Congo Serpent Eagle Dryotriorchis spectabilis Gabon
We know of no bird guides in Gabon.
Last update: 30th November 2006
General: several operators run birding tours to Gabon and you may wish to use one of these and travel in an organised tour. However, it is feasible to organise your own trip to Gabon but if so, a working knowledge of French is necessary. We should also point out that it is an expensive country which has a policy of high priced tourism and does not encourage camping and backpacking. The road system is such that you would be well advised to hire a car with driver and / or consider the alternative of train and plane for some of your travel.
Flights: there are regular flights from Paris to Libreville, the political and business capital of Gabon. There are also flights from other west African countries such as Cameroon and Benin. There are flights to and from South Africa but these are infrequent. São Tomé and Príncipe have good connections from Libreville and if you have time, it makes sense to combine a visit to these islands with a trip to Gabon. There are a number of internal flights and it is necessary to fly to some destinations such as the Gamba area which do not have road connections from Libreville.
Visas: visas are necessary for nearly all visitors and must be obtained in advance through your local embassy since it is not possible to obtain visas upon arrival in Gabon. Our advice is to check with your local embassy and / or its website and get your visa early as it can be a complicated process which may require letters of introduction from contacts in Gabon. Visas are also expensive and multiple entry visas will be needed if you choose to travel to São Tomé and Príncipe as well.
Vaccinations: your local doctor should obviously be consulted about health matters and the range of inoculations which is advised. A Yellow Fever certificate is essential as proof of vaccination at the time of writing and this may be checked thoroughly on arrival and before the immigration desk is reached.
Driving: you would be well advised to use a local person to drive a hired vehicle. There are a few metalled roads in the vicinity of Libreville but these soon become metalled roads with potholes and in most of the country, unmettalled roads which can be very dusty when dry and very muddy in the rainy season. Roads can be slippery and rutted so you will need to take plenty of time and be extremely careful.
Train: There is a railway route which runs from Libreville to Franceville in the south-east of the country. It may be possible to use this route to visit some of the prime birding hotspots as it runs through the Lopé National Park and close to the Lopé hotel. From Franceville, one would need to travel by road to Léconi and the The Batéké plateau.
Currency: The local unit of currency is the CFA Franc and this is pegged to the Euro at the time of writing at an exchange rate of about 656. Euros are widely accepted but it is useful to carry CFAs for small purchases and tips etc. There are few cash machines if any outside of Libreville and credit cards are not accepted in the hotels where we stayed. It is necessary therefore to carry significant cash resources.
Timing: Based on our experience in 2006, October is a good time to visit Gabon for birding, although travel is probably easier during the dry season. October is in the wet season and the weather is not too hot but there was some cloud and heavy rain at times. It is a good time to visit the Gamba area particularly as the Rosy Bee-eaters and African River Martins are starting to breed at their colonial nest sites.
Travel Guide: the Bradt Travel Guide to Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe by Sophie Warne contains considerable detailed information on the above and many other topics. This is published by Bradt Travel Guides Ltd, UK and The Globe Pequot Press Inc, USA.
Gabon is a relatively safe country to travel in. The main dangers are likely to be associated with disease, road travel and, to a far lesser extent, animals. Elephants occur in many areas, so when walking on foot you need to be particularly wary.
Immunisation against several diseases is recommended, as are all precautions against Malaria although it is not especially common. Immunisation against Yellow Fever is compulsory for visiting Gabon and you have to show your Certificate on arrival. Acute Haemorrhagic Fever / Ebola outbreaks have occurred in the Zadie District in the north-east of Gabon near the border with the Republic of Congo.
You should always ensure you have sufficient water and some method of purification. Do not underestimate the danger of being in the sun for too long, ensure you use sun-block, drink plenty of water and wear a hat. Be aware of the risk of AIDS and ensure that you take a reasonably-equipped first-aid pack with you including supplies of hypodermic and suturing needles.