The fledgling Operation Loango gives amateur naturalists the opportunity to see Gabon’s lush rainforests, unspoiled savannah, and pristine coastline. From the Douala airport in Cameroon, you’ll fly to Gentil, then again to your lodge. Later, make your way to the Loango National Park, one of 13 national parks created in 2002 by President Omar Bongo, a move that put Gabon on the conservation map. You’ll quickly get acquainted with your neighbors—from fiddler crabs and parrots, to elephants and humpback whales—through lagoon tours with croc experts, excursions to gorilla sanctuaries, and whaleboat trips led by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) researchers. Stays at the more rustic satellite camps must be booked in advance, but activities are flexible.
Trip Tip: Rise early to spot hippos riding the waves; at sunset, catch elephants strolling on the beach.
Luxury Level: The Loango Lodge is situated on the edge of the Petit Loango. Seven bungalows have private terraces, AC, fans, en suite bathrooms, and views of the river or the park. There are also three suites with an extra sitting room. Meals are served at the restaurant, on the river, or at your private terrace. Satellite camps are rustic (most without electricity), but comfortable (private bathrooms, bucket showers, bamboo torches at night).
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.