Facts About Gabon's Culture, Geography, and History
Gabon is a Central African country that lies along the Atlantic coast bordering Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. It is a fascinating country with unique demographics, economy, and landscape.
The 12 facts compacted herein will help you in sharpening your perspective about this highly urbanized African country.
12. Gabon is home to hundreds of dolomite and limestone caves many of which are yet to be explored.
Dolomite and limestone are a common part of Gabon's underground soil structure. It is characteristically natural to find caves in such soil structure.
There are so many such caves in Gabon that people continue to stumble upon them. With a big part of the landmass remaining under natural forest cover, many of these caves remain unknown.
These caves, especially the Abanda caves, are home to the rare Orange cave-inhabiting Crocodiles, a cave crocodile haplotype only found in Gabon.
The caves also hold hundreds of thousands of bats. Gabon caves have a very rich underground biodiversity not found anywhere else in the world.
11. The minimum age to vote in Gabon is 21 years of age.
Unlike most of the world democracies where the voting age is below 20 (that is, precisely 18 years in most countries), Gabon’s voting age is quite high – at 21.
With a huge population being youth, this puts off a big percentage of the population that is above 17 years and below 21 years of age. Nonetheless, this is informed by the need to have more mature and better-informed voters.
10. The entire country of Gabon is just slightly smaller than the state of Colorado in the United States.
Gabon has a total area of 267,667km2, which entitles it to position 76 in the global ranking of the total area. It has a population that is just about 2 million people which translates to a population density of about 8 persons per km2.
On the other hand, Colorado has a total area of 269,837 km2. However, Colorado has almost thrice the population of Gabon at 5,607,154 and over 3 times its population density at 20 persons per km2.
Obviously, their economies and infrastructure are worlds apart – Colorado in the First World and Gabon in the Third World.
9. A country with a primarily oral tradition up until the spread of literacy in the 21st century, Gabon is rich in folklore and mythology.
Like all traditional African societies, folklore and mythology were Gabonese traditional ways of transmitting their culture and tradition from generation to generation.
Being a predominantly Bantu society, this has formed a huge repository of homogeneous ancestral memory. Even with one of the highest urbanization rates in Sub-Saharan Africa, this repository remains largely undiluted.
8. Mask making and ritual face paint are important parts of Gabonese culture, and styles vary dramatically between groups.
If there is anything that cuts across ancestral Sub-Saharan Africa – right from Dakar to Djibouti and from Ndjamena to Cape Town – it is mask-making and ritual face painting.
Gabonese have largely retained this culture despite deep penetration of urbanity. It is quite enjoyable to join locals wearing masks in such cultural ceremonies and dances. You feel a special connection with humanity, across cultures and generations.
7. People over the age of 65 years form only 3.9% of the population of Gabon.
Gabon comprises a largely young population with 40% of the total population being below 15 years of age. About 56% of the total population is within the 15-64 age bracket.
Less than 4% of the population is above 65 years. This is almost the reverse of highly urbanized countries in the Northern Hemisphere where those above 64 years are above 15% (27% in Japan, 20% in Germany, and 16% in the UK).
This is contributed by a high birth rate, lower infant mortality rate, and lower lifespan.
6. Gabon is home to 80% of Africa’s Gorilla population.
The equatorial Congo forest is a natural habitat for Baboons in Africa. Other primates that predominate this zone include the gorillas and chimpanzees.
However, while Congo-Kinshasa grabs a lion share of gorillas, Gabon grabs a giant share of baboons with 8 out of 10 baboons in Africa found in Gabon.
5. The popular US TV show “Survivor” took place in Gabon in 2008.
"Earth’s Last Eden", was the 17th Season of the highly popular reality TV program - Survivor. Only 18 contestants were selected out of 800 applicants for the Earth’s Last Eden competition.
It was filmed in the Wonga-Wongue Presidential Reserve. It exposed Gabon to over 2.3 million viewers within 3 months between September and November 2008 when it was being aired live.
Robert Crowly, the 57-year-old high school physics teacher from Maine won the ultimate $1 million dollar prize. Earth’s Last Eden has exposed Gabon as having great sites for shooting films. It is a great place to consider while on a filming tour.
4. The highest point in Gabon is Mont Iboundji that stands at a total height of 1,575 m or 5,166 ft.
Mont Iboundji presents a great opportunity for mountaineers while on a trip to West Africa. At the highest point of Mont Iboundji, you can have a panoramic view of the scenic beauty of Central Africa.
You can also experience a mind-setting serenity of the breathtaking atmosphere of equatorial rainforest within which Mont Iboundji towers.
This is a great way to unwind and refresh your life from the hustles and bustles of daily modern struggles.
3. Almost 80-85% of Gabon is covered by rainforests, 11% of which has been dedicated for national parks making these parks some of the largest nature parks in the world.
Gabon forest is an extension of the dense equatorial Congo forest. With a small population capped up by the highest urbanization rates in Sub-Saharan Africa, population pressure on land is minimal.
This makes Gabon a highly vegetative landscape. Over 80% of the Gabon population is urbanized, with a significant share of it living in Libreville - its Capital city.
Another important factor that has contributed to less pressure on land is oil revenue and revenue from other mineral resources such as manganese, and iron, among others.
Without these revenues, massive logging for export would have probably by now depleted the Gabon forest.
2. Gabon has rich reserves of manganese, iron, petroleum, and timber.
Prior to the discovery of oil, timber used to be Gabon’s chief export. Oil, discovered in the 1970s, replaced timber as the leading export.
Oil helped to boost its economy from a backward primitive rural economy to one of the most formidable urban economies in Africa with the fourth-highest Per Capita Income and fourth-best HDI.
In these critical indicators, Gabon only lags behind Seychelles, Mauritius, and Equatorial Guinea. However, unlike Seychelles and Mauritius, Gabon suffers the same tragedy as Equatorial Guinea – a vast majority of the population is poor.
The few elites siphon away the country’s wealth into their private coffers thus consigning the poor majority to the periphery of survival.
1. Most Gabonese have Bantu origin, including four major tribal groupings (Fang, Bapounou, Nzebi, and Obamba).
Bantus originated from the Congo Basin spreading to the rest of Africa. Gabon is on the periphery of this basin that includes countries such as Congo-Kinshasa and Congo-Brazzaville, Central Africa Republic, among others.
This makes it a predominantly Bantu-speaking nation.
Gabon continues to receive a large number of visitors who wish to explore its scenic beaches, flora, and fauna.
It also receives a significant number of business investors who visit to explore how they can tap into its huge economic potential and enjoy its fast-rising economic boom. Its largely unexplored biodiversity continues to attract natural scientists who keep on discovering more and more.
This is definitely a country to give a chance on your touring itinerary.