Wildlife Group Tour

Gabon Group Tour - Wildlife and Culture of Africa's Eden

Departing 11th - 23rd January 2020

13 days

from £6,995pp
  • Explore a country that remains 80% covered by pristine rainforest
  • Discover the vast Ivindo National Park, home to Langoue Bai
  • Visit Loango National Park - encounter forest elephants and trek for lowland gorillas
  • Experience an iboga-fuelled Bwiti ceremony, deep within Gabon's inaccessible interior

This unique trip showcases all that Gabon has to offer, from its crashing waterfalls and captivating spiritual rituals to its beach-roaming wildlife and impenetrable rainforests. Explore a country that is a relative stranger to tourism, yet lays claim to some of the most remarkable biodiversity in West Africa.

Begin in the oil-rich capital of Libreville, a surprising contrast to the rest of this jungle-strewn country. Set out on the Trans-Gabonais railway, heading deep into Gabon’s interior. Then, by car and boat, journey towards inaccessible Ivindo National Park.

Carpeted with ancient forest, this vast park remains largely unexplored. Here, search for West African wildlife within its forest clearings, culminating with the beautiful Langoue Bai – discovered by ecologist Mike Fay on his famous MegaTransect expedition.

Afterwards, follow the Ogooue River downstream, stopping at tiny Ndjole to experience Bwiti spiritualism first hand. Witness the intense iboga-fuelled rituals that are still an integral part of the lives of the local Fang people.

Follow the river a little further to the town of Lambarene and have a chance to visit the famous hospital, before taking to the river by boat and journeying to Loango National Park, Gabon’s most spectacular protected area.

Discover this incredible coastal rainforest, home to forest elephants, lowland gorillas and endemic birdlife. Stay at the country’s only true safari lodge, Loango Lodge, exploring on foot, by 4x4 and by boat.

The Guide

The trip will be led by Guillermo Casasnovas, an expert in the region who has guided extensively throughout West and Central Africa. Guillermo is based in neighbouring Cameroon and has been to Gabon many times over the past 15 years.

How much travelling is there?

Gabon is a country where even the smallest infrastructure project is a battle between man and nature. The road network is limited; journeys are long and slow. Therefore, patience is required to reach anywhere in the interior. On this trip, the most convenient option is always chosen – whether that be a car, train, plane or boat. However, often there is only one way of getting somewhere in Gabon.

Be aware that - although often the fastest and most scenic way to travel - boat journeys in Gabon usually use open speedboats that offer no protection from the sun. Therefore, make sure to pack a set of long-sleeved clothing, a hat that does not blow off and plenty of sun cream. 

How fit do I need to be?

Although this trip will be tiring because of the amount of travelling, the walking involved is relatively limited. The pace will be slow; however, the terrain in Ivindo can be quiet steep. You need to be reasonably fit and should comfortable walking at least 30 minutes uphill. The equatorial climate is a challenge in itself, but the shade that the rainforest provides means that you are rarely walking under the sun.

What is accommodation like?

The emphasis is on cleanliness and comfort, rather than style, choosing the best available option in each location. The only exception to this is in Libreville, where there are much more luxurious options available. However, these tend to be a little soulless and are quite overpriced.

The only time when the accommodation is very basic is in Ivindo National Park, when you will be camping. This is a reflection of how off-the-beaten-track the park is, and is unavoidable.

What wildlife can I expect to see?

Seeing forest elephants, hippos and forest buffalos is pretty much guaranteed. And expect numerous glimpses of small monkeys in the canopy of Gabon’s forests throughout the trip. If you chose to go gorilla trekking in Loango, then you will also get to see western lowland gorillas. In Ivindo, you are likely to see sitatungas and red river hogs, and there is a chance of seeing unhabituated gorilla families in the bai. In Loango, there is not a huge diversity of species, but you will be able to get very close to forest elephants, both beside the beach and on the savannah.

Other than these species, it is hard to make predictions – wildlife in Gabon is far from predictable. However, there is a wealth of animal and bird life hidden in its forests; it’s simply a case of whether luck is on your side.

What will the weather be like?

December and January are Gabon’s short dry season, when humidity is slightly lower and rain much less regular. However, still expect the weather to be warm and humid, given Gabon’s equatorial location. Skies tend to be clearer at this time of year, but this does mean the sun can be very strong during the middle of the day.

Departing on:
  • 11th January 2020

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

STARTFINISHPrice Excluding Flights £Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour ExpertStatus 
11th Jan 2020 23rd Jan 2020 £ 6,995 £ 800 £ 800 Guillermo Casasnovas Available
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • Accomodation throughout
  • Guiding by Guillermo Casasnovas throughout
  • Internal flights
  • Only meals as specified
  • Transfers by road, rail, boat and motorised canoe

what is excluded

  • Gorilla permit
  • Gratuities
  • International flights
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Meals not specified in the itinerary
  • Visa


Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Suggested Group Flights
The suggested group flight for this tour is:

Ethiopian Airlines ET701, scheduled to depart London Heathrow at 21:00 on Friday 10th January, arriving into Addis Ababa 06:35 the next day. This connects with ET925, which departs at 09:15 and arrives into Libreville at 12:00.

An arrival transfer will be provided to connect with this flight. You will then be met and transferred to the Tropicana Hotel.

For those making their own way to Libreville and not taking the suggested group flight, the starting point for the group is the Tropicana Hotel. Please speak to one of our team regarding organising an arrival transfer for you.

No meals included.

City Tour of Libreville
After some time to freshen up, head out to explore Libreville. Although the city is by no means packed with sights, it is worth spending a couple of hours exploring. Take a private tour of the National Museum, with its small but impressive collection of cultural artefacts; visit a local artisan producing traditional instruments and masks; and stop at the oldest church, with its beautifully decorated fascade and cleverly ventilated walls. Finish with a meal at a local restaurant that serves tradition Central African cuisine.

Spread out along a sandy stretch of Gabon's Atlantic Coast, Libreville is one of the few places in this equatorial country that doesn't feel penned-in by jungle. Its population is surprisingly diverse, with its oil wealth attracting many people from surrounding West African countries.

Despite its historic name - relating to its founding by freed slaves - the city is largely modern in construction. However, it is still dotted with a number of older buildings, particularly churches, as well as a handful of museums.

You will be staying at Tropicana Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 2

Morning at Leisure
Have a relaxed morning with lunch at Tropicana. On a Sunday, the hotel puts on an impressive buffet that attracts the locals, so this is a good day to eat here. Have the chance to stroll on the beach or visit a local market. With lots of travelling ahead, this morning intentionally left free.

Transfer to railway station in the afternoon for train to Booue.

Travel overnight from Libreville to Booue by train

Arrive at the train station with plenty of time to spare - this is needed to in order to check in baggage weighing more than 10 kilograms. As you are travelling in first class, you are able to wait in a comfortable air-conditioned lounge until you're invited to board.

First class is clean, comfortable and relatively spacious, if a little dated. The well-padded seats recline and there are only three across the width of the carriage. Be aware that the air-conditioning is often set too low, so make sure you take a fleece or jacket. An eye mask and earplugs may also be a good idea. 

The train does not always run on time, but it is the best way to reach Gabon's forest-covered interior. The road network is still very limited, with large portions made up of challenging dirt roads. The scheduled departure time from Libreville is 18:50 and the train is scheduled to arrive in Booue at 02:25. 

Booue is a small town that sits beside both the Ogooue River and the TransGabonais Railway. It is positioned roughly midway between Lope and Ivindo national parks.

Only breakfast included.

Arrive in the early hours and transfer to the hotel for a chance to sleep and freshen up.

You will be staying at Hotel Splendeur, bed and breakfast

Day 3

Travel into Ivindo National Park

Leave at around 08:00, collected from the hotel by park rangers in 4x4s. Drive for around two hours on dirt roads, following the Ogooue River. This includes a short ferry crossing. Stop at the ranger station by the Dilo River for a short break and to register with the park authorities. Then continue by 4x4 as the track becomes far smaller, cutting through the forest with dense vegetation either side. After around two hours, the track ends and you leave the vehicles.

Here, meet more rangers and walk for 30-40 minutes along a steep but level path through the forest. At the top of the hill, climb aboard Polaris buggies and drive for another 40 minutes to Langoue Main Camp. Have lunch here and some time to rest. Then walk for another 70-90 minutes through the dense forest, down to the bai. The last third is a steep descent that can be tricky. The rangers will carry your bags for all of the walking sections.

Practically untouched by tourism and hidden at the very heart of the country, this vast and inaccessible park is home to some of Gabon's finest primary forest. The Ivindo River winds its way through the park, offering access, as well as a succession of waterfalls. The largest of these are the spectacular Koungou Falls, which featured in the recent Tarzan movie.

The dense forest that carpets Ivindo forms part of a jungle ecosystem that extends east, all the way across both Congos. The park first gained recognition during conservationist Mike Fay's MegaTransect expedition, when he rediscovered Langoue Bai - a dramatic opening in the forest that attracts a remarkable number of jungle species and of huge ecological importance.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

You will be staying at Langoue Bai Platform, full board

Day 4

Time on the Platform at Langoue Bai
This vast park is thickly covered with forest, interrupted only by rivers and bais. These bais, or forest clearings, attract a range of animals due to their rich grasses and salt licks. Of these, Langoue Bai is the largest and busiest, discovered by conservationist Mike Fay during his MegaTransect in 1999. This vast bai is ringed by dense primary forest, from which enormous trees protrude. The Langoue River wends its way across the grassy bai, its clear waters attracting thirsty animals. But it is the mineral-rich soil that makes this bai so popular, attracting all kinds of wildlife.

However, time on the platform beside the bai is all about patience. Unlike game viewing in many other places, you have to let the animals come to you, keeping noise to a minimum. However, time waiting is spent immersed in this spectacular jungle environment, with butterflies fluttering around, palm nut vultures circling and sitatungas occasionally appearing from the long grass. Nothing is guaranteed at Langoue Bai, but forest elephants tend to visit daily, occasionally in groups as large 30 or 40 individuals. Red river hogs, in groups of up to 20, forest buffalos and lone sitatungas are also regularly spotted. Great turacos can also be seen, flashing blue between trees.

Less regularly spotted, but still frequent visitors to the bai are families of western lowland gorillas. These elusive primates can easily spend an hour playing in the open and most commonly visit in the morning, around 10:00.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

You will be staying at Langoue Bai Platform, full board

Day 5

Another day at Langoue Bai.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

Walk back to Langoue Main Camp at the end of the day.

You will be staying at Langoue Main Camp, full board

Day 6

Travel back to Booue

Return to Booue, beginning by Polaris buggy, then continuing on foot and by 4x4. The journey ought to take around six hours, so you will arrive back in Booue in time for a late lunch at the hotel.

Have time to rest and relax in the afternoon.

Have dinner at the hotel before getting some sleep. Leave for the station at around midnight.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

You will be staying at Hotel Splendeur, full board

Day 7

Travel by train from Booue to Ndjole.

This is a journey of only a few hours, again in first class. The train departs Booue at 00:44 and is scheduled to arrive in Ndjole at 03:32.

Drive from Ndjole to Lambarene.

A journey of around two hours, on a windy but tarred road.

Arrive in time for breakfast and have time to relax during the morning.

Tour of the Old Hospital and Museum
In the afternoon, visit the Schweitzer Hospital, which is almost a century old and treats around 30,000 people a year. Supported by volunteers from around the world, this remarkable institution is run by a non-profit foundation. The small museum preserves its founder's lodgings, as well as some of his simple possessions.

This relaxed pocket-sized city is spread across a broad section of the Ogooue River, with part of it occupying a large island in the river's centre. It is famed for its hospital, which was founded over a century ago by Dr Albert Schweitzer. This remarkable institution seems slightly out of place amidst Gabon's untamed jungle. Nevertheless, it is deserving of its excellent reputation and a visit to the hospital and associated museum are highlights of any stay.

Visit a Local Temple to See a Bwiti Ceremony
In spite of Gabon's colonisation by France and its indoctrination into Catholicism, traditional spiritual practices survive in the form of Bwiti rituals. After dinner at a local restaurant, visit a local temple (about 10 minutes away) and witness a mesmerising ceremony first-hand. Although Bwiti is still very much alive in Gabon, few outsiders ever witness it. Temples are small, unobtrusive buildings that hide behind houses. Amongst many Gabonese, Bwiti continues to instil fear, whilst others revere it - both are reasons that it is rarely talked about openly. 

Sit with the believers as they summon the spirits. Chanting, dancing and drumming are all integral parts of these ceremonies, which vary depending on the occasion or objective. This is an entirely authentic and powerful experience. Bwiti blends Christianity with animism and other practices, all fuelled by the consumption of iboga. This potent endemic plant has psychedelic properties, which the local people take advantage of by chewing the bark. This combination of religious fervour and iboga can see the faithful stay up all night chanting and singing.

As the ceremony ebbs and flows, there will be various chances to leave. For the committed, there will be the option to stay up through the night and leave in the morning.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

You will be staying at Albert Schweitzer Hospital Guestrooms, full board

Day 8

Have a relaxed morning with the chance for a lie in to recover from last night.

In the afternoon, take a tour of the new hospital and walk through the local market.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

You will be staying at Albert Schweitzer Hospital Guestrooms, full board

Day 9

Travel by boat from Lambarene to Omboue

Set off down the Ogooue River. Follow the river until it enters the Fernan Vaz Lagoon, then cross the lagoon to the town of Omboue. This is a journey of around five hours in an open-topped speedboat, passing through unspoilt jungle. Lifejackets will be provided. It is highly recommended that you wear long-sleeved clothing and put on plenty of suncream.

Stop for lunch in front of the Fernan Vaz Lagoon.

Drive from Omboue to Loango Lodge

A journey of around two hours in one of the lodge's 4x4 vehicles.

The jewel in Gabon's crown, Loango is the country's most famous park. Images of surfing hippos brought the park international recognition during the early 2000s and it is this unique convergence of coastal and jungle habitats that make Loango so unusual.

Whilst surfing hippos are far from a common sight and few visitors are lucky enough to spot them, forest elephants and buffalos strolling along the beach are a more common occurrence in the park. A mixture of lagoons, mangroves, rainforest and savannah, Loango is home to a wealth of different species. These include western lowland gorillas, which are now relatively habituated.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

You will be staying at Loango Lodge, full board

Day 10

Explore Loango National Park
Spend time exploring Loango National Park, mainly on game drives in 4x4 vehicles but also on foot and by boat. The park's diverse landscape means that each mode of transport affords an entirely different experience.

Although it is the country's best-known park, Loango is essentially still a wilderness. It offers a remarkable mix of ecosytems, with forest, savannah, mangroves and beaches all within close proximity. Thanks to this, it also offers the most reliable wildlife sightings in Gabon. Forest elephants and forest buffalos are both regularly spotted, across all habitats.

Whilst Loango's claim to fame is its "surfing hippos", this is vastly misleading. Instead, it should be known for its forest elephants, which are both numerous and surprisingly relaxed. Getting close to them on foot and by vehicle is a real highlight - something not possible elsewhere. At dawn, the elephants can be seen on the savannah. Whilst at dusk, they can be spotted wandering beside the beach - set against palms, waves and sand.

There are also many more elusive species, of which sightings can never be guaranteed, including numerous species of monkey, red river hogs, gorillas and chimpanzees.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

You will be staying at Loango Lodge, full board

Day 11

Optional Lowland Gorilla Trek
Have the opportunity to trek in search of Loango's western lowland gorillas - only recently habituated by conservationists. This experience is completely unlike gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda, with access by boat along the lagoon. Travel for around an hour to the research camp, where you stop for a short briefing and to collect a reasearcher. Then continue by boat to the closest point to the gorillas. From here, trek to the family's location. (The permit for gorilla trekking costs an additional 500 euros).

Another day exploring.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included.

You will be staying at Loango Lodge, full board

Day 12

Drive from Loango to Port Gentil

Travel by 4x4 along the new road that has been built to connect Loango with Port Gentil. This is a journey of around five hours.

Stop for lunch in Port Gentil.

Fly Port Gentil to Libreville

Breakfast and lunch included.

You will be staying at Tropicana Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 13

Have the morning at leisure before checking out by 12:00

Only breakfast included.

Suggested Group Flights
The suggested group flight for this tour is:

Ethiopian Airlines ET925, scheduled to depart Libreville at 12:50 on Thursday 23rd January, arriving into Addis Ababa at 20:45. This connects with ET700, which departs at 03:20 and arrives into London Heathrow at 09:05 the following day.

A departure transfer will be provided to connect with this flight.

For those not taking the suggested group flight, please speak to one of our team regarding organising a departure transfer for you.


Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

Loango Lodge

Loango Lodge

Gabon's only true safari lodge, Loango Lodge is the ideal base from which to explore the national park....

View Accommodation

Langoue Bai Platform

Langoue Bai Platform

This three-level platform is situated on the edge of the bai, beside the treeline....

View Accommodation

Albert Schweitzer Hospital Guestrooms

Albert Schweitzer Hospital Guestrooms

These renovated guestrooms are on the old hospital premises and one of the few places to stay in Gabon that has real character....

View Accommodation

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of Gabon

Bridget Cohen, Travel Expert

"Bridget had a great knowledge of the areas being looked at and given I have spent time in both countries, it required someone who completely understood the type of camps preferred."

"Bridget's service was very personal and friendly whilst maintaining a professional manner. All my questions were dealt with promptly and efficiently."

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Chris Johnston, Travel Expert

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"Excellent advice and information on our very first Steppes holiday. Chris was exceptionally helpful and patient and he treated us as individuals instead of tourists, by taking time find out what we wanted from our trip."

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Tour expert

Guillermo Casasnovas

Guillermo Casasnovas
Guillermo Casasnovas is an expert in Cameroon, Gabon and the surrounding countries. He has guided extensively throughout west and central Africa. Guillermo is based in Douala, in neighbouring Cameroon, and has been to Gabon many times over the past 15 years.
Enquire about this Wildlife tour:

Group Size:

Min 6 / Max 10

Tour Expert:

Guillermo Casasnovas

Departure Date (S):

  • 11th January 2020

  • Moderate Activity - The tour may occasionally involve slightly longer walks, but nothing over 4 hours. The tour will involve visits to a variety of sites throughout the duration of the itinerary and be at a moderate pace.

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