I found this really nice interview of Lee White:
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Posted 28 October 2016 - 08:09 AM
I would love to visit Gabon,and have long dreamt of doing so. There's simply an almost total lack of tourist infrastucture. It has the potential to be one of the most incredible safari destinations in the world. I remember reading a column in The New York Times by Nicholas Christof how it was potentially an African eden for tourists.
Posted 29 October 2016 - 12:01 AM
I thought when I visited the country and still think that Gabon has huge tourism potential. It needs outsiders to come in who have the knowhow to turn it into the ecotourism destination that it should be. It also needs the Gabonese government to decide if it really wants to develop a tourist industry and if it does to commit to doing whatever is necessary.
On my 2008 Gabon safari I visited Mikongo Camp in Lope NP the camp was run by the Zoological Society of London, they were operating a gorilla habituation and tracking program there. The intention was that Mikongo would become a centre for gorilla tourism in Gabon. However by the time I got there the gorilla program had actually ended and they'd stopped all gorilla treks. You could go on guided walks in Mikongo Forest and you might get lucky and glimpse gorillas (we didn't) but you couldn’t go out to look for them. Shortly after I returned home Mikongo Camp closed and ZSL moved on. I didn’t know at the time what had gone wrong with the gorilla program and why ZSL stopped it. For viewing gorillas the habitat is a bit more challenging than in Rwanda, in lowland rainforests like Mikongo they're never going to be as easy to see. However the habituation and tracking of western lowland gorillas has proven successful in CAR and Congo Rep. tourists can go on gorilla treks in these countries, so why not in Gabon?
Quite recently I happened to read online a blog post by some South Africans who were travelling overland through Africa (I can’t remember the name of their blog) they visited Mikongo and learned why the gorilla program was shut down. Bushmeat poaching is still big issue in Gabon and gorillas are on the menu, habituating gorillas is therefore risky. Encourage a gorilla group to lose their fear of humans and they could easily fall victim to poachers. If you are going to habituate gorillas then it is vital that you can guarantee that they will be well protected afterwards. Apparently ZSL told the Gabonese that in order to establish a successful gorilla tourist operation at Mikongo, they needed to commit to having rangers/trackers follow the gorillas every day for at least 30 years. This would ensure that the gorillas were protected and also that they remained habituated. The Gabonese were not willing to make such a commitment and this is why ZSL pulled out and closed the program down. If this was the case then it is both sad and very short sighted, gorilla tourism has been going in Rwanda for over 30 years now and I have no doubt that if the gorilla program had been able to continue Mikongo would now be an established gorilla trekking destination. That small numbers of tourists would be travelling to Lope to see gorillas just as they are now going to Odzala in neighbouring Congo and that this would in turn have led to other tourist developments in Gabon. Instead other than a few birders and adventure travellers hardly any tourist visit Lope and nobody to my knowledge sees gorillas there. As far as I am aware you can still really only see gorillas by chance in Gabon.
I hope that as well as saving the country's elephants Lee White can do something to get tourism going in Gabon get the Gabonese to understand what they need to do to develop a successful tourist industry.
I was just so lucky to go when I did, I had no idea that there wouldn't be another opportunity to do a trip like this if I hadn't gone, I could have easily ended up going somewhere else instead.
Posted 26 November 2016 - 08:37 AM
I just ordered a tourist guide to Gabon published by Bradt. I hope that it gives me solid ideas about visiting Gabon. I hope that it eventually reaches a small portion of it's tourist potential. The Gabonese are known for being faieneasse (lazy) due in part to their government's total dependence on oil revenue, and the fact there is no local industry to speak of. Everything is thus imported either from France or through France and is thus terribly expensive. In the long term one can't put their all their faith in oil nor for that matter in any other commodity,
Posted 01 January 2017 - 06:38 PM
I have to say that unfortunately wildlife tourism is dead in the water in Gabon. There was a decent lodge in Loango National Park that has closed. Loango is famous for sighting of whales, hippos in the surf, forest buffalo, and elephants. There are also chimps, and gorillas. One can only hope that at some time in the future that the government decides that it needs to diversify it's economy; it needs more than just oil.
Edited by optig, 01 January 2017 - 06:39 PM.