Lopé Faunal Reserve

Of world importance, this 1,900 square miles (4,900 km2) with the highest density of large mammals ever recorded in a tropical rain forest is a reservoir of biological riches essentially undisturbed for the past 10,000 years. Parts of it may never have felt a human footfall. Riverine forests and pockets of savannah are filled with wildlife—mandrills, gorillas, strange, lanky gray-necked rock fowl, rosy bee-eaters, massive forest elephants and forest buffalo, waterloving sitatunga antelopes, bushpigs, chimpanzees, and a variety of monkeys—altogether at least 12 primates including endemic sun-tailed monkeys, only discovered in 1984.

Delicate little blue and yellow-backed duiker antelopes look for fallen fruits along the forest floor, whistling with alarm at the slightest disturbance, which could be anything—70 or so bush pigs snorting as they root along, elephants rumbling low-frequency vibrations that can alert any other elephant within several miles, a troop of mandrills stirring up the underbrush—or a little chameleon rustling along a branch, conical eyes swiveling in all directions like tiny gun turrets to spot insect prey.

Park boundaries were redrawn in 2000 after negotiations between the government, major logging companies, and environmental groups, including Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), opening some places to selective logging but permanently protecting pristine areas. While controversial, most hailed it as a forward-looking agreement by all parties and a victory for African wildlife.

Lopé, relatively dry because of its location in the rain shadow of the Chaillu mountain range, is 217 miles (350 km) east of Libreville, seven hours’ drive or four hours by express train. Park entrance is near the Lopé railway station, as are several hotels with varying levels of accommodations. There is a well-developed network of paths for observation of large mammals in the savannah and of gorillas at Mikongo.

Bateke Plateaux National Park,
in the southern, uninhabited section of the Bateke Plateaux where a program of reintroducing gorilla orphans is under way.

Crystal Mountains, situated between Equatorial Guinea and the Ogooué River, said to be Africa’s richest reserve in terms of plant diversity.

Ivindo, between the Ivindo and Ogooué rivers, with the most important waterfalls of central Africa and large concentrations of easily observed elephants and gorillas.

Loango, between the Nkomi and Ndogo lagoons—perhaps the only place in the world where one can see elephants, hippos, gorillas, and leopards on shining white beaches. Offshore is a large variety of whales and dolphins including humpback and killer whales. Tourist camps at Iguelaand Sette Cama.

Mayumba, a thin strip of sand in far south Gabon, home of the largest concentration of nesting leatherback turtles on earth. Mayumba may become part of a transboundary park linked with CONKOUATI NATIONAL PARK in the Congo Republic.

Minkébé, a large expanse of forest in the extreme northeast of the country, is virtually uninhabited. Ancient trees interwoven with elephant paths are used by bongos and giant forest hogs.

Mwagné, between the Lodié and Louayé rivers, adjoining the Congo Republic. Large bais or water-hole clearings with exceptionally large populations of elephants.

Pongara, the southern fringe of the Komo estuary, adjacent to Libreville and the Atlantic ocean front. Despite its proximity to Libreville the region still has many larger mammals, including buffalo and elephants.

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Bateke Plateaux National Park

Crystal Mountains