Ivindo National Park, The Pride of Gabon

The west-central African nation of Gabon has been put into the tourism spotlight as it became the location of the latest season of reality show "Survivor: Gabon – Earth’s Last Eden," which was ended about a day ago.

Beyond the outwitting and the outplaying, the show displayed Gabon’s rich natural wonders that the country has been proud about.  This small nation is literally dotted with different ecodestinations that provide tourists with opportunities to see the majestic untouched forests, vast savannahs, and wild animals.  And on Gabon’s east-central area is one of its most popular site:  The Ivindo National Park.

Completely bisected by the Equator, the Ivindo National Park was established in August 2002 by a presidential decree.  It is located just southwest of the town of Makokou along the mighty Ivindo River.  Because of its remoteness, much of the area has remained unexplored and that leaves its vast forests become home of large mammals like elephants and gorillas.

At the south of Ivindo lies Langoue Bai, a recently-discovered wildlife sanctuary.  Its name is based on a local word for a natural clearing in the forest that surrounds a mineral-rich waterhole, said to have been created over centuries by forest elephants digging for such minerals that they cannot obtain by food alone.  This open area is home to hundreds of different species of grass, sedge, and other plants that would not have survived under the sunless forest canopy.

Apart from elephants and gorillas, the Langoue Bai has also become a place for larger animals like forest buffalos, sitatungas, and red river hogs.  Tourists would have an amazing opportunity to view this stunning wildlife at a comfortable distance by observing the area on one of the the Bai’s three watch towers hidden in the forest edge.  Telescopes are provided to travelers so they can watch from the middle deck, without having to disturb wildlife researchers who are taking notes on the upper deck.

The advantage of viewing wildlife at such a distance is that tourists are given an opportunity to see wild gorillas in their unhabituated selves.  At the same time, it puts you safe from being harmed, while at the same time the gorillas prevent catching human diseases from tourists. 

Meanwhile, those who prefer birdwatching may want to go to Ipassa, a 10,000-hectare reserve located in the north of the park.  Bird enthusiasts may want to view these lovely creatures from a research station, which is very accessible to the nearby town of Makokou.  At the town’s southwest, down the Ivindo River, are two great waterfalls Koungou and Mingouli.

Ecotourism is very much encouraged by the local government, in hopes that the generated income would be enough to protect its rich wildlife.  Sadly, some parts of the national park have been compromised, such as the hydro-electric dam on the Koungou.  We encourage wildlife travelers, or those who want to make a difference, to come visit Gabon’s national parks.

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