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Gabon

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Le Meridien Re-Ndama
Le Meridien Re-Ndama - dream vacation

PO Box 4064 Libreville, Gabon, Libreville

Le Meridien Mandji
Le Meridien Mandji - dream vacation

Le Meridien Mandji, Port Gentil

Hotel Onomo Libreville
Hotel Onomo Libreville - dream vacation

La Sabliere Route Angondje, Libreville

Radisson Blu Okoume Palace Hotel
Radisson Blu Okoume Palace Hotel - dream vacation

5, Boulevard de Nice, B.P 2254, Libreville

Le Patio
Le Patio - dream vacation

Quartier Louis Descente J.Labori, Libreville

Hotel Mots De Crystal
Hotel Mots De Crystal - dream vacation

Pl. de L\'Independance PO Box 544, Libreville

Gabon is a country in Western Central Africa. It lies on the Equator, on the Atlantic Ocean coast, between the Republic of the Congo to the south and east, Equatorial Guinea to the northwest and Cameroon to the north.

A small population, and oil and mineral reserves, have helped Gabon become one of Africa's wealthier countries. The country has generally been able to maintain and conserve its pristine rain forest and rich biodiversity.

Regions

Cities

  • Cap Lopez
  • Franceville
  • Gamba
  • Kango
  • Lambarene
  • Mayumba
  • Owendo
  • Port-Gentil bordered to the coast of the South Atlantic Ocean

Other destinations

  • Akanda National Park — mangroves & tidal flats are home to migratory birds and turtles.
  • Banteke Plateau National Park — savanna crossed by rivers with rope bridges for the locals; home to forest elephants, buffalo, & antelope.
  • Crystal Mountains National Park — misty forests rich in orchids, begonias, & other flora.
  • Ivindo National Park — two of Central Africa's most magnificent waterfalls; gorillas, chimpanzees, & forest elephants gather around its rivers and waterholes.
  • Loango National Park — a 100-km stretch of virgin beaches and adjacent rainforest, both scenic and a place to view leopards, elephants, gorillas, & monkeys on the beach.
  • Lopé National Park — mix of savanna & dense forest along the Ogooue River; float along the river in pirogue, view ancient rock engravings, or track gorillas or mandrill monkeys with a pygmy guide.
  • Mayumba National Park — sandy peninsula home to the world's largest population of nesting leatherback turtles.
  • Minkebe National Park — highland forest with large sandstone domes, home to elephants and forest-dwelling antelope and giant hogs.

Understand

History

What is now Gabon has been inhabited for thousands of years, first by Pygmy hunter-gatherers and then starting perhaps as early as 1500 BC, various different Bantu tribes arrived in several waves. Portuguese explorers and traders were the first Europeans to arrive, in 1472. The nation's present name originates from "Gabão", Portuguese for "cloak", which is roughly the shape of the estuary of the Komo River close to the capital of Libreville. Soon, Europeans were trading for natural resources and slaves. In the 19th century, the French became ascendant in the area. The coast was colonized by the French in 1839, and the remainder of Gabon in 1885. Gabon gained independence on 17 August 1960.

Since independence, Gabon has been one of the more stable African countries. Autocratic President Omar Bongo was in power from 1967 until his death in 2009. Gabon introduced a multi-party system and a new constitution in the early 1990s that allowed for a more transparent electoral process and for reforms of governmental institutions. A small population, abundant natural resources, and considerable foreign support have helped make Gabon one of the more prosperous sub-Saharan African countries. Despite being made up of more than 40 ethnic groups, Gabon has escaped the strife afflicting other West African states.

Climate

Tropical; always hot, humid. During the months of June to September, the climate is a little cooler (20-25°C).

Terrain

Narrow coastal plain; hilly interior; savanna in east and south. Highest point is Mont Iboundji at 1,575 metres. Gabon is crossed by the Ogooué, the country's longest river which is 1,200 kilometres long.

Important holidays

Independence Day: 17 August 1960 (from France)

National holiday: Founding of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), 12 March (1968)

Get in

The fee for a visa to enter the country is typically €70. The visa can be purchased on arrival in either euros or in the local francs in the right hand line upon exiting the plane. Reportedly, as of August 2010 this is no longer possible and personnel arriving to Gabon must have a valid visa upon arrival or they will be sent back. Recently, most international arrivals in Gabon claim that the visa fee has increased and they paid almost €122 for 3 month single entrance visa and more for multiple entrance.

By plane

Air France and Gabon Airlines fly from Paris to Libreville, and Royal Air Maroc flies from Casablanca to Gabon. Air Service also flies to Douala (Cameroon), and Ethiopian Airlines flies from Addis Ababa. There are also on occasion flights to Brazzaville, Congo.

Interair flies from Johannesburg (South Africa) to Libreville on Monday with a stopover in Brazzaville/Congo - returning via the same route every Wednesday. "SAA" flies direct from Johannesburg (South Africa) to Libreville on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Lufthansa flies five times weekly from Frankfurt.

By car

There are several border crossings, though the roads are not good and a 4x4 is recommended.

Get around

The easiest way to get around outside of cities is by bus (typically 6- or 9-seater cars, but sometimes minibuses). There are many and they are very cheap (e.g., FCFA 7000 to go from Libreville to Lamberene). Within cities, taxis are plentiful and are very cheap. No fare should be more than FCFA 5000 for one person. Fares depend on distance (and whether the driver will be able to find more fares at your destination). A 2- or 3-minute drive will cost FCFA 100, and FCFA 2000 is plenty to go from Owendo train station to the centre of Libreville. Taxi prices typically double after 21hr.

By plane

Air Service has scheduled flights to Oyem, Makouko and Franceville/Mvengue. Air Nationale flies to Franceville/Mvengue. There are flights to Franceville/Mvengue every day of the week except Tuesdays and Thursdays. Africa's Connection has daily scheduled flights between Libreville and Port Gentil, weekly flights from Port-Gentil/Libreville to São Tomé & Príncipe and to Loango National Park.

By car

There are some paved roads in Gabon, if you are staying in one of the major cities a car should suffice. If you plan on venturing onto some of the unpaved roads outside the major cities a 4x4 is required. There are less than 800km of tarred roads in Gabon - some of them in a bad condition. During the rainy season it is difficult to travel outside the major city areas even in a 4x4 vehicle.

By train

The Trans-Gabon railroad goes from Owendo to Franceville. The trip takes 12-18 hours, and is often delayed. Train times change according to the season. The current timetable (Basse 2014 as of March 2015) has trains both ways on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. Two different trains are in use - the Omnibus and the Express. Both take a similar time, but the Express stops at less small stations. Air-conditioning is present in VIP, 1st and 2nd on the Express, and only VIP and 1st on the omnibus.

By bus

A few wealthy Gabonese entrepreneurs have invested in new buses for bus lines to service the larger interior cities. Mostly these buses serve the cities with paved roads leading to and from them. Since Air Gabon closed down, these bus lines have greatly increased their routes.

By boat

Boat travel is available all along the coast of Gabon and dozens of miles up the Ogooue river to Lambarene. Boats leave daily to/from Libreville and Port Gentil. River trips from the mouth of the big river at Port Gentil to Lambarene (Albert Schweitzer Hospital) are available every few days. Hotel Olako arranges weekly boat transfers between Port Gentil and Omboué (close to Loango National Park), transfers take between 3 and 4,5 hours (depending on the type of boat and engine).

Talk

Languages  French (official), Fang, Myene, Nzebi, Bapounou/Eschira, Bandjabi

Very few people speak English in Gabon, so some knowledge of French is an asset.

See

Do

Chez Beti - a small seaside safari camp near the village of Nyonie owned and operated by a French ex-pat. Clean, air-conditioned cottages and all-inclusive family style meals accompany the evening Landcruiser and sunrise walking safaris. Wildlife sightings can include elephants, buffalo, monkeys, parrots, hornbills and other local fauna. The camp is located just a few km south of the equator, along a pristine stretch of beach. Prices are very reasonable and include roundtrip transportation from the marina in Libreville; consisting of an hour long boat transit to a small landing in the mangroves, followed by a 45 minute 4x4 trip along jungle roads to the camp. Contact information: tel. 07 57 14 23 or 06 03 36 36, e-mail: castorene7@live.fr

Buy

Money

The currency of the country is the Central African CFA franc, denoted FCFA (ISO currency code: XAF). It's also used by five other Central African countries. It is interchangeable at par with the West African CFA franc (XOF), which is used by six countries. Both currencies are fixed at a rate of 1 euro = 655.957 CFA francs.

ATMs

All Ecobank ATMs in Gabon take Mastercard and Visa card for cash withdrawal.

Eat

The Balbool restaurant serves delicious western food with very cheap prices. Ask for the big Balbool soup.

Drink

The cheapest local beer is Regab, it costs XAF500-2000 and comes in a 650 mL bottle. There are fantastic fruit juices available: "D'jino" Pampelmousse (grapefruit), Ananas (pineapple), Citron (Lemon) in 300 mL bottles at FCFA 400 and in a 1.5 L bottle at FCFA 900 if bought in a shop.

Sleep

There are three international name hotels - Le Meridien, Intercontinental and the Novotel. Apart from these, there are several other budget and economy hotels.

Long term lease on apartments is also an option.

Work

A visa and letter of invitation are required for foreigners working in Gabon.

Stay safe

Malaria is common, so visitors should take malaria pills and a mosquito net when travelling in Gabon.

HIV/AIDS is, unfortunately, a common disease in Gabon with 8% (1 in 12) of adults infected.

Respect

The people are generally very friendly, respectful and helpful to visitors.

Connect

Go next

On the slopes of the seven hills that surround the city of Medellín in Colombia, life is pretty good. Children play in the streets. Retirees relax in the parks. Workers bustle to and fro as street vendors hawk arepas — maize pancakes topped with cheese, avocado, and more. When I visited the “City of Eternal Spring” in 2014, named for its year-round balmy temperatures, I found its steep residential neighborhoods filled with spaces for art and theater, verdant parks, schools, and public libraries.

It hasn’t been this way very long. In the 1980s and 1990s, Medellín was the most dangerous city in the world. An urban war involving multiple drug cartels, including the Medellín Cartel led by Pablo Escobar, spiked the city’s homicide rate to more than 800 per 100,000 people in 1993. In barrios like Santo Domingo, which were largely built by refugees from the surrounding countryside, crime was a daily fact of life—and police that tried to intervene paid with their lives.

But today the city’s homicide rate sits around 20 per 100,000, far lower than cities like New Orleans and St. Louis. According to Numbeo’s quality of life index, which takes into account factors like life expectancy, crime rate, purchasing power, healthcare, and more, the city ranks alongside New York City, Turin, and Doha. What changed?

The answer glides silently overhead. In 2004, the city’s then-mayor, Sergio Fajardo, cut the ribbon on a scheme that must have seemed ridiculous at the time: a cable car, running from Santo Domingo down to the metro line that snakes through the center of the city. What use was a ski lift in a place where the temperature has never dropped below 46°F (8°C)?

The Medellín cable car system.

But, local politicians argued, the idea made a great deal of sense. The steep sides of the Medellín valley make traditional rail transit impossible. Buses get stuck in the city’s perpetual traffic jams, resulting in a commute to the center that takes at least two hours — each way. A cable car, its growing crowd of supporters said, would let the population of Santo Domingo soar over the dense, irregular neighborhoods below, reaching their destinations in minutes, not hours. It would let them become a real part of the city.

“I grew up with an idea of fear, of danger, of exclusion of those areas,” says Pablo Alvarez Correa, a Medellín local who offers free walking tours of the city, describing his first ride on the cable car. “I decided to go when a friend came to visit me from abroad. It was absolutely amazing. It was very interesting to be able to see the state of development of those areas; to understand that many things had improved for them.”

Those improvements were quantified in a 2012 research paper published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. A team of U.S. and Colombian researchers compared violence in city neighborhoods that had access to the new cable car with similar areas that didn’t, both before and after it was built. “The decline in the homicide rate was 66% greater in [cable car] neighborhoods than in control neighborhoods,” they wrote, “and resident reports of violence decreased 75% more in [cable car] neighborhoods. These results show that interventions in neighborhood physical infrastructure can reduce violence.”

Urban renewal has been focused around the Medellín cable car stations.

Correa concurs that these areas are much safer than they had been previously, noting that the cable car project marked the beginning of greater investment in these previously neglected areas of the city. “The cable car brought the library, and then next to the library they built a little park, and then they built an entrepreneurship center where they empower people from the community to get access to credit or to get coaching in some idea that they had,” he explains.

“Then because tourism started, someone said, ‘Maybe we can start selling street food in these areas where the tourists go by.’ It’s not only about the cable car and that’s it, but it is using it as an excuse or as part of a program to bring many other services.”

Today, the cable car system in the city has been dramatically expanded. Line K, the original line that connected the metro system with the neighborhoods of Acevedo, Andalucía, Popular, and Santo Domingo, was joined by line J in 2008, and line H in December of 2016. A more tourist-oriented line L opened in 2010.

“Before, those areas with the cable car were extremely dangerous, and now they have become the jewel of the crown of Medellín” says Correa. “Now they are very proud because that’s where people come to visit.”

No one knows who invented the first cable-propelled transit system. Its origins are lost in the mists of time, and the technology was almost certainly developed independently in several locations to solve local problems. The first records of people transported by cable-drawn systems go all the way back to a brush drawing of a ropeway (below, centre) in South China in 250 B.C.

Researching the topic can be difficult, primarily because there are seemingly hundreds of different ways to refer to slight variations on the same basic principle. Spend 10 minutes looking into the subject and you’ll find people talking about gondolas, aerial tramways, ropeways, cableways, téléphériques, funiculars, funitels, inclined lifts, and many more.

Historical illustrations of aerial ropeway transportation systems.

“That is actually one of the fundamental research problems that people encounter with the technology,” says urban planning consultant Steven Dale, founder of online cable car resource The Gondola Project, who has dedicated his career to the topic. “The blanket term we use for all the technologies collectively is ‘cable-propelled transit systems’: any system that is supported and propelled by a cable,” he adds.

“There’s probably about a dozen different sub-branches, and those are things like an aerial tram or a jigback, or a pulse, or a mono cable, or a bi-cable. The word gondola is specific to the cabin, but it’s become a kind of catchall term to be used for the system as a whole, particularly in North America. Cable car is another catchall term. It actually technically refers to a very specific type of cable-propelled transit system, but it is so commonly used that we stopped fighting that battle a couple of years ago. We realized it was a pointless battle to fight.”

Cable cars (which I’ll try to stick with for the duration of this article) are very good at solving a specific but increasingly common problem — how to transport cargo or people across topographical obstacles. “Remember topographical doesn’t just mean natural — it can mean man-made as well,” says Dale. “We see all sorts of problems where there’s a 12-lane highway between point A and point B, or there’s an industrial park, or there’s some man-made piece of topography that creates a barrier to access.”

That’s exactly the problem that a Croatian bishop named Fausto Veranzio faced in 1616. One of the earliest urbanists, the Pope had called him to Italy to help deal with the frequent flooding of the Tiber River, which he solved with an ingenious water regulation system. While in Italy, Veranzio wrote and published a book called Machinae Novae, which depicted 56 different inventions, machines, devices, and technical concepts.

Images from Fausto Veranzio’s ‘Machinae Novae,’ 1616.

Inspired by the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci a century earlier, his inventions included several types of mill, a universal clock, wind turbines, a parachute, suspension bridges, and, most interestingly for us here, an aerial lift that crossed the river on multiple ropes. The drawings earned him a global reputation and were so popular that they were even reprinted in Chinese a few years later.

Not long afterwards, in 1644, a Dutch engineer named Adam Wybe was given the task of figuring out how to move large amounts of soil over the Motława River in Gdańsk, Poland, to construct defensive fortifications. His solution was to build the world’s first modern cable car.

Etching of Adam Wybe’s ropeway conveyor in Danzig, by Willem Hondius.

The machine was supported by seven wooden pylons, some 650 feet [200 meters] long, and inspired by existing ropeways. But Wybe nonetheless chalked off some significant firsts. He was the first to use a looped cable (as opposed to a rope), the first to put multiple vehicles on the same cable (120 wicker baskets which could be automatically unloaded), and the first to create a system that was in constant motion (driven by a team of horses).

The Industrial Revolution saw the widespread proliferation of the railway, with automobiles following not far behind, but the period following the Second World War was something of a second renaissance for cable car technology. Shortages of fuel, rubber, steel, and concrete made road and rail transport tricky, particularly in Europe, but cableways required very little in the way of construction materials and were seen as cheap, efficient, and reliable.

The most impressive relic of this time can still be found in the dense pine forests of northern Sweden. In 1942, a group of 1,500 men were hired to clear a path for a ropeway that would take ore from a mine in Kristineberg to Boliden, where it could be processed. Designs were based on a 26-mile [42-kilometer] cableway that had been built a year previously in the center of the country, but this time the material would be traveling much farther — an enormous 60 miles [96 kilometers]. That makes it the longest ever built, even today.

Construction was rapid, and the first ore gondola was sent down the cable on April 14, 1943—more than four months ahead of schedule. The system, named the Norsjö Ropeway, ran for 43 years before it was shut down in 1986, when heavy trucks finally became a more economical way to transport the ore. Today, only an eight-mile [13-kilometer] stretch survives, converted to passenger transport as a tourist attraction.

It wasn’t only Europe where cargo ropeways proved popular. In 1954, a French-American company began mining manganese in Gabon, but the nearest reliable transport route — the Congo-Ocean Railway — was more than 155 miles [250 kilometers] away, across rough terrain.

George Perrineau, an engineer, was tasked with constructing a transport link between the two and he chose to construct a cableway system — the COMILOG Cableway. The route ran from the mine in Moanda to a town called Mbinda, where a new branch of the railway was built to link up to the existing tracks and take the metal to ports in the Republic of Congo. Comprised of 10 sections, the cableway was equipped with 2,200-pound [one-tonne] buckets that could carry manganese 24 hours a day. It operated until 1986 when the government of Gabon, looking to ship the metal through its own ports, routed a new railway to the mine.

The ability of cable car systems to easily link up with existing transport infrastructure, as seen in the COMILOG cableway example, is a key reason for their third modern renaissance — this time as mass transit.

“Imagine a theoretical city where your home is one mile away from the nearest metro stop,” says Dale. “Servicing that last mile is incredibly inefficient. We have [public transport] funding problems because we have to get people to the subways, to the metros, through that last-mile problem. That’s where our inefficiencies mostly build up — because we use inefficient technologies like buses and streetcars.”

But cable cars, Dale says, are ideal for fixing that problem — particularly when you factor in topography. “They can provide very high-frequency service — less than a minute wait times — at a very comparable cost to buses and streetcars. In a first-last-mile problem, they’re beautiful — basically acting as feeding systems.”

He adds: “With a cable car there is virtually no incremental cost in adding capacity and lowering wait times. With a streetcar or bus system, the incremental cost is significant — in order to expand capacity or lower wait times, you need to buy/run more buses/streetcars and then staff them as well.”

In Medellín, this factor made a real difference to the success of the scheme — the cable car system there is fully integrated into the metro network, so riders can use one ticket for both. “Everything is in one zone,” says Correa, “meaning that someone who lives in the poorest barrios can reach the industrial areas paying less than a dollar. The metro started closing the chasm in those economic terms. The price drops because now they don’t have to take two buses.”

Part of the now-defunct coal transportation cableway between Adventdalen and Longyearbyen in Norway.

That success has been noted worldwide. Countries around the globe are now rushing to construct cable car systems in much the same way that they were rushing to construct monorails a few decades ago. The success of the Medellín project inspired its local neighbor, Caracas, to construct its own mass transit cable car, as well as other projects in Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and Colombia’s capital, Bogotá.

In Iran, the Tochal Telecabin system carries winter sports enthusiasts from the city of Tehran to the enormous Tochal ski complex. In Armenia, the Wings of Tatev cable car ferries religious tourists to the Tatev monastery year-round. Mexico City has a proposal for a cable car, as does Haiti, Vietnam, Lagos, Mombasa, and many other places. The list of current proposals that The Gondola Project tracks is enormous.

“There are a lot of proposals out there,” says Dale. “The majority probably won’t get beyond the proposal stage. That doesn’t negate the validity of the technology.”

Even when they’re built, not all modern cable car projects succeed. In London, in July 2010, the city’s transport authority announced plans for the U.K.’s first urban cable car. Called the Emirates Air Line, the proposal was for a privately funded cable car for pedestrians and cyclists between the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks.

Planning permission was granted, and construction began, but the cost of the project — originally pegged at £25 million [$31.25 million] — swiftly rose to more than £60 million [$75 million], making it the most expensive cable system ever built. “As someone who happens to know a little bit about cable transit systems, let be me completely blunt,” wrote Dale at the time. “There is absolutely, positively, completely no reason whatsoever this project should cost London taxpayers ~$100m USD. Not a single good reason.”

The Emirates Air Line cable car, named after its sponsor, opened on June 28, 2012, a month before the start of the 2012 London Olympic Games. A total of 34 carriages operate at the same time, with a maximum capacity of 10 passengers each. Crucially, the system — despite appearing on the Tube map — is not integrated with the rest of London’s transport network. Passengers must purchase an extra ticket, costing £3.50, to use it.

While the cable car proved immediately popular among tourists visiting the city for the Olympics, its usage fell swiftly once the Games were over. In November 2012, passenger numbers dropped to less than 10 percent of capacity. For every 10,000 rides, only one was made by a regular commuter. Today, those statistics have been lifted slightly by special, tourist-focused night flights (which serve alcohol) but aren’t much better. The project began to attract major criticism, mostly over its taxpayer funding and location.

The towers of the Emirates Air Line cable car, from the north bank of the River Thames.

In 2015, Transport for London commissioner Mike Brown said that he expected demand for the cable car to grow as the areas that it serves are developed (some dispute this). He also noted that the service has built up a £1-million [$1.25-million] operating surplus. But the reputation of the cable car among Londoners is very poor (attracting the derogatory nickname “dangleway”), and that’s unlikely to change any time soon.

help its scary up here

🙁

— EmirateDangleway (@Dangleway) 28 de marzo de 2016

Dale picks out the fare structure and the way the system was sold to Londoners as key reasons why the Emirates Air Line is unpopular, though he insists that it’s not a failure in his eyes. “Your narrative around the system is essential,” he says. “Understanding what you’re trying to do. Are you selling this for tourists? Are you selling this for locals? Is it a hybrid approach where there’s a combination of the two?”

He adds: “Tied to that narrative is your fare structure, because your fare structure is what’s going to determine how this thing makes money or not. So you’ve got to make sure to figure out how to get that right, and that ties into your narrative. They’re two completely different demographics. And if you don’t price those markets differently, you’re leaving money on the table and you’re alienating your locals.”

On The Gondola Project’s blog in January of 2016, Nick Chu wrote: “If anything, the Emirates Air Line is a fascinating case study that offers many important lessons on how cities should, and should not implement urban cable cars and public infrastructure. Aspiring gondola-cities would be wise to pay attention to and learn from its successes and failures.”

The rest of Europe is no doubt cautiously eyeing London’s experience with the Emirates Air Line. In 2021, Paris hopes to become one of the first European cities to implement a modern cable car system aimed at commuters. It’s not trying to be a tourist attraction, nor does it replicate existing transit links. Instead, it hooks up the endpoint of one metro line with more distant suburbs separated by a highway and a steep ridge — exactly the kind of problem that cable cars are great at. It’s being considered in the context of a wider, long-term effort to fix transport issues in Paris’s suburbs.

But Paris isn’t alone — the city of Gothenburg in southern Sweden also has grand plans to build a commuter cable car across the Göta älv River to mark the city’s 400th anniversary. The person in charge of the project is Per Bergström Jonsson, and when I meet him in the city traffic authority’s offices on a cold January morning, he’s surprisingly candid. “When I first got it on my table, I thought, ‘What kind of crazy idea is this?’” he says.

It’s not the city’s first cable car. In 1923, a line was built between the Götaplatsen square and the Liseberg theme park to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of the city. A century later, the technology is back. “We got the idea from the Gothenburgers,” Jonsson says. “But we have started to realize that cable car technology has big advantages if you compare them to tram lines, or bus lines, or other public transport technologies.”

The 1923 Gothenburg cable car.

The city’s new cable car will run from Järntorget square, over the river to the Lindholmen campus and science park, then up to Wieselgrensplatsen where it meets one of the tram lines that radiate out from the center of the city. The aim is to create a shortcut that people can use to transfer between those tram lines without having to go all the way into the center.

“Two and a half million [people] is at least what we are quite certain will use the cable car as a shortcut in the public transit system,” says Jonsson. “They are already using the transit system, and they will gain from using this as a shortcut. On top of that, we will have tourists, we will have new travelers, and we will have travelers that are pedestrians or cyclists that will change to using the public transport system because of the cable car.”

One interesting unknown is what percentage of users will be scared of heights. “It should be somewhere between eight percent and 12 percent, but we really don’t know,” Jonsson says, admitting a little sheepishly that he’s a member of that group.

“But you must have been on a lot of cable cars,” I say.

“I’ve been in some, and some of them are quite scary,” he replies.

In Sweden, building a new public transport system is a cooperation between the municipality, the region, and often the state, too. The country’s consensus-based decisionmaking culture means that things tend to take a little longer than they might in other countries, so final approval — the “point of no return,” as Jonsson calls it—will arrive in mid-2018. “After that we will start building,” he says.

While the politicians deliberate, his office is in the process of securing the various building permits for the construction — no simple task. The bottom of the cable cars will need to be at least 148 feet [45 meters] above the surface of the river, so that boats can pass underneath. On land, they must pass 98 feet [30 meters] above buildings. “That’s a fire restriction, actually,” says Jonsson. “If you have a fire in the building, so that the cables won’t melt from the fire.”

So far, the public favors the idea. “About 75 percent of Gothenburgers like the idea of traveling with cable cars. Almost 70 percent even like the idea of having the cable car outside their house. That’s remarkably high, so far,” Jonsson says. “The general way of seeing the cable car project is a little bit too cheerful, I think,” he adds, stoically.

To preempt complaints, his office has been actively asking citizens what worries they might have — so they can be solved in the planning phase, before construction begins. The biggest fears are privacy, Jonsson says, and rider safety. “It’s a driverless system. We will have people on the platforms, in the stations, but not in the gondolas, and the ride is four-minutes long. Things could happen during those four minutes. I think that if we don’t solve that in a way that the Gothenburgers accept, we will not build it.”

Gondola designs in Per Bergström Jonsson’s office.

Early ideas to address the rider safety issue include a high frequency of gondolas (“If you are uncomfortable with the persons that you’re about to board with, you can wait,” says Jonsson), safety cameras, a communication system, a staffed cabin every half-hour, and even the ability to reserve individual gondolas at low-traffic times.

Jonsson is also keen to emphasize that the Gothenburg system will be integrated into the city’s tram network — unlike the Emirates Air Line in London, which he describes as “badly planned.” Ridership will be heavily weighted toward locals, who’ll outnumber the tourists at least 10 to one, but Jonsson says that the final numbers will be heavily dependent on how close they can get the cable car terminals to the tram stops. “If we get one and a half minute’s walk, it will be 5,000 [people per day],” he says. “If we have 30 seconds’ walk, it will be 13,000.”

Most impressive of all, though, is the technology that will go into the cable car system itself. The Gothenburg scheme will run on three cables — two for support and one for pulling. That allows for up to almost a half-mile [one kilometer] between towers and exceptional wind stability. Traffic on the city’s bridges is limited at wind speeds of 49 m.p.h. [22 meters per second], but Gothenburg’s cable car should be able to operate safely at speeds of up to 60 m.p.h. [27 meters per second].

“The London system, which is a monocable, shuts down at 14 metres per second [31 m.p.h.]. It’s down about 30 days a year due to wind, and that’s not acceptable for us,” Jonsson says. I ask how many would be acceptable. “One,” he says. “Perhaps a half, one every second year. The cable car won’t be the first system to be shut down when we have bad weather, it will be the buses and the ferries.”

The scheme is due to open on June 4, 2021, and if it’s a success then more lines will follow — along a similar principle of creating shortcuts in the existing transit network. “We will have the first one up and running for one and a half, two years, to see if it’s a good idea,” says Jonsson. “If it turns out to be a popular way of transporting yourself, we will start building the next one four years after that.”

While reporting this story, there was one city that kept popping up — La Paz. The Bolivian capital has the most extensive network of cable cars in the world, named Mi Teleférico, stretching nearly seven miles [11 kilometers] across the city, with another 18.6 miles [30 kilometers] under construction. Cars depart every 12 seconds, seating 10 passengers each, yielding a maximum capacity of 6,000 passengers per hour — a true “subway in the sky.”

“It’s building the backbone of the city’s transit network on cables, and that’s never been done before,” says Dale. “When I said before that they’re really ideally suited to first-mile problems, feeding into a higher-capacity system, La Paz is really challenging that idea, and saying — ‘Hold on a second, why don’t we use this as our trunk, as our main form of public transit’—which is totally unique.”

Ekkehard Assman is the head of marketing for Dopplmayr, an Austrian firm that specializes in the manufacture of cable cars. To date, the company has built more than 14,700 installations in 90 different countries — including the system in La Paz. “It’s more or less the first real cable car network in a city,” he says. “Three lines are already working and have already transported more than 60–70 million people since they began running in 2014. In addition, we’re on the way to building six more lines and I heard a couple of days ago — they’re not signed yet, these contracts — but President Morales has already talked about two more lines.”

Mi Teleférico combines best practices from all around the world. Prices are rock bottom — about 35 cents for a ticket—while usage is almost all local. “There’s not a lot of tourist things going on there,” says Assman. “It’s more or less pure urban transport.”

Mi Teleférico in La Paz.

While the system opened in 2014 amid the growing global craze for cable cars, the city’s precarious topography means that the idea has a much longer history than other projects. In the 1970s, a team working under councilman Mario Mercado Vaca Guzmán planned a route between the neighborhoods of La Ceja and La Florida. In 1990, a feasibility study for a similar route was performed, but ultimately rejected over high fares and low passenger capacities. In 1993, mayoral candidate Mónica Medina included aerial transit as a campaign promise, pledging a system of interconnected cable car lines.

The idea kicked around for another two decades until July 2012, when Bolivian President Evo Morales called together the mayors of La Paz and El Alto and the governor of the La Paz department and finally got them to make it happen. Funds were provided by the country’s national treasury and the Central Bank of Bolivia, and the doors of the cabins opened for business on May 30, 2014.

Like in Medellín, there have been enormous positive effects on social mobility — the cable car runs between La Paz and the neighboring El Alto, a poorer area with a majority indigenous population. Travel between the two areas has historically been difficult, due to a 1,300-foot [400-meter] altitude difference, but the cable car system has broken down the physical barriers between the two dramatically different populations — and perhaps a few of the psychological ones, too.

As a technology, cable cars have a lot of factors in their favor. They bridge tricky terrain. They efficiently get people to and from bigger mass transit systems. They’re cheap to build and maintain, and the newest designs are safe in even extreme weather conditions. They’re modular, quiet, clean, and run on electricity rather than polluting fuel.

It’s also clear that the technology has to power to effect major, positive change in the world’s cities. It’s not as simple as slapping down a cable car and inequality disappears. “Something that we, in Latin America, have learned is that you cannot copy and paste models and expect them to work perfectly,” says Correa. But if integrated well into existing transit networks, sold properly to the locals, and suitably priced, they can deliver tremendous benefits — both to underserved communities and cities as a whole.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the technology is the reaction that it generates in people. When confronted with the idea of cable cars as mass transit for the first time, some people respond with horror or fear, others with mirth or excitement. “I think it’s just… what’s the phrase? Lightning in a bottle, a perfect storm, something like that,” says Dale.

In his job as a cable car consultant, he speaks a lot to city planners who’ve been told to go away and research the subject. “I’ll be honest — the first thing that half of our clients say to us when we pick up the phone is: ‘Is this the stupidest idea I’ve ever had?’ You can hear it in their voice, you can hear fear,” he explains. “Because they know if they get it wrong, they’re going to be jumped on at work, they’re going to be humiliated, people are going to laugh at them and all of this.”

The best part of the job, Dale says, is watching people come around to the idea. “I get a thrill, quite honestly, from being able to take people from a place of thinking, ‘This is the most ridiculous idea in the world’ to a place where they go, ‘This actually isn’t ridiculous at all.’

“So many of the decisions that get made in the urban planning sphere are emotional decisions, and to see [planners] actively confronting that fear, that is unbelievably rewarding and unbelievably exciting.”

This post was first published here as part of How We Get To Next’s Going Places series. It is reproduced here under a CC Attribution-ShareAlike license.

Gabon (Bradt Travel Guides)

Annelies Hickendorff

Gabon, the land of the surfing hippo, is a West African country home to truly exceptional biodiversity. 30,000 gorillas stalk the jungle, manatees and humpbacks are present around the country’s 800km of coastline and Gabon’s 13 national parks offer wildlife-watching experiences unlike any other. Bradt’s Gabon is the only English-language guidebook available and includes a comprehensive section on the country’s birds and bird-watching alongside chapters on history and culture. Gabon aims to attract 100,000 high and middle-end visitors by 2020 and has publicly destroyed its ivory stocks, recognizing the country’s future value as an eco-tourism destination.

City Maps Libreville Gabon

James McFee

City Maps Libreville Gabon is an easy to use small pocket book filled with all you need for your stay in the big city. Attractions, pubs, bars, restaurants, museums, convenience stores, clothing stores, shopping centers, marketplaces, police, emergency facilities and the list goes on and on. This collection of maps is up to date with the latest developments of the city. This city map is a must if you wish to enjoy the city without internet connection.

Cameroon 1:1,500,000 and Gabon 1:950,000 Travel Map (International Travel Maps)

ITM Canada

Cameroun, or Cameroon in French, is one of the most interesting countries in West Africa to visit. The far north has lava outcrops and unusual villages, the center is excellent agricultural land, and the south is steamy tropical forest. This indexed map is being combined with a separate map of the country of Gabon on the reverse side. Places of interest, parks, campsites, airports, rail and ferry routes are highlighted. Brief geography and history descriptions are given of the country and also Lake Nyos, Yaounde, Bafoussam, Kumba, Korup National Park, Bamenda, Mt. Cameroon, Douala, Foumban, Kribi's beaches, Limbe, Maroua and Waza National Park are also described. Colored tinting shows elevation in meters. Includes inset maps of Yaounde and Douala. Legend in English.

GABON Country Studies: A brief, comprehensive study of Gabon

CIA

A brief yet detailed report on the country of Gabon with updated information on the map, flag, history, people, economics, political conditions in government, foreign affairs, and U.S. relations.

Gabon Map 1:1M (French Edition) IGN

Institut Geographique National

The French Government mapping agency, Institut Geographique National, produces this excellent map of Gabon at a scale of 1:1,000,000.

Atlas du Gabon (French Edition)

Danielle Ben Yahmed

Detailed atlas of Gabon, covering topics such as climate, geology, relief, mineral resources, fishing, and much more. Typically 1-2 pages of text and one map per topic. In French.

The Gabon Travel Journal

Younghusband World Travel Journals

"I don't always design travel journals, but when I do they are the kind of travel journals that people throw parades for." - Cormac Younghusband, The World's Most Legendary Nomad

THE GABON TRAVEL JOURNAL has been carefully crafted by the legendary nomad Cormac Younghusband to help make your trip unforgettable, fun and organized—with plenty of room to help spur spontaneity and document new discoveries.

This journal can help you plan, live out and record every stage of your journey to Gabon—from pre-trip, to getting there, to being there, to getting home, and afterwards.

"Gabon food is among the world's finest. They do this thing with the thing!" - Cormac Younghusband, The World's Most Legendary Nomad

The first part of the journal is for PRE-TRIP PLANNING and contains sections for important information, a page to write about what inspired you to make the trip, a page to write about the who, where, what, when, how of the journey, a page to make note of your travel companions, a number of pages to organize your travel research.* Plus, you will find sections for drafting an itinerary and keeping a journey to-do checklist.

The second part of the journal deals with GETTING THERE, containing sections to describe getting there and arriving.

The third part of the journal is all about BEING THERE. There are sections for: tracking the stuff you buy and for your daily adventures there are 50 two-page daily records to keep notes on: day #, date, weather, places visited, what happened today + thoughts on what happened, the highlight of the day and extensive notes (with a handy reminder list of things to write about). Because there are about 1,608,321 people in Gabon, there's also a section to record the names and contact info of the people you meet along the way.

The fourth part of the journal is for GETTING HOME, that fateful day you depart and the days that follow. There are sections for describing your departure, for making your own top 10 highlights lists, a country radar to help you create a signature review of the country, and an afterwards where you can sum up the meaning of your trip.

When a trip is over, Cormac Younghusband recommends you start planning your NEXT TRIP. To help, there is a section where you can make a travel wish list.

Also included is a COUNTRY BRIEF to give you important info on the destination and a MAP to give you an idea of the lay of the land. Plus, at the back of the book there are sections for: generic packing ideas, measures and conversions, and pages for notes, sketches, maps and such

"Find a place in the world you haven't been, and go there. Keep on trucking, my friends" - Cormac Younghusband, The World's Most Legendary Nomad

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - * Research Such As: places to go / explore, places to stay, places to shop / must have souvenirs, cultural / sporting events to attend, historical / religious sites of interest, pubs-bars-places-to-party, beaches / forests / natural wonders to see, parks & gardens to wander through, things to eat and drink / dining experiences, festivals & events to attend, stuff for kids - seniors - and such, experiences to experience, important local customs, etiquette, laws, and such.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Why visit Gabon? Because, it's there." - Cormac Younghusband, The World's Most Legendary Nomad

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

WHEREVER YOU'RE GOING, YOUNGHUSBAND WORLD TRAVEL JOURNALS HAS THE PERFECT JOURNAL FOR YOU.

Gabon: Including its History, The Ogooué, The Ivindo River, and More

Renee Browning

Discover Gabon like you have never seen it before. Whether you are a first time traveler or avid visitor of this region of the world, this book is the perfect guide for you. Read about all the amazing surprises you could find and all the must see places. Included in this book is the information about The Zadie River, The Bitam and everything in between. With content from a huge community of contributors, you get the convenience and security of a real print travel guide, but with fresh data and content. Earth Eyes Destinations represents a new publishing paradigm, allowing disparate content sources to be curated into cohesive, relevant, and informative books. To date, this content has been curated from Wikipedia articles and images under Creative Commons licensing, although as we increase in scope and dimension, more licensed and public domain content is being added. We believe books such as this represent a new and exciting lexicon in the sharing of human knowledge.

Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Exercise a high degree of caution and register with the Consulate of Canada in Libreville.

Maintain a high level of security awareness at all times and avoid public gatherings and street demonstrations.

Crime

Petty crime, such as pickpocketing, purse snatching and vehicle break-ins, has increased, particularly in markets, transportation hubs and areas frequented by tourists. Do not show signs of affluence. Resisting a robbery can lead to further violence.

Violent crime occurs, including business and residential robberies and armed attacks, particularly in Libreville and Port-Gentil. Remain alert to your surroundings and avoid walking alone after dark, even in places visited by tourists. You should also avoid walking alone on beaches.

Fraud

Cases of attempted fraud are frequently reported in this country. See our Overseas Fraud page for more information on scams abroad.

Road travel

Road conditions are poor and road signs are often insufficient. The use of a four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended. Keep vehicle doors locked and windows closed. In the event of a traffic accident, proceed to the nearest police station. Towing and repair services are not widely available outside Libreville. There are frequent police roadblocks. Cooperate with local authorities and avoid travelling after dark.

Public transportation

You can use public transportation such as the train or the bus. The Transgabonese railroad offers a passenger train service that runs from Libreville to Franceville and makes stops in Ndjole, Booué and Lastoursville. When taking taxis in the cities, negotiate the price before getting in the cab. Most taxi drivers automatically double their fares after 9 pm.

No reliable information about Gabon Airlines' safety standards is available. Consult our Transportation FAQ in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

General safety information

Ensure that personal belongings, passport, and other travel documents are secure at all times.

Tourist facilities are limited outside the capital. Ecotourism is generally safe; however, you should make arrangements only with reputable companies and not venture from your organized tour group.

In case of an emergency, dial 177 for the police.

Piracy

Pirate attacks occur in coastal waters and, in some cases, farther out at sea. Mariners should take appropriate precautions. For additional information, consult the Live Piracy Report published by the International Maritime Bureau.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Polio

There is a risk of polio in this country. Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up-to-date.

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is a risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required for travellers from all countries.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Central Africa, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Central Africa. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Schistosomiasis

Schistosomiasis is caused by blood flukes (tiny worms) spread to humans through contaminated water. The eggs of the worms can cause stomach illnesses like diarrhea and cramps or urinary problems. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Avoid swimming in contaminated water. There is no vaccine available for schistosomiasis.

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Central Africa, certain insects carry and spread diseases like African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis, malaria, onchocerciasis, Rift Valley feverWest Nile virus and yellow fever.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria throughout the year in the whole country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss the benefits of taking antimalarial medication and to determine which one to take.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in Central Africa, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

HIV

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.

Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities are adequate in major cities but are very rudimentary elsewhere in the country. Upfront payment is generally required. Medical evacuation may be necessary in the event of an accident or serious illness.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Penalties for possession and use of illegal drugs are strict and usually include jail sentences.

Homosexuality is not widely accepted and some homosexual acts are illegal.

Photography of military installations and presidential palaces is strictly prohibited.

An International Driving Permit is recommended.

Money

The currency is the African Financial Community CFA franc (or XAF bank code). Exchange rates are those quoted by the BEAC (Banques des États d’Afrique Centrale). Euros and American dollars are largely accepted, but high exchange charges may apply. Credit cards are accepted only in large hotels and restaurants, but traveller’s cheques in Euros and U.S. dollars may be cashed at local banks. If possible, use cash for all transactions. Local banks often ask for the original purchase receipt for traveller’s cheques.

Several fraud cases involving the use of a credit card have been reported in Gabon. Credit card holders should be cautious when making a payment with their credit card and monitor their transaction statements regularly. Banking frauds have also been reported. Ensure that you protect your personal identification and banking information at all times, and get informed on the security measures taken by your financial institution.

Climate

The rainy seasons extend from October to mid-December and mid-February to May. Some roads may be impassable during these periods. Monitor local weather reports and plan accordingly.