Léconi Canyons

Marvel at the red Léconi Canyons, vast craters punctuated by craggy fingers of rock.

The small town of Léconi (population 7,300) sits just east of its namesake Léconi River (home to a good spot for swimming) and is a convenient base from which to visit the Léconi Canyons (eroded sand escarpments) and Léconi Park. There are three named canyons in the area, that are individually named after their colours (red, white and green).

By far the most visited of the three, the Canyon Rouge (also known as Canyon Rose or the Cirque de Lékoni) is fortunately said to be the prettiest of the three. It sits less than 10km southeast of Léconi town, though the last 5km are on a sandy track, so a 4×4 is required. It may be useful to have a guide in the rainy season (just ask at your hotel). The track emerges at the lip of a cliff without warning (so drive carefully), and you’ll find yourself looking down into twin canyons – the larger ‘male’ canyon and the smaller ‘female’ one behind. There is a trail along the edge of the male canyon, leading to the female one. According to local belief, the canyons are home to spirits and those who enter will never return. More prosaically, don’t leave valuables unattended in your vehicle, as they may be gone if and when you return. The lake beyond is the Lac aux Caïmans, which was once home to a large population of crocodile, though hunters have ensured that there are very few here anymore.

Cirques de Léconi Gabon by Boris Kester
The remote Léconi Canyons boast spectactularly eroded cliffs of red, white and green © Boris Kester

If you have more time on your hands and enjoyed the Canyon Rouge, the Canyon Blanc sits some 35km from Léconi along the sand track that leads to Ekouyi-Mboma, which branches southwest from the main road just west of Léconi town (1km west of the bridge over the Léconi River). Follow these tracks for about 25km until you reach the village of Léwou, where you’ll take a left turn and follow a further 10km of sand tracks to the canyon. The Canyon Vert lies in the opposite direction, sitting just astride the Congolese border. The canyon is about 40km from town; follow the track northeast past the Léconi airstrip towards Edjangoulou (more or less the halfway point), and continue through the village. The canyon will be on your right; the track passes about 1km east of it, so some walking or off-roading is required. A 4×4 is essential to reach either canyon.