The lasting influence, argues pro guide Kyle de Nobrega, of a now legendary image has meant most of what Gabon has to offer remains something of secret.
In a late 1990s issue of National Geographic Magazine, the front cover showed for the first time an elephant on the beach. This wild and now famous image of a forest elephant in Gabon caught on a camera trap against the deep hues left behind by the setting sun over the Atlantic conjured up in the imagination of the world an Africa where wild animals live on the beach.
Fast forward 25 years and not much has changed. The idea of Gabon and that of ‘wildlife on the beach’ are synonymous: it’s impossible, when viewed through the lens of mainstream tourism, to conceive of one without the other. More’s the pity. It is true, of course — forest elephant and other animals’ habitats in Gabon do include the beach and sea — but there’s so much more to the country’s wildernesses than the image might suggest. Indeed, there are secrets that, when unpicked, make this emerging wilderness wildly different to that of the rest of the Congo basin. Having spent several weeks there on a guided research expedition in June 2022, I would argue that ‘enormous potential’ suits the Gabon conservation-orientated travel report card best.