The unsurpassed natural beauty of Gabon’s lush green paradise, Ivindo National Park, is a sought-after attraction in Central Africa. Ivindo is one of the most pristine, untouched destinations in Africa, well-deserving of its UNESCO World Heritage Site title.
The national park spans 3,000 square kilometres of equatorial lowland forest intersected by two wild rivers. The Ivindo River is famous for its two thundering waterfalls, the Kongou and Mingouli. The surrounding impenetrable rainforest and marshy clearings are a magnet for a variety of wildlife.
Truth be told, there’s not much that doesn’t exist and thrive on this iridescent Lord of the Rings landscape. Africa’s largest concentration of western lowland gorillas can be found in the interior of the park, living in harmony with 600 other mammals found in the park.
This part of Gabon is so remote and inaccessible that there is no road system. The only way into the park is via the Trans-Gabon railway from Libreville. However, there are charter flights that fly to Makokou from Léon-Mba International Airport in Libreville.
Ivindo National Park can get hot and humid during the dry season between June and August but occasional rain showers provide relief from the heat. It is still best to visit the park during these months.
There are huge concentrations of gorillas and chimpanzee that reside within the park’s boundaries. Safari-goers can go on guided forest walks to immerse themselves in the world of these special creatures.
With a whopping 600 mammals and 400 bird species, Ivindo National Park is a haven for wildlife. Forest animals are in abundance and tend to flock to the open marshy areas of the park. It is here that visitors can view buffalo, forest elephants, sitatungas, slender-snouted crocodiles, red river hogs, giant pangolin, leopard, bongo, hippos and rare birds living in harmony.
In the interior, there are large concentrations of western lowland gorillas, chimpanzee, and other primates swinging in the canopy of tangled trees. Reptiles like black mambas, chameleons and pythons crawl about on the lower reaches of jungle. Birding is exceptional in Ivindo National Park, and the dense populations of African grey parrot are always astounding to witness.
Like with most safari destinations, the best time to visit Ivindo is during the dry season. The dry season is from June to August. There are bouts of rain, but it offers respite from the warm temperatures experienced during the dry season. From September to May is the unpredictable rainy season. Ivindo experiences a true equatorial climate with a long rainy season.
There is no road infrastructure in this tropical jungle, so the best way to see the landscape and wildlife is on foot or the waterways. Guided forest walks allow visitors to get up close and personal with animals, and provide the thrilling possibility of spotting gangs of chimpanzee and gorillas.
Canoe trips through the jungle meander their way to scenic wildlife viewing points, focusing on taking in the sights and sounds of Langoué Baï, a massive marshy area favoured by all sorts of wildlife. Ivindo is the home of the activity-based safari experience, where visitors are encouraged to become immersed in their environment.
The national park only hosts a few visitors per year, and there are only a few back-to-basics nature camps in the area. These camps are situated in scenic areas, close to waterfalls and clearings. One of the camps in the heart of the jungle can only be accessed on foot, requiring a certain level of fitness and willingness to carry luggage.
The other nature camps in the park have a restaurant and bar, but no electricity. Camps offer local cuisine such as freshly caught fish and plenty of outdoor dining sessions. These camps in the lower reaches are roughly 14 hours from the gateway town of Makokou.