Where to Go Next: Gabon
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Where to Go Next: Gabon

Not often does a place made rich from timber and oil exports look to conservation as its
future. Yet if the government of Gabon has anything to say about it, the west central African
country will someday not only have a reputation for protecting its environment but also be
one of the world's premier ecotourism destinations. With the vast majority of the country
undeveloped, its virgin forests, savannas, salt marshes, and mangroves are home to an incredible
range of wildlife: chimpanzees, elephants, buffalo, leopards, hippos, manatees, hundreds of
species of fish and birds. The 550-mile coastline could easily be mistaken for the Caribbean—were
it not for the lowland gorillas sunbathing on the beach. Offshore, whales migrating from Madagascar
navigate the waters, as do sea turtles en route to nest on the empty sands. Gabon's president
has set aside a full 10 percent of the country's landmass for 13 national parks and formed
Operation Loango, a joint venture with several nonprofit groups. The organization has developed
six comfortable lodges and tented camps in Loango National Park, and its trips, which benefit
the local community and park projects, are one of the best ways to experience Gabon's biodiversity.
What's more, you'll be witnessing firsthand the power of tourism in keeping the natural world
unspoiled. Operation Loango www.operation-loango.com; 31-26/ 370-5567
for bookings; seven-day trips for two from $5,000.

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