Gabon is a small beautiful central African country located on the equator. Despite its challenging economy and poor infrastructure, this country has some amazing landscapes that are a feast for the eyes. Here are several fun facts about Gabon that will help you understand this beautiful nation.
Common Facts About Gabon
Gabon, officially the “Gabonese Republic,” is a country with an approximate population of 2.37 million people. It is bordered by Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of Congo.
Gabon is known for its rich culture, warm people, and some of the best beaches on the African continent. That is why it is also a popular destination for a vacation. If you ever decide to travel to this country, here are some facts about Gabon you should know.
Several countries in Africa are prone to armed conflicts and civil/social unrest. Always double check the latest situations from both your government and the local government advisories.
Historical Facts About Gabon
Gabon Is Over 10,000 Years
The first recorded people to inhabit present-day Gabon was the Pygmy tribe. However, it is hard to determine how long they inhabited the region before they were discovered.
Most of what is documented are that due to the Bantu migration to the region in the 18th century, they were ousted and absorbed by the Bantu people.
Based on archaeological discoveries, it is believed that present-day Gabon has witnessed human activities for over 400,000 years. That suggests that the Pygmy and Bantu people might have been in the region since the Palaeolithic era, through to the Neolithic era and the Iron Age. That is a crazy long time ago.
Kingdom Of Orungu
This was one of the oldest and most influential empires in present-day Gabon. The kingdom became prominent through different exports. Beyond gold and ivory, slave trading was the most lucrative transatlantic commodity back in the day.
This small pre-colonial kingdom thrived on its ability to negotiate and sell slaves between the 18th and 19th centuries.
That said, the kingdom didn’t last long, as its influence wanned greatly when the slave trade was abolished in the 1870s. Regardless, the Kingdom of Orungu played a significant part in the country’s history. Most of their trading centers are what was shaped into present-day Gabon.
Italian-French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza first landed in the area in 1875. He was on a mission to win Gabon-Congo and make it a French colony.
On arrival, Pierre founded Franceville (one of the largest cities in Gabon) and became their colonial governor. There was no documented record of conflicts with the people.
When the French officially took over the region in 1885, a few Bantu groups lived harmoniously with the French in the region. In 1910, the country became a territory of French Equatorial Africa that thrived until 1958.
The allies invaded Gabon after World War II, with plans to overthrow the pro-Vichy France colonial administration. They were successful as Gabon became an autonomous republic in 1958, although it was still within the French Community.
It was in 1960 that the country finally gained total independence from France. The national day in Gabon is the 17th of August.
Gabon First President
The first president of the Republic of Gabon was Léon M’ba. He governed the country for 6 years, between 1961 to 1967, until his passing.
Léon M’ba was succeeded by his vice president Omar Bongo, who happened to be the second president of the country and the longest-serving Gabonese president. He presided over Gabon for 42 years between 1967 to 2009.
Useful Facts About Gabon For Tourists
Loango National Park
It is fair to say Loango National Park has it all when it comes to nature. The park features savannahs, forests, mangroves, swamps, salt marshes, and lagoons. You can also find some of the best beaches in Gabon within the boundaries of this park.
At Loango park, you can enjoy an amazing Safari experience. It has some beautiful landscapes and mesmerizing wildlife. You can spot some wonderful animals in Gabon when you visit the Loango National Park. Surfing hippos, buffalos, dolphins, and elephants are some of the animals that live in the region.
Here is a fact about Gabon you should know, the country is blessed with many national parks and beautiful animals. The Pongara is an example of these prominent national parks in Gabon.
The Pongara park features moist tropical and mangrove forests. It is located just south of Libreville (Gabon’s capital), covering over 900 square km. In Pongara, you can also see some of the best white sand beaches in Gabon.
Pongara is a coastal wildlife heaven. If you are lucky, you can see hippos and crocodiles between the lagoons and the sea while unwinding on the beach.
You may also come across sea turtles on the seashores. Meanwhile, dolphins and humpback whales can be spotted in the Pongara waters either from vantage points or via cruises.
Fernan Vaz Lagoon
This lagoon is situated in the Ogooue province on the country’s Atlantic coast. The area was named after the first European to grace its shores, Ferano Vaz.
The Feranan Vaz Lagoon is known for its rich wildlife, amazing forest views, and beaches. You can also see Gorillas in their sanctuary in the same area.
One prominent Gabon monument in Feran Vaz Lagoon is the church at Mission Saint Anne. It was designed by Gustav Eiffel in 1889; he is a French civil engineer, most known for being the mastermind behind the Eiffel tower in Paris.
Ivindo National Park
One interesting fact about Gabon is the country’s flourishing biodiversity. Did you know there are over 300 mammals, and 8,000 plants, in 600 bird species in Gabon?
The Ivindo park is a habitat that contributes to housing these florae and fauna. It is most famous for its river, which flows through the rainforest and forms a beautiful series of slopes and waterfalls.
If you love birds, then this Gabon fact will excite you. There are at least 400 distinct bird species in Ivindo National Park.
One of Gabon’s famous and fun animals is the African grey parrot that you will be able to see in Ivindo. You can interact with these birds as they do their best to mimic whatever you say. In addition, you can also see mandrills, buffaloes, bush pigs, chimps, and even lowland gorillas in this park amongst many others.
The official currency of Gabon is the Central African CFA Franc. This is the only legal tender within the country. However, in some places (hotels, tourist centers, international markets) in the country, you can spend U.S. dollars; it is accepted as legal tenders.
One thing to know is that the Central African CFA Franc is not unique to Gabon. It is also used by 6 independent countries in Central Africa. Cameroon, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic are the other nations that use the Central African CFA Franc.
The CFA Franc is minted in banknotes (500 francs, 1000 francs, 2000 francs, 5000 francs, and 10,000 francs), and coins (1 franc, 2 francs, 5 francs, 10 francs, 25 francs, 50 francs, 100 francs, and 500 francs).
Cultural Fun Facts Of Gabon.
Nyembwe Chicken The National Dish
Gabon has so many African-themed delicacies. Common and traditional foods in Gabon include meat (chicken and bush meat) and fish, sauces, fruits (especially bananas), and other items like cassava and maize.
The national dish of Gabon is Nyembwe chicken, also known as poulet chicken by many. The Nyembwe chicken is a stew-style dish with chicken as the base ingredient.
The key recipe of this dish is palm oil. The stew is made with chicken and palm oil, garnished with spices and seasoning. Garlic, turmeric, and vegetables are added to further enhance the flavor.
The Nyembwe Chicken is a rich stew and thus often enjoyed with boiled rice and any other carb-based food.
Country Of Masks
Here is another interesting fact about Gabon’s culture. They love making masks, and it is safe to say mask-making is a ritual and a significant part of the heritage in Gabon.
Gabonese believe that making and wearing masks is their humble way of revering their ancestors. The masks are designed in different styles and geometric shapes, making them unique from other masks in the world. The signature features also vary across different tribes.
Language In Gabon
Gabon is one of many Francophone (French-speaking) countries on the African continent. It is no surprise that French is the Gabonese official language, considering their colonial history with France.
But beyond French, there are many other indigenous spoken languages in Gabon. Some languages of the Bantu tribe like Fang, Nzebi, Bandjabi, and Myene, are still understood and used within local communities.
If you plan on visiting Gabon, it will help to learn a few French phrases. They will certainly come in handy.
Christianity is the dominant religion in the country, with over 82% of the country’s population identifying as Christians. 9.8% are Muslims, and 8.2% practice other religions.
Football The National Sport
Like most African countries, the most popular sport in Gabon is Football (Soccer). The man’s national team in Gabon are nicknamed “Les Panthers” or “The Panthers.”
The national team has never qualified for the FIFA world cup, but they have participated in the continent’s biggest stage – The African Cup Of Nations (AFCON), at least 8 times.
The most famous football star from the shores of Gabon is Pierre Aymerick Aubameyang. He has piled his trade at world-renowned football clubs like Arsenal FC and Chelsea FC in the English Premier League.
Although football is a big part of Gabon culture, it is not the only sport. Basketball, athletics, and taekwondo are other sports enjoyed in Gabon.
Simple Gabon Facts For Kids
Libreville is the capital city of Gabon. It is also the largest city in the country. Libreville sits by the coast and has a total land area of 189 square km. The city is home to around 870,000 Gabonese.
Here is another cool fact about Gabon. It is one of the countries with the youngest population in the world. That is a general trait of most nations in Africa.
Over 30% of Gabon’s population is 15 years or below. This means this is one of the countries on the African continent with a promising labor force for the future.
Here is an easy-to-remember Gabon fact for kids; citizens of the country are referred to as Gabonese, just like citizens of Scotland are called Scottish.
The Name Gabon
It is suggested that the country got its name from Portuguese explorers. They believed the Komo river in Gabon has a shape of a cloak, so they called it “Gabão” which means Cloak in Portuguese. That said, now “Gabão” is also the Portuguese name of Gabon.
Geographical Facts About Gabon
Gabon is one of the 38 African countries with a coastline. The country has a reasonably long coastline of 885 km stretching along the Atlantic Ocean.
While it’s a lesser-known fact about Gabon, there are some beautiful beaches in this country.
Africa’s Virgin Land
The Loango National Park in Gabon has over 175km of uninhabited shoreline. This makes it one of Africa’s last virgin lands.
It’s fair to say it’s another Eden of sorts. There is a large number of thriving wildlife in Gabon, which hints that it is definitely one of the more uninhabited places on the African continent.
Gabon has some of the most beautiful scenery on the African continent, aided by its exceptional landscapes. The terrain ranges from plateau, high mountains, forests, scattered savannas, and rolling hills.
Here is a fact about Gabon that you probably didn’t know. At least 80% of the country’s surface area is covered in rainforest. The forest in Gabon is the second largest forest area in the Congo region.
Lies On The Equator
Here is another interesting Gabon fact you should know. Gabon is one of only 13 countries on planet earth to be crossed by the equator.
To put it in simple terms, the equator is a line that divides the world horizontally into two halves. Gabon is one such country that is divided by the equator.
This implies that a part of the country is in the northern hemisphere, and the other half is in the southern hemisphere of the world. Meaning Gabon enjoys some of the best tropical climates.
We spoke about the Komo River that reportedly gave Gabon its name. But one of the other interesting facts about the Gabon river is that it did not originate from the country.
The river’s source is actually the Woleu-Ntem plateau in Equatorial Guinea, but a larger part of the watershed resides within the borders of Gabon. This is a large river stretching over 230 kilometers that cut across both Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
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Other Interesting Facts About Gabon
Agriculture In Gabon
While many African countries rely heavily on agriculture in their GDP, Gabon is actually an exception. Nevertheless, the country still has a decent productive agricultural sector.
Some of the main food crops in the country include bananas, sweet potatoes, cassava, maize, and groundnut. Most of the farming in Gabon is subsistence (Farming for consumption), and only a small share of the country’s farm products are exported.
The agricultural sector employs about 20% of the country’s labor force. This may sound high but it is comparatively low within the context of the African continent. However, that is not to say that Gabon has no major export goods.
Over 80% of Gabon is covered by rainforest, so the country deals well in wood export, manganese, and uranium. It also ranks as one of the top 10 oil (petroleum) producers in Africa.
Flag Of Gabon
The flag of Gabon was adopted in 1960 after the country gained independence. It is a simple tricolor flag featuring 3 horizontal green, yellow, and blue bands.
The green band represents the country’s vegetation. The yellow band represents the sun and the equator. The blue band represents the Atlantic Ocean within the country’s boundaries.
Voting Is Compulsory
How about this for an interesting fact about Gabon? As much as you’re free to do whatever you want, that freedom has certain constraints in Gabon.
In Gabon, if you’re a citizen and you’re of age (in most countries, 18 years old), you’re obligated to participate in voting exercises. Failure to vote is a crime punishable by the law. If you fail to vote and are caught, you may pay a huge fine to the state or serve a jail term.
Free Man’s Paradise
The capital of Gabon (Libreville) is a french word for Freetown, and it served as home to freed slaves in the 19th century.
Here is another not-so-known fact about Gabon. In the early 15th to 19th century, Gabon served as an epicenter of the slave trade on the African continent.
When the slave trade was abolished in the early 1800s, most of the slaves that were taken away were returned to the country. With that, you can guess where Libreville got its name from.
Highest Minimum Wage In Africa
Here is an impressive fact about Gabon. It has the highest minimum wage in the whole of Africa.
The government employees or civil servants in Gabon earn around $260 per month. This is more impressive when you realize some countries in the Americas, like Cuba ($25-30) and Haiti ($100), have lower minimum wages.
In many western countries, this might seem minimal. However, when you see the minimum wage in other African countries, the government in Gabon is at least making better progress for its workforce.
Natural Nuclear Reactor
Among the multiple surprising facts about Gabon, this one definitely stands out. The African country was home to the world’s only natural nuclear fission reactor.
The Oklo nuclear reactor, which is located in the Oklo mines west of Gabon, was discovered in 1972. The mines have 16 sites; it was reported that these sites hosted self-sustaining nuclear fission reactions over 1.8 billion years ago.
These reactions ran for thousands of years. It was estimated to have averaged around 100KW of thermal power during the process.
Nuclear reactions are formed due to uranium, and the Oklo mines had this uranium in excess. The Oklo nuclear reactions are believed to be purely natural, as there was no evidence of human activity triggering them.
Discovering More Fun Facts About Gabon
Gabon may not be the most well-known country, but it has a lot to offer and much to learn about. There are many interesting facts about Gabon that shed a light on its rich culture and beautiful natural ecosystems. It is definitely an African gem worth exploring deeper and maybe even taking a trip to. You are bound to gather more fascinating facts about Gabon through the adventures.