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Loango National Park - A view from our expert author
With an irresistible combination of scenery and wetlands, Loango National Park is the jewel in the crown of Gabon’s 13 parks and offers one of the world’s most exhilarating safari experiences.
Loango National Park is the jewel in the crown of Gabon’s 13 parks and offers one of the world’s most exhilarating safari experiences, thanks to its irresistible combination of scenery and wildlife. With more than 175km of uninhabited shoreline, it is widely regarded as one of Africa’s last great coastal wildernesses. Lagoons, forests, savannahs and wetlands all come together within the park’s 1,550km². Loango’s endless beach is one of the few places in the world where buffalo and forest elephants still have access to the sea. Even gorilla families are occasionally foraging in beachside trees.
Loango is also home to the legendary ‘surfing hippos’, memorably captured on film by National Geographic photographer Michael Nichols in 2004. In season, humpbacks and dolphins may be seen frolicking in the warm equatorial waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Many rare bird species have been spotted here, including Forbes’s plover, Loango weaver, quail finch, rosy bee-eaters and Congo River martins. The park is a paradise for lovers of sport fishing and record catches of tarpon, as well as barracuda, rouge, and big sharks are possible here with a catch-and-release programme.
Elephants in Loango National Park © Annelies Hickendorff
The current park incorporates the former Iguela and Petit Loango reserves. The Iguela Reserve covered an area of 230,000ha surrounding the lagoon alternatively called Iguela or Nkomi. Neighbouring it to the south was the smaller coastal reserve of Petit Loango. The two parts have their own character and, unfortunately, their own access route.
Loango’s attractions change depending on the time of year. The whale season begins around mid-July and continues through to mid-September, the tarpon fishing season lasts from October to mid-November, and the turtle season is October to mid-January. Most chances to see elephants wandering the white-sand beaches are during the rainy season from October to April. At all times, you will see at least some of the following: buffaloes, hippos, crocodiles, manatees, elephants, chimpanzees and gorillas.
Historically, Loango National Park has a reputation for exclusiveness. While visiting it still can’t be done on a shoestring, there’s good news for people on a somewhat tight budget. Not only are there currently a couple of lodges around the Iguela Lagoon that offer great trips for less exorbitant prices, but the area south of Petit Loango now also offers some decent accommodation and ecotourism community projects.