I had a view from Gabon yesterday, which induced me to decrease my geographical ignorance slightly. I gleaned most of the information below from the U. S. Department of State The Lonely Planet and Ebando.org. If anybody could further enlighten me, I would be grateful.

 [image credit: Ebando.org]

Africa; central-western coast

Population ~ 1.5 million

Major cities (population):

  • Libreville, the Capital (~675,000)
  • Port-Gentil (~150,000)
  • Franceville (~30,000)

Size: ~270,000 sq. km. (~ 100,000 sq. mi.); approximately the size of Colorado

Topography: a coastal plain; hilly, heavily forested interior; some savanna expanses in the east and south.

Climate: Hot and humid. Two rainy and two dry seasons.

The original inhabitants of the area that is now Gabon were pygmies, hunter-gathers, but they were displaced by the Bantu, who migrated from the  surrounding areas.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to visit Gabon, and the country’s name is derived from the Portuguese word gabao, a hooded cloak that resembles the contours of the Komo River estuary.

The Gabonese populace includes over three-dozen ethnic groups, almost all of Bantu origin. The different ethnic groups mix exceptionally well in Gabon; in part due to the unifying, official French language, but also due to the continuity of The Democratic Party of Gabon, which has worked to include all ethnic interests into their governance.

The coast of Gabon, similarly to Cameroon, was utilized during the evil days of the trans-Atlantic slave trade (according to accounts, the major areas used were the Niger Delta, the Laongo coast, and the coast of Angola). France abolished slave trade along the Gabon coastline in 1815, and a more civilized trade of manufactured goods for raw materials was instituted (I have an inkling that it was still an inequitable arrangement, but it was a step in the right direction).

Currently, there are over ten-thousand French living in Gabon (two-thousand with dual citizenship); and, although Gabon is now an independent Republic, France continues to maintain a dominant foreign influence. France first began to gain control of Gabon in 1839 by signing treaties with coastal Chiefs, and France’s occupation of Gabon in 1885 was precipitated by the mad rush of European countries vying for control of African countries. Gabon officially became the Gabonese Republic (République Gabonaise) in 1960.

Oil production and export dominates Gabon’s economy, but it is estimated that their oil reserves will be fully depleted by 2025. Fairly recently, plans to survive the future without oil reserves have been launched; and one of the plans, I assume, is to position Gabon as an ecotourism destination. Gabon’s President — El Hadj Omar Bongo — has designated 10% of Gabon’s land area as National Park, closing the areas to industry and opening them to tourists and conservationists. Gabon is apparently home to gorgeous beaches, tropical jungles teaming with wildlife, undulating savannas, and stunning estuaries.

Gabon looks like a delightful place to visit, but before you jump on a plane to enjoy its allure, heed a warning from Ebando.org’s website : Tourism in Gabon is still very underdeveloped. Westerners are a minority, few tourists, and their image is not always positive. It is strongly advised to exercise humility, diligence, and do your best to adapt to the local lifestyle.

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