The 2007 It List

by Ondine Cohane

Gabon

In the clamor to be the "next Costa Rica," this West African nation is an unlikely contender—but, we submit, perhaps the most deserving. The comparisons aren't as far-fetched as they might seem: Both have primary rainforest, long stretches of pristine beach, and large swaths of land preserved as national park (about ten percent for both countries). And, as in Costa Rica, the eco movement here—championed in part by Rombout Swanborn, a Dutch entrepreneur born in Gabon—is jump-starting tourism overall. Swanborn has teamed up with the government and the Wildlife Conservation Society to fund responsible development, and has built an upscale lodge in Loango National Park. There you can see forest elephants wander the beach while hippos surf the waves nearby, plus western lowland gorillas and humpback whales. Among the other must-sees: the gorilla orphanage on the island of Evengue and the Mission of Saint Anne, an elegant church designed by Gustav Eiffel. Gabon's commitment to safeguarding its natural assets—until recently the bush meat trade was devastating animal populations—is a welcome addition to the continent's wider ecotourism movement. Book your trip with Cherri Briggs of Explore: The custom tour operator not only handles logistics (there are quite a few) but has the pulse on what's new and most worthwhile.

Loango National Park and Loango Lodge
Tel: 31 26 370 5567

Explore
Tel: 970 871 0065

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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