Pongara National Park is located on the coast in north-western Gabon, near Libreville on the south side of the Gabon Estuary and taking in much of the Pointe Denis peninsula. Covering nearly 600 square miles, it presents a varied range of forest types as well as savanna and a significant amount of sandy beach.
Managed by the National Agency for National Parks since 2007, Pongara was established in 2002 along with 13 other reserves that together account for more than 10% of Gabon’s total area. Notable habitats to be found here include mangrove, swamp, and riverine forest, and they play host to a remarkably diverse range of flora and fauna, the former dominated by varieties of Avicennia and Rhizophora tree species. The human population of the park itself is minimal, though people have been living here since at least the Neolithic era, and tourism is carefully managed on conservationist principles.
It is Pongara’s wildlife that is the true draw of the park, however, presenting a roll-call of some of the continent’s most fascinating species: elephant, gorilla, various species of monkey, buffalo and other species are found in the forest, and sea turtles of various types frequent the estuary, the leatherback using Pongara’s beaches for breeding. Whales and dolphins can be observed out to sea, and also notable is the presence of a healthy population of the vulnerable Damara tern.
The best time to visit Pongara will vary according to priorities and taste. The long rainy seasons from September to December and February to May present the best opportunities to see primates and large mammals, for instance, while turtles breed from November-March and whales and dolphins from June-August.
For accommodation in Pongara, we use the wonderful Pongara Lodge.