continent, the face of Gabon is ever-changing. Areas that once teemed with wildlife, such as Mikongo in Lope and further north in the country, are no more. And visitors who stick rigidly to decades-old trip reports and their itineraries will undoubtedly leave Gabon disappointed. But for those willing to push the boundaries of what received wisdom says should be done on a safari to Gabon, there remain hugely rich rewards to be enjoyed. This tour strikes a lovely balance, allowing guests the chance to track the famed mandrill and giant pangolin of Lope, but also departing from the 'tourist route' by taking in Moukalaba-Doudou and remote parts of Loango. Yes, the list of mammals you may see is huge, but Gabon offers so much more - authentic, untouched wilderness and ecotourism potential so vast it is hard to even comprehend.
Day Minus One (Pre-Extension)
Akanda NP & Pongara NP
On arrival into Libreville, you will be met by your local guide and your tour leader and transferred to a local hotel for breakfast. Thereafter, we transfer to Akanda NP, a park just a short distance away from the capital that is dominated by mangroves. Our key quarry here is the rarely-seen northern talapoin monkey, and a boat safari is the best way to access the islands that support populations of this rare primate. Keep your eyes peeled also for African manatee, which are occasionally glimpsed in and around Akanda. After several hours in Akanda, we continue by boat on to Pongara NP. Pongara is a lovely area, again dominated by mangroves, but that also supports several larger mammal species. Our safari must wait for tomorrow though, as we overnight at a hotel in Pongara. With luck, you may glimpse several species of turtle as they clamber onto the nearby beaches to lay their eggs.
Day Zero (Pre-Extension)
This morning, a game drive is the best way to explore the mammal-viewing on offer in Pongara. Forest buffalo are well-seen here, and there is the opportunity to glimpse forest elephant and numerous species of duiker. Game densities aren't as high here as elsewhere in Gabon, owing largely to Pongara's proximity to Libreville, but this remains a great introduction to the wildlife of Gabon. After lunch in Pongara, we return by boat to Libreville to meet the rest of the group.
The group comes together in full this afternoon, with a pre-tour briefing in our city centre hotel this evening. The remainder of the day is at leisure.
A city tour is arranged this morning, and this afternoon the group is transferred to Libreville train station for the overnight train to Lope. This is not the most luxurious nor the most comfortable journey in the world, often beset by delays, but we aim to arrive at our accommodation in Lope by the early hours of tomorrow morning.
Our chance of spectacular wildlife-viewing is very high today, beginning with a morning game drive through the fragmented forest and savanna of Lope NP. Previous visitors have amassed impressive catalogues of sightings here, with forest elephant, forest buffalo, leopard, water chevrotain, a rich diversity of primates and forest duikers all regularly recorded. Endemic or near-endemic species are also spotted regularly, including the sun-tailed guenon, and golden cat are known to persist here. Our day only gets more exciting, though, as this evening we are able to track recently radio-collared giant pangolin. This superb creature is hardly ever seen, and the chance to spot such an incredible creature, let alone spend time with one, is a rare privilege indeed.
This morning, we are once again tracking a hugely charismatic and highly sought-after mammal - the mandrill. These primates are strikingly attractive, and to be able to sit amongst dozens, or even hundreds, of these rare animals is often a highlight of this tour. Sightings are not guaranteed, but are highly likely, making this one of the most reliable places to see mandrill anywhere in Africa. After our tracking experience finishes, our afternoon can either be spent visiting the Lope Museum or heading out on a further game drive from the Lope Hotel to target any species we may have still to see.
There are never any guarantees in the bush, and there are even less in the forest. We add an extra day in Lope compared to many competitors because the mandrill and giant pangolin tracking is sometimes cancelled due to the presence of grumpy elephants, or because the animals are too far away to be seen. If we have been lucky, today is simply an extra day with which to enjoy game drives, or we may instead have to use today to track mandrills or giant pangolin.
Today we travel west from Lope by vehicle, stopping for lunch in Ndjole, before we reach the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambarene, where we spend the night.
After breakfast in Lambarene this morning, we drive to the city of Tchibanga. This is a lengthy drive, as is often required in Gabon, and we will have lunch en route. We then continue on to Doussala, where we will overnight at the gorilla research station ahead of gorilla-tracking tomorrow morning.
Days Eight to Nine
This morning offers perhaps the most humbling and memorable experience on can enjoy on the continent - tracking gorillas. The western lowland gorillas found here are not as habituated to human presence as their cousins in Uganda and Rwanda, but they are nonetheless hugely impressive animals. The trek to locate them can be slippery and lengthy, but to spend time with a family as they feed, play and rest is always a real delight. After returning from our trek, we will then spend the afternoon in Doussala town, where we are treated to a local ceremony before returning to the research station for some rest.
This morning we transfer back to Tchibanga by vehicle, before continuing on to the Atlantic coast at Gamba. From here, we are ferried across the Ndogou Lagoon (keep an eye out for Gabon's largest population of manatee here) to the village of Sette Cama, just outside Loango NP. After dinner, we head out on a boat safari into Loango NP, aiming to locate several nocturnal species rarely seen outside of Gabon.
We have a full day in Sette Cama today, exploring the lagoon and forests of Loango by boat and on foot. With luck, we may spot elephant, buffalo, sitatunga, red river hog, gorilla or chimpanzee today, although success varies from year to year. We overnight at Sette Cama tonight.
Today we transfer by boat to Sounga, from where it is a long but rewarding trek deep into the national park to our tented accommodation in the Akaka area. After a chance to settle in, an afternoon walking safari is an excellent way to begin to sample some of the wildlife-watching that Loango is well-known for, as well as some superb bird-watching. Sitatunga are recorded here regularly, as well as forest buffalo and a rich diversity of primate species and duikers. The real highlight, though, is the rare chance to view forest elephant and hippo so close to marine habitats - very rarely, visitors may even glimpse these iconic species in the saltwater. Leopard are also known to predate on turtles that nest on the coast of Loango. After our walking safari, we return to our accommodation for dinner and some rest.
Days Thirteen to Fourteen
We have two full days in the Akaka area, dedicated to exploring this pristine environment and locating any and all species that may be of interest to us. Birders may wish to seek out the range-restricted African river martin, and mammal-watchers may choose to head deep into the backwaters of the national park in search of rare antelope and forest elephant.
This morning we transfer by boat to the historic St Anne Mission, where we have a chance to learn more about this isolated mission, to which many pilgrims still journey. From here, we continue on to the nearby gorilla sanctuary, before driving onto Port Gentil where we spend the night.
After a city tour this morning, guests are transferred to the airport for their homeward flights.
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may
occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run in June and July 2022, aiming to take advantage of the (relatively) dry season when travel is at its easiest. The tour will run from June 21st to July 6th, 2023.
The cost of this trip is £11,850 per person excl. flights. This includes all meals, accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. Drinks are not included. We regret that we must levy a single supplement of £650 pp for this trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £4,750 plus any single supplement must be paid.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Libreville at the beginning or end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost. We strongly recommend booking flights leaving Libreville after 16.00 on your return, if leaving on the same day that we return to Libreville to avoid disruption to your plans.
British nationals do require a visa to enter Gabon. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa. Details of the process of obtaining a tourist visa for Gabon will be provided to you upon booking. The cost of a Gabon entry visa for UK citizens is £80 - these should be obtained prior to arrival into Gabon.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in Gabon in June and July is humid, with maximum temperatures of around 27 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 23 degrees Celsius.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing US Dollars or Euros.
Safety and Security
There are no security concerns in any of the areas currently visited by this tour.