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Fernan Vaz Lagoon - A view from our expert author
A trip to the Fernan Vaz Lagoon is one of the highlights of any exploration of the Ogooué Maritime region. The lagoon takes its name from the Portuguese sailor Fernão Vaz who discovered it at the end of the 15th century but its most famous landmark dates from four centuries later. The church at the Mission Saint Anne was built in 1889, the same year as the Eiffel Tower, and, unlikely as it may seem, there’s a connection. Look no further than Gustav Eiffel himself, who shipped the plans and materials all the way from Paris at the behest of Mrs Bichet, the mother of Saint Anne’s founding priest and a wealthy woman with Paris connections.
The two gorillas in the Fernan-Vaz Gorilla Project sanctuary act as conservation ambassadors to help educate national and international visitors to Evengué Island on the plight of great apes.
The church stands tall and elegant, the metal worn to a deep, rusty red over the years. Day or overnight visitors can take guided walks in the surrounding forest or along the beach, and visit local villages. Petit Evengué, popularly known as Ile aux gorilles (Gorilla Island), is the location of the Fernan-Vaz Gorilla Project (PGFA) (email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.gorillasgabon.com; admission 15,000CFA foreigners, children half price, free for nationals), initiated in 2001 when a family of orphaned gorillas was transferred from the Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville (CIRMF) to the island.
The project runs a sanctuary and reintroduction centre. The two gorillas in the sanctuary, a forested enclosure, act as conservation ambassadors to help educate national and international visitors to Evengué Island on the plight of great apes. The rehabilitation centre is located on Oriquet Island, away from human exposure, where eight orphaned gorillas currently reside. The aim is to reintroduce them back into the wild. The PGFA base camp is located at Mpando (on the mainland) just 600m across from Oriquet Island. At the moment visitors can either drop in for feeding time or spend the night at lovely Evengué Lodge.