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Visiting Gabon

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  • eric690985
    I will be travelling to Gabon to visit my girlfriend in September. I have read on various web sites that Euro travellers cheques can be exchanged for local
    Message 1 of 16 , Jul 27, 2006
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      I will be travelling to Gabon to visit my girlfriend in September.
      I have read on various web sites that Euro travellers cheques can be
      exchanged for local currency there.
      However a Gabonese friend who now lives in the U.K. returned to visit
      her parents last year and found that none of the banks would change
      her travellers cheques.
      I am reluctant to change all my money into cash and would much prefer
      the security of travellers cheques. However the only other option
      would appear to be
      having a friend send me money via Western Union who, in my opinion,
      are one of the biggest rip-off merchants around.
      Can anyone offer any better suggestions?

      E.
    • makeke2
      Eric, I believe you can probably cash traveler s cheques at Citibank, they ll charge a fee though. I would suggest using a credit card or instant cash card
      Message 2 of 16 , Jul 27, 2006
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        Eric,

        I believe you can probably cash traveler's cheques at Citibank,
        they'll charge a fee though. I would suggest using a credit card or
        instant cash card that would allow you to use the ATMs there to
        withdraw CFA. Trick is to get a card that wont charge you a
        riduculous rate for withdraw. Most bank ATMs (especially BICG) will
        allow you to use international cards. Bon sejour...MS


        --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, eric690985 <no_reply@...> wrote:
        >
        > I will be travelling to Gabon to visit my girlfriend in September.
        > I have read on various web sites that Euro travellers cheques can be
        > exchanged for local currency there.
        > However a Gabonese friend who now lives in the U.K. returned to visit
        > her parents last year and found that none of the banks would change
        > her travellers cheques.
        > I am reluctant to change all my money into cash and would much prefer
        > the security of travellers cheques. However the only other option
        > would appear to be
        > having a friend send me money via Western Union who, in my opinion,
        > are one of the biggest rip-off merchants around.
        > Can anyone offer any better suggestions?
        >
        > E.
        >
      • jonathonwithano
        E. I visited Gabon in February and March. I recommend you bring cash and hide it in several places on your body and in your bags. It is difficult to find
        Message 3 of 16 , Jul 27, 2006
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          E.

          I visited Gabon in February and March. I recommend you bring cash and hide it in several
          places on your body and in your bags. It is difficult to find places that accept travellers
          cheques or credit cards.

          jonathonwithano


          --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, eric690985 <no_reply@...> wrote:
          >
          > I will be travelling to Gabon to visit my girlfriend in September.
          > I have read on various web sites that Euro travellers cheques can be
          > exchanged for local currency there.
          > However a Gabonese friend who now lives in the U.K. returned to visit
          > her parents last year and found that none of the banks would change
          > her travellers cheques.
          > I am reluctant to change all my money into cash and would much prefer
          > the security of travellers cheques. However the only other option
          > would appear to be
          > having a friend send me money via Western Union who, in my opinion,
          > are one of the biggest rip-off merchants around.
          > Can anyone offer any better suggestions?
          >
          > E.
          >
        • lindsaypartusch
          I am living in Gabon right now. My advice...get a visa card. I don t think you can exchange travellers checks unless you have an account or they charge way
          Message 4 of 16 , Jul 28, 2006
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            I am living in Gabon right now. My advice...get a visa card. I
            don't think you can exchange travellers checks unless you have an
            account or they charge way too much. My parents had a really hard
            time with that when they came. Traded some travellers checks, but
            then just used Visa and got money out. Good luck, and if you need
            anything when you get here, I am in LBV (07-57-76-24)
            Lindsay
            --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, "makeke2" <makeke2@...>
            wrote:
            >
            > Eric,
            >
            > I believe you can probably cash traveler's cheques at Citibank,
            > they'll charge a fee though. I would suggest using a credit card
            or
            > instant cash card that would allow you to use the ATMs there to
            > withdraw CFA. Trick is to get a card that wont charge you a
            > riduculous rate for withdraw. Most bank ATMs (especially BICG)
            will
            > allow you to use international cards. Bon sejour...MS
            >
            >
            > --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, eric690985 <no_reply@>
            wrote:
            > >
            > > I will be travelling to Gabon to visit my girlfriend in
            September.
            > > I have read on various web sites that Euro travellers cheques
            can be
            > > exchanged for local currency there.
            > > However a Gabonese friend who now lives in the U.K. returned to
            visit
            > > her parents last year and found that none of the banks would
            change
            > > her travellers cheques.
            > > I am reluctant to change all my money into cash and would much
            prefer
            > > the security of travellers cheques. However the only other
            option
            > > would appear to be
            > > having a friend send me money via Western Union who, in my
            opinion,
            > > are one of the biggest rip-off merchants around.
            > > Can anyone offer any better suggestions?
            > >
            > > E.
            > >
            >
          • Brad Hodges
            Mbatsi ami, Mue dikengui? I was reluctant to respond, but then Lindsay posted, so here goes... I, too, recently spent three years in Gabon. When I returned
            Message 5 of 16 , Jul 28, 2006
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              Mbatsi'ami,

              Mue dikengui?

              I was reluctant to respond, but then Lindsay posted, so here goes...

              I, too, recently spent three years in Gabon. When I returned (briefly) to the U.S. last year, I opted to travel with cash, because the only other option was to pay ridiculous rates to send money back stateside through Western Union. This was ironic since I had a bank account in Gabon and one in the U.S., but still, there is no way to transfer money. Honestly, travellers checks and debit/credit cards are unreliable unless you plan to stay in the only two or three hotels in the capital that accept them, which are also the most expensive, and then you're going to pay more fees. This is fine for diplomats and other people sponsored by foreign governments and big businesses. But since Eric is visiting a girlfriend in Gabon (boukaye! j'ai epouse une gabonaise! courage!) and probably knows the capital better than the average schmuck, he is more likely to find housing in a more sensible locale. Thus, as scary as it sounds, I encourage such short-term visitors to travel with
              currency.

              Does this make sense?

              S.E. El Hadj Moussa

              lindsaypartusch <lindsaypartusch@...> a écrit :
              I am living in Gabon right now. My advice...get a visa card. I
              don't think you can exchange travellers checks unless you have an
              account or they charge way too much. My parents had a really hard
              time with that when they came. Traded some travellers checks, but
              then just used Visa and got money out. Good luck, and if you need
              anything when you get here, I am in LBV (07-57-76-24)
              Lindsay
              --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, "makeke2" <makeke2@...>
              wrote:
              >
              > Eric,
              >
              > I believe you can probably cash traveler's cheques at Citibank,
              > they'll charge a fee though. I would suggest using a credit card
              or
              > instant cash card that would allow you to use the ATMs there to
              > withdraw CFA. Trick is to get a card that wont charge you a
              > riduculous rate for withdraw. Most bank ATMs (especially BICG)
              will
              > allow you to use international cards. Bon sejour...MS
              >
              >
              > --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, eric690985 <no_reply@>
              wrote:
              > >
              > > I will be travelling to Gabon to visit my girlfriend in
              September.
              > > I have read on various web sites that Euro travellers cheques
              can be
              > > exchanged for local currency there.
              > > However a Gabonese friend who now lives in the U.K. returned to
              visit
              > > her parents last year and found that none of the banks would
              change
              > > her travellers cheques.
              > > I am reluctant to change all my money into cash and would much
              prefer
              > > the security of travellers cheques. However the only other
              option
              > > would appear to be
              > > having a friend send me money via Western Union who, in my
              opinion,
              > > are one of the biggest rip-off merchants around.
              > > Can anyone offer any better suggestions?
              > >
              > > E.
              > >
              >






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            • bobutne
              http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/459/514462 It is said Uganda will receive over $400m dollars in oil revenues in the first five years of oil production. But most
              Message 6 of 16 , Aug 11, 2006
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                http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/459/514462

                It is said Uganda will receive over $400m dollars in oil revenues in
                the first five years of oil production. But most oil dependent
                countries that have been receiving more than this amount have more
                often than not experienced significant development failures and in the
                end petrol dollars have promoted corruption and instability rather than
                peace and development.

                Therefore, oil is a double-edged asset; it can be both good and bad. In
                countries such as Algeria, Angola, D R Congo, Equador, Gabon, Iran,
                Iraq, Kuwait, Sudan and Nigeria, oil revenue mismanagement has seen
                their real per capita incomes plummet.....
              • bobutne
                LIBREVILLE, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Unions in Gabon called on Monday for a six-day general strike next month to protest a national minimum wage that has been frozen
                Message 7 of 16 , Aug 15, 2006
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                  LIBREVILLE, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Unions in Gabon called on Monday for a
                  six-day general strike next month to protest a national minimum wage
                  that has been frozen for decades in the central African oil producer.

                  The glistening sea-front hotels and chic boutiques of the capital
                  Libreville belie the grinding poverty affecting most Gabonese people,
                  a third surviving on less than $1 a day despite the country's oil
                  wealth.

                  "This general strike will extend across the whole country, involving
                  all sectors, and is being organised to demand an increase of the
                  minimum wage," the confederation of Gabonese unions (COSYGA) said in
                  a statement.

                  It said the minimum wage in Gabon, which has been ruled since 1967 by
                  Africa's longest serving president Omar Bongo, had remained frozen at
                  44,000 CFA francs ($85) a month for several decades.

                  Bongo won a presidential poll in November with 80 percent of the vote
                  but the opposition, which had tried to tap into popular discontent
                  over poverty and unemployment in the former French colony, said the
                  election was rigged.

                  The government banned demonstrations when rioting broke out after the
                  results were announced and said the security forces would shoot
                  without warning to break up protests. The opposition said five people
                  were killed in the days following the results.

                  Oil accounts for 80 percent of Gabon's exports and although public
                  coffers have been benefiting from high global crude prices economists
                  warn the country is overly reliant on the sector and needs to
                  diversify before reserves run out.

                  http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L1414999.htm
                • bobutne
                  August 17 2006, Libreville - Gabon on Thursday celebrated its 46th independence anniversary with eight visiting African heads of state on the reviewing stand
                  Message 8 of 16 , Aug 18, 2006
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                    August 17 2006, Libreville - Gabon on Thursday celebrated its 46th
                    independence anniversary with eight visiting African heads of state
                    on the reviewing stand alongside host President Omar Bongo. The
                    presidents of Benin, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic,
                    Chad, Congo, Mali, Sao Tome and Togo looked on as Bongo, who has
                    ruled Gabon since 1967, gave the starting signal for a military
                    parade along Libreville's seaside boulevard, newly repaved for the
                    occasion. Two brand new South African-built Mirage-F1AZs performed a
                    flypast as Gabonese lined the parade route, which was festooned with
                    the national colors of blue, yellow and green.

                    Under a program launched in 2002 to spread infrastructure investments
                    across Gabon, independence day celebrations have been held on a
                    rotating basis in two of the nine provinces of the oil-rich west
                    African country each year, with an annual budget of 50 billion CFA
                    francs. As eight of the country's nine provinces have already
                    benefitted from the programme, it is the turn this year and next of
                    Estuary Province, home to the capital Libreville, to carry out the
                    works. Libreville's population makes up almost half of Gabon's 1,3
                    million inhabitants.

                    Ahead of the festivities, critics asked for evidence of major
                    infrastructure investments.The International Monetary Fund, in a
                    recent report, highlighted "projects left at the planning
                    stage", "deserted buildings", "unusable" infrastructure as well as
                    numerous cases of "over-invoicing". Newspapers and opposition members
                    also pointed out the lack of obvious investments.

                    "As of today, we can't see anything," said the private newspaper Le
                    Crocodile on Wednesday. "In Libreville, the head of state will only
                    inaugurate the reviewing stand."

                    Opposition leader Pierre Mamboundou told AFP that he supported the
                    celebrations but could not see any apparent investments.

                    "The 50 billion allocated each year must get projects off the
                    ground," he said. "That's not the case."

                    Mamboundou charged that "the occasion is in fact grabbed by regional
                    leaders to over-invoice and enrich themselves".
                  • bobutne
                    Alcoholic elephants, naked cyclists, lethal kites and £1,000-a-day car hire: getting to grips with Gabon isn t easy, but it s worth it As an excuse for a late
                    Message 9 of 16 , Aug 20, 2006
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                      Alcoholic elephants, naked cyclists, lethal kites and £1,000-a-day
                      car hire: getting to grips with Gabon isn't easy, but it's worth it

                      As an excuse for a late train, it was certainly more imaginative than
                      blaming leaves on the line. A herd of drunken elephants had wandered
                      in front of the train heading towards Lopé, in the middle of the
                      Gabonese jungle. Four of the elephants had been killed, and the
                      engine and two carriages had been derailed. The line was completely
                      blocked. The stationmaster sweated profusely in the equatorial heat
                      as he explained the problem to our small group waiting on the Lopé
                      station platform. "It's the iboga fruit they keep eating," he
                      grumbled, apparently annoyed at the herd's failure to obey railway
                      regulations. "They get intoxicated and stagger around on our lines."

                      I had been in Gabon with a BBC film crew for less than a week, at the
                      beginning of a journey around the equator. We were all expecting
                      endless problems while traversing the warm waistband of the planet.
                      After all, the equatorial zone is home not only to the greatest
                      natural biodiversity, but also perhaps the greatest human suffering.

                      Beyond Gabon, months of travel would take me through the Democratic
                      Republic of Congo, scene of extreme violence, then across Uganda and
                      Kenya to the lawless border with anarchic Somalia. Religious
                      conflicts in Indonesia, fighting fishermen in the Galapagos,
                      Colombia's interminable civil war and the vast Amazon all beckoned
                      ahead.

                      But thanks to the drunken elephants and a brush with a nasty disease,
                      I nearly didn't make it out of the starting blocks.

                      The trip had begun promisingly enough. French soldiers have helped
                      keep Gabon relatively stable, while oil has made a few well-connected
                      locals extremely rich. At one point in the 1980s, Gabon had the
                      highest per-capita consumption of champagne, and the capital,
                      Libreville, boasts casinos, musty hotels, busy beaches and a handful
                      of handsome seafront buildings with a passing resemblance to those of
                      Miami's South Beach.

                      But the party is coming to an end. Supplies of black gold are
                      dwindling, and Gabon's President Bongo has decided to tap tourist
                      dollars by exploiting other national assets. With gorillas,
                      chimpanzees, hippos splashing in the sea, pristine rainforest and
                      nearly 700 species of birds, Gabon is a paradise for naturalists.

                      Bongo has ruled Gabon since 1967, and Castro's death will make him
                      the world's longest-serving leader. Absolute power clearly speeds
                      decision-making. The president recently ordered that 11% of Gabon
                      should be converted into national parks — almost overnight. It was a
                      bold move: voilà! — Gabon is now being touted and promoted as
                      the "Costa Rica of Africa", an unspoilt high-end destination for
                      wealthy ecotourists.

                      But Costa Rica has been welcoming visitors for years, and has been
                      carefully building hotels and a tourism infrastructure. Gabon has a
                      long way to go before it can claim to be African competition.

                      It's not the basic tourist facilities that are the problem. Authentic
                      travel experiences have their own charm. The main problem with Gabon —
                      if my experience is anything to go by — is that visitors to the
                      country risk endless bad luck.


                      I was desperate to get into the fabled Gabonese rainforest and find
                      some gorillas for an Attenborough moment, but events continually
                      conspired against me.

                      My troubles began before I even left Libreville. My phone, which had
                      seen faithful service in the most demanding countries in the world,
                      packed up. So did my producers. One of our cameras and our backup
                      phone went haywire. Money disappeared. I had a comedy moment stuck in
                      a dilapidated hotel lift while metal groaned in a way I didn't think
                      possible outside Hollywood movies (how I laughed).

                      After two days in Gabon, I wandered out of my beachside hotel and a
                      battered Citroën suddenly turned sharply and slammed into the thick
                      wall right next to me, demolishing the front of the car — and the
                      wall. The driver slid out of his seat, dusted himself off with a
                      dramatic flourish and calmly walked into the hotel. "I'm fine, thank
                      you, there is nothing to worry about," he said.

                      I gave the car a wide berth as it began to smoulder, and hailed a
                      taxi. We drove 40 metres before clipping another car. My driver had
                      been distracted by a completely naked man carrying a bicycle into a
                      shop. A kite-flyer later managed virtually to garrotte me as I
                      strolled along the beach. I hope you get the picture. Weird things
                      can happen in Gabon. Or, at least, they did to me.

                      I was relieved when we finally left Libreville and headed east,
                      parallel with the equator, on the Transgabonais railway towards Lopé
                      National Park, home to a large population of mandrills and several
                      thousand western lowland gorillas. Surely my luck would improve.
                      After leaving the train at Lopé, we clambered into 4WDs for a journey
                      into the rainforest, but were then turfed out and abandoned in the
                      jungle when we refused to pay an extra £1,000 a day. Travellers in
                      Africa are never immune to corruption or outright blackmail, but we
                      naively believed a car-hire firm connected to the presidential family
                      would be slightly more reliable.

                      Shrugging off another setback, we tried to view our resulting trek to
                      the Mikongo camp, deep in the Lopé forest, as a bracing stroll.
                      Researchers based at Mikongo are habituating lowland gorillas with
                      the help of funding from visiting tourists. Finally, it was my chance
                      to get into the jungle. We plunged into the forest, led by wiry
                      tracker Donald Ndongo, and began to explore.

                      Lowland gorillas can wander several miles a day, so, in the dense
                      forest, the odds of a sighting are not great. I didn't even see their
                      droppings. Between June and November, more than a thousand mandrills
                      can congregate in the jungle, the largest non-human gatherings of
                      primates anywhere. Unfortunately, we were there in April.

                      Gabon clearly offers both more and less than a standard safari. More,
                      in the sense that, after trekking and sweating through the
                      rainforest, there is the chance of genuine and spontaneous wildlife
                      discoveries. Compare that with a traditional safari in South or East
                      Africa, where you watch a bored cheetah on the open savannah, while
                      sitting in a 4WD with honeymooners from Texas and Bavaria.

                      And Gabon offers less, in that most of the country is thick, green
                      jungle, and you might only catch an arse-end glimpse of a mandrill or
                      a gorilla heading in the wrong direction. In the rainforest there are
                      no wildlife guarantees.

                      But tracking in the jungle is endless fun. Donald was a mine of
                      information on trees that bled red, and plants used for fighting
                      fever, while he clucked away noisily to alert gorillas to our
                      presence. Pushing through the jungle was a challenge, but when we
                      finally spotted and followed putty-nosed monkeys, it made the reward
                      only sweeter.

                      Donald, whose father was a proud hunter ("Never a poacher," he added
                      quickly), explained how life was changing since the president decided
                      to target wealthy tourists. Villagers who live in and around national
                      parks have suddenly been banned from hunting in the forests. "It's
                      been a big shock for them," he said. "We try to explain that it's for
                      the benefit of the country, but they need to eat, so they need to see
                      the benefits of tourism quickly."

                      Donald took us to the village of Makoghé, on the outskirts of the
                      forest, where Jean Jacques, the energetic headman, has been
                      struggling to hold his village together since the hunting ban. Jean
                      Jacques has started organising traditional dances for paying
                      foreigners and is appealing for tourists to visit. His message is
                      clear: if you want us to stop hunting the wildlife, someone needs to
                      provide us with an alternative means of putting food on the table. We
                      paid a modest sum and thoroughly enjoyed their fourth performance.

                      After watching the dancing, I wanted to head back into the rainforest
                      in search of wildlife, but I started to feel a little unwell and we
                      decided to aim for the capital. The returning train was derailed by
                      the drunken pachyderms, and by the time the line was cleared and we
                      arrived back in the capital, I was feeling spectacularly rough.

                      Perhaps I've watched too many episodes of Casualty, but when I awoke
                      during the night with a temperature of 40C and started vomiting
                      blood, I suspected something was wrong. Diagnosed with malaria, I was
                      treated with medicine derived from Vietnamese sweet wormwood, and was
                      forced to halt my journey to recover.

                      I felt lucky to make it out of the country alive and would rather
                      boil my testicles than risk returning. But Jean Jacques wants you to
                      visit.

                      So go to the Costa Rica of Africa: trek, sweat and, with luck, you
                      will spot some extraordinary wildlife before spending your money in
                      the villages. Don't let my bad luck put you off. After all, the
                      people of Makoghé need you.

                      The author and broadcaster Simon Reeve presents Equator, a three-part
                      journey around the world, starting on August 27 on BBC2 at 9pm

                      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2100-2318541,00.html
                    • bobutne
                      Simon Reeve mentions the Attenborough moment so I Googled and found the following site. Click on the box: Look here too to view/listen to the incredible
                      Message 10 of 16 , Aug 22, 2006
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                        Simon Reeve mentions the "Attenborough moment" so I Googled and found
                        the following site. Click on the box: "Look here too" to view/listen
                        to the incredible lyrebird.

                        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/showbiz/tvandsoap.html?
                        in_page_id=1887&in_article_id=385372

                        When I visited Mikongo in June of 2002, I experienced
                        an "Attenborough moment" when the two trackers and I came upon a
                        female gorilla high in the tree canopy eating leaves. When she
                        discovered us below, she slid about 200 feet down the tree (like a
                        fireman going down a firehouse pole) all the while screaming at the
                        top of her lungs, the most blood-curling cry I have ever heard. Her
                        mate, hidden nearby in the thick bush, joined in with a huge roar the
                        shook the jungle floor. They scampered off together fearing that we
                        were killer poachers. I'll never forget that sight and, especially,
                        those sounds of fear. Gorillas and humans do not mix.




                        --- In gabondiscussion@yahoogroups.com, "bobutne" <bobutne@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > Alcoholic elephants, naked cyclists, lethal kites and £1,000-a-day
                        > car hire: getting to grips with Gabon isn't easy, but it's worth it
                        >
                        > As an excuse for a late train, it was certainly more imaginative
                        than
                        > blaming leaves on the line. A herd of drunken elephants had
                        wandered
                        > in front of the train heading towards Lopé, in the middle of the
                        > Gabonese jungle. Four of the elephants had been killed, and the
                        > engine and two carriages had been derailed. The line was completely
                        > blocked. The stationmaster sweated profusely in the equatorial heat
                        > as he explained the problem to our small group waiting on the Lopé
                        > station platform. "It's the iboga fruit they keep eating," he
                        > grumbled, apparently annoyed at the herd's failure to obey railway
                        > regulations. "They get intoxicated and stagger around on our
                        lines."
                        >
                        > I had been in Gabon with a BBC film crew for less than a week, at
                        the
                        > beginning of a journey around the equator. We were all expecting
                        > endless problems while traversing the warm waistband of the planet.
                        > After all, the equatorial zone is home not only to the greatest
                        > natural biodiversity, but also perhaps the greatest human
                        suffering.
                        >
                        > Beyond Gabon, months of travel would take me through the Democratic
                        > Republic of Congo, scene of extreme violence, then across Uganda
                        and
                        > Kenya to the lawless border with anarchic Somalia. Religious
                        > conflicts in Indonesia, fighting fishermen in the Galapagos,
                        > Colombia's interminable civil war and the vast Amazon all beckoned
                        > ahead.
                        >
                        > But thanks to the drunken elephants and a brush with a nasty
                        disease,
                        > I nearly didn't make it out of the starting blocks.
                        >
                        > The trip had begun promisingly enough. French soldiers have helped
                        > keep Gabon relatively stable, while oil has made a few well-
                        connected
                        > locals extremely rich. At one point in the 1980s, Gabon had the
                        > highest per-capita consumption of champagne, and the capital,
                        > Libreville, boasts casinos, musty hotels, busy beaches and a
                        handful
                        > of handsome seafront buildings with a passing resemblance to those
                        of
                        > Miami's South Beach.
                        >
                        > But the party is coming to an end. Supplies of black gold are
                        > dwindling, and Gabon's President Bongo has decided to tap tourist
                        > dollars by exploiting other national assets. With gorillas,
                        > chimpanzees, hippos splashing in the sea, pristine rainforest and
                        > nearly 700 species of birds, Gabon is a paradise for naturalists.
                        >
                        > Bongo has ruled Gabon since 1967, and Castro's death will make him
                        > the world's longest-serving leader. Absolute power clearly speeds
                        > decision-making. The president recently ordered that 11% of Gabon
                        > should be converted into national parks — almost overnight. It was
                        a
                        > bold move: voilà! — Gabon is now being touted and promoted as
                        > the "Costa Rica of Africa", an unspoilt high-end destination for
                        > wealthy ecotourists.
                        >
                        > But Costa Rica has been welcoming visitors for years, and has been
                        > carefully building hotels and a tourism infrastructure. Gabon has a
                        > long way to go before it can claim to be African competition.
                        >
                        > It's not the basic tourist facilities that are the problem.
                        Authentic
                        > travel experiences have their own charm. The main problem with
                        Gabon —
                        > if my experience is anything to go by — is that visitors to the
                        > country risk endless bad luck.
                        >
                        >
                        > I was desperate to get into the fabled Gabonese rainforest and find
                        > some gorillas for an Attenborough moment, but events continually
                        > conspired against me.
                        >
                        > My troubles began before I even left Libreville. My phone, which
                        had
                        > seen faithful service in the most demanding countries in the world,
                        > packed up. So did my producers. One of our cameras and our backup
                        > phone went haywire. Money disappeared. I had a comedy moment stuck
                        in
                        > a dilapidated hotel lift while metal groaned in a way I didn't
                        think
                        > possible outside Hollywood movies (how I laughed).
                        >
                        > After two days in Gabon, I wandered out of my beachside hotel and a
                        > battered Citroën suddenly turned sharply and slammed into the thick
                        > wall right next to me, demolishing the front of the car — and the
                        > wall. The driver slid out of his seat, dusted himself off with a
                        > dramatic flourish and calmly walked into the hotel. "I'm fine,
                        thank
                        > you, there is nothing to worry about," he said.
                        >
                        > I gave the car a wide berth as it began to smoulder, and hailed a
                        > taxi. We drove 40 metres before clipping another car. My driver had
                        > been distracted by a completely naked man carrying a bicycle into a
                        > shop. A kite-flyer later managed virtually to garrotte me as I
                        > strolled along the beach. I hope you get the picture. Weird things
                        > can happen in Gabon. Or, at least, they did to me.
                        >
                        > I was relieved when we finally left Libreville and headed east,
                        > parallel with the equator, on the Transgabonais railway towards
                        Lopé
                        > National Park, home to a large population of mandrills and several
                        > thousand western lowland gorillas. Surely my luck would improve.
                        > After leaving the train at Lopé, we clambered into 4WDs for a
                        journey
                        > into the rainforest, but were then turfed out and abandoned in the
                        > jungle when we refused to pay an extra £1,000 a day. Travellers in
                        > Africa are never immune to corruption or outright blackmail, but we
                        > naively believed a car-hire firm connected to the presidential
                        family
                        > would be slightly more reliable.
                        >
                        > Shrugging off another setback, we tried to view our resulting trek
                        to
                        > the Mikongo camp, deep in the Lopé forest, as a bracing stroll.
                        > Researchers based at Mikongo are habituating lowland gorillas with
                        > the help of funding from visiting tourists. Finally, it was my
                        chance
                        > to get into the jungle. We plunged into the forest, led by wiry
                        > tracker Donald Ndongo, and began to explore.
                        >
                        > Lowland gorillas can wander several miles a day, so, in the dense
                        > forest, the odds of a sighting are not great. I didn't even see
                        their
                        > droppings. Between June and November, more than a thousand
                        mandrills
                        > can congregate in the jungle, the largest non-human gatherings of
                        > primates anywhere. Unfortunately, we were there in April.
                        >
                        > Gabon clearly offers both more and less than a standard safari.
                        More,
                        > in the sense that, after trekking and sweating through the
                        > rainforest, there is the chance of genuine and spontaneous wildlife
                        > discoveries. Compare that with a traditional safari in South or
                        East
                        > Africa, where you watch a bored cheetah on the open savannah, while
                        > sitting in a 4WD with honeymooners from Texas and Bavaria.
                        >
                        > And Gabon offers less, in that most of the country is thick, green
                        > jungle, and you might only catch an arse-end glimpse of a mandrill
                        or
                        > a gorilla heading in the wrong direction. In the rainforest there
                        are
                        > no wildlife guarantees.
                        >
                        > But tracking in the jungle is endless fun. Donald was a mine of
                        > information on trees that bled red, and plants used for fighting
                        > fever, while he clucked away noisily to alert gorillas to our
                        > presence. Pushing through the jungle was a challenge, but when we
                        > finally spotted and followed putty-nosed monkeys, it made the
                        reward
                        > only sweeter.
                        >
                        > Donald, whose father was a proud hunter ("Never a poacher," he
                        added
                        > quickly), explained how life was changing since the president
                        decided
                        > to target wealthy tourists. Villagers who live in and around
                        national
                        > parks have suddenly been banned from hunting in the forests. "It's
                        > been a big shock for them," he said. "We try to explain that it's
                        for
                        > the benefit of the country, but they need to eat, so they need to
                        see
                        > the benefits of tourism quickly."
                        >
                        > Donald took us to the village of Makoghé, on the outskirts of the
                        > forest, where Jean Jacques, the energetic headman, has been
                        > struggling to hold his village together since the hunting ban. Jean
                        > Jacques has started organising traditional dances for paying
                        > foreigners and is appealing for tourists to visit. His message is
                        > clear: if you want us to stop hunting the wildlife, someone needs
                        to
                        > provide us with an alternative means of putting food on the table.
                        We
                        > paid a modest sum and thoroughly enjoyed their fourth performance.
                        >
                        > After watching the dancing, I wanted to head back into the
                        rainforest
                        > in search of wildlife, but I started to feel a little unwell and we
                        > decided to aim for the capital. The returning train was derailed by
                        > the drunken pachyderms, and by the time the line was cleared and we
                        > arrived back in the capital, I was feeling spectacularly rough.
                        >
                        > Perhaps I've watched too many episodes of Casualty, but when I
                        awoke
                        > during the night with a temperature of 40C and started vomiting
                        > blood, I suspected something was wrong. Diagnosed with malaria, I
                        was
                        > treated with medicine derived from Vietnamese sweet wormwood, and
                        was
                        > forced to halt my journey to recover.
                        >
                        > I felt lucky to make it out of the country alive and would rather
                        > boil my testicles than risk returning. But Jean Jacques wants you
                        to
                        > visit.
                        >
                        > So go to the Costa Rica of Africa: trek, sweat and, with luck, you
                        > will spot some extraordinary wildlife before spending your money in
                        > the villages. Don't let my bad luck put you off. After all, the
                        > people of Makoghé need you.
                        >
                        > The author and broadcaster Simon Reeve presents Equator, a three-
                        part
                        > journey around the world, starting on August 27 on BBC2 at 9pm
                        >
                        > http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2100-2318541,00.html
                        >
                      • bobutne
                        http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-09/09/content_5069561.htm
                        Message 11 of 16 , Sep 11, 2006
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                        • bobutne
                          and.....China signs $3 billion iron-ore deal with Gabon. http://www.mining-journal.com/Breaking_News.aspx? breaking_news_article_id=713 ... One or more US
                          Message 12 of 16 , Sep 12, 2006
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                            and.....China signs $3 billion iron-ore deal with Gabon.

                            http://www.mining-journal.com/Breaking_News.aspx?
                            breaking_news_article_id=713

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

                            One or more US corporations had plans to mine Gabon's iron ore back in
                            the 60's. With Omar Bongo's strong push, Gabon built a railroad to help
                            make the project feasible. Now, the Chinese pick up the booty.....
                          • bobutne
                            http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/a5668aa627b4b5d2e4cae85a cd37933a.htm LIBREVILLE, 18 September (IRIN) - Patiently scraping the scales off fish at
                            Message 13 of 16 , Sep 18, 2006
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                              http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/a5668aa627b4b5d2e4cae85a
                              cd37933a.htm

                              LIBREVILLE, 18 September (IRIN) - Patiently scraping the scales off
                              fish at the Pont Nomba market in Gabon's capital, 19-year-old high-
                              school graduate Etienne Biyoghe said he once dreamt of an office
                              career. But as unemployment has soared in oil-rich Gabon, now he
                              feels lucky just to have enough money to put some food on the table
                              at the end of the day.

                              "I do not feel ashamed," Biyoghe said. In a good month, the arduous
                              work can net him US $300, well above the US $85 minimum wage -
                              unchanged since 1970. It is set to go up to US $155 next month.

                              An estimated 40 percent of people are unemployed in Gabon, a tiny
                              West African country rich in oil, gold, manganese and ore. The United
                              Nations says that between 60 and 70 percent of the population live
                              below the poverty line, scraping by on less than US $1 per day.

                              The rampant poverty is set against a per capita GDP more than three-
                              times higher than the sub-Saharan average, a paradox that is not lost
                              on politicians opposed to the country's president, Omar Bongo, West
                              Africa's longest-serving head of state.

                              "The populations of the oil producing African countries are those who
                              suffer from the most deteriorated living conditions," said
                              parliamentarian Laurent Nzamba.

                              Oil production has been declining in recent years in Gabon to average
                              about 265,000 barrels per day. Oil still accounts for an estimated 50
                              percent of national revenue, and analysts say forecasted continuing
                              high oil prices should cushion the country from short-term shocks.

                              Still, some are sceptical that Gabon's economic indicators will go
                              anywhere except backward as long as the 70-year-old president is in
                              power.

                              "Our leaders live in style, parading with cars and big villas while
                              the country is left utterly helpless," said Vincent Ndomba, who works
                              at the Treasury.

                              David Cowan, senior economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit in
                              London, agrees. "Gabon has a long history of doing all the things
                              that shouldn't be done," he said.

                              Cowan said Gabon's government frittered away the country's oil wealth
                              on grandiose projects. "Instead of spending on primary healthcare, it
                              spent on hospitals and universities, without thinking about the long-
                              term costs."

                              Analysts have urged Gabon to start diversifying the economy to
                              compensate for the decline in oil output, suggesting it expand mining
                              production and improve the forestry, construction, telecommunication
                              and fishing sectors as potential additional sources of revenue.

                              But Gabonese are not optimistic. At the fish market, Salomon Kontche
                              said he would advise his children to forget about college and head
                              straight for stable manual jobs.

                              "With the economic crisis, our situation is precarious," Kontche
                              said. "It's better to find an activity that provides us with a
                              certain amount of autonomy."
                            • w Siemers
                              Maybe a little from left field, but some 40 years ago or so, there were those of us who were concerned that in Gabon there were developing two classes. The
                              Message 14 of 16 , Sep 18, 2006
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                                Maybe a little from left field, but some 40 years ago or so, there were
                                those of us who were concerned that in Gabon there were developing two
                                classes. The poverty class in the village (and cities as well) and those
                                who by virtue of education were able to secure management type or
                                teaching jobs an moved into urban areas that offered more of the finer
                                things of life electricity, etc. We were concerned that although there
                                were plenty of "common laborers" and what we viewed to be an abundant
                                supply of the educatee "evoluee'" there was no middle class or tradesman
                                group either in place or developing. We knew of a few europeans who
                                filled in those positions and did quite nicely.
                                We spent a limited amount of time trying to re-open a facility at
                                N'gomo, an abandoned mission on the river below Lambrene. Prior to 1930
                                it had been a rather large school with trades training and even the
                                operation of a kiln to make brick and a sawmill. We spent a few nights
                                in a house that had been abandoned for about 30 years and because of its
                                fine construction was still sound.
                                Alas, about all we accomplished in our work and discussions with some of
                                the powers that were in the government was to along with Henri Bucher of
                                the Paris Mission Society, to dig out some books from the turn of the
                                century (german script printing no less) and ship them off to Libreville
                                where the powers that were were concerned about constructing a climate
                                controled facility to protect those old books.
                                Our attempt never got off the ground. However, it appears to us that
                                today, that missing middle trades class is perhaps still missing in Gabon.


                                bobutne wrote:

                                >http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/a5668aa627b4b5d2e4cae85a
                                >cd37933a.htm
                                >
                                >LIBREVILLE, 18 September (IRIN) - Patiently scraping the scales off
                                >fish at the Pont Nomba market in Gabon's capital, 19-year-old high-
                                >school graduate Etienne Biyoghe said he once dreamt of an office
                                >career. But as unemployment has soared in oil-rich Gabon, now he
                                >feels lucky just to have enough money to put some food on the table
                                >a
                                >
                                >
                                >
                                >
                                >
                              • bobutne
                                Libreville - China is investing massively across Africa, especially in oil and construction, and especially in countries like Sudan, where it backs the
                                Message 15 of 16 , Sep 29, 2006
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                                  Libreville - China is investing massively across Africa, especially
                                  in oil and construction, and especially in countries like Sudan,
                                  where it backs the government's resistance to the deployment of
                                  United Nations peacekeepers in Darfur. These investments have been
                                  greeted with enthusiasm by many but in the west African state of
                                  Gabon, the activities of a Chinese oil company have created uproar
                                  among donors, conservationists and even within the government itself.

                                  In 2002 Gabon designated a quarter of its territory as nature reserve
                                  Na move designed to protect 67 000km2 of mainly pristine rainforest
                                  that is home to a wealth of plants and animals. Four years on the
                                  government of President Omar Bongo, who has ruled the country for
                                  nearly 40 years, has run into its first major conflict of interests
                                  involving one of these nature reserves.

                                  State-run Sinopec, the largest refiner in energy-hungry China, has
                                  been prospecting for oil in the Loango national park in southern
                                  Gabon and has employed methods that critics say respect neither the
                                  law nor the environment.

                                  The company, which has declined all comment on the affair, was
                                  ordered by Libreville this month to halt all prospecting activities
                                  in the park. But the embarrassing case continued to cause upheaval in
                                  a country torn between the pressure to develop and the pressure to
                                  preserve its natural heritage.

                                  The problem began before the summer, when teams from a US
                                  environmental organisation, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS),
                                  accused Sinopec of abusing its oil exploration licence in Loango.

                                  Far from protecting an area lauded in travel magazines as "Africa's
                                  last paradise", Sinopec was accused of dynamiting and polluting the
                                  park, tearing up the forest to create roads and generally destroying
                                  the habitat on which Loango's plants and animals survive.

                                  In addition, WCS accused the Chinese company of acting completely
                                  illegally because the environmental impact study it was obliged to
                                  conduct in Loango had not been approved by the Gabonese environment
                                  ministry.

                                  "This study is completely phony," said one observer, who asked not to
                                  be named, "and Sinopec's activities in Loango are therefore illegal."

                                  In early September a government delegation visited the park and
                                  confirmed that Sinopec was guilty of several of the abuses logged by
                                  the WCS in its report on the company, a copy of which was obtained by
                                  AFP. The affair has aroused fury and concern among Gabonese
                                  conservation bodies.

                                  "What is happening in Loango calls into question all the commitments
                                  that Gabon has made to protect the environment," said Nicaise
                                  Moulombi, head of group Croissance Saine Environment (Healthy Growth -
                                  Environment).

                                  "It proves that our authorities prefer the immediate gains obtained
                                  from oil to the long-term gains obtained from conservation," added
                                  Marc Ona Essangui from Brainforest, another non-governmental
                                  organisation.

                                  The scandal has also sparked anger among Gabon's international
                                  donors - who include the European Union, France, the United States
                                  and the World Bank, which has earmarked $10-million for Gabon's
                                  nature reserves.

                                  In a letter addressed to Gabon's forestry minister, Emile Doumba, the
                                  donors recently complained that Sinopec's activities "pose a threat
                                  to the biology and tourist potential of Gabon's parks and to the
                                  credibility of the government and recommend that oil exploration
                                  there be halted". The scandal has even caused tensions within the
                                  government itself. "What Sinopec is doing is unacceptable," Doumba
                                  said. "If we find a huge reserve under a park we're not going to
                                  ignore it, that's for sure," he continued. "But I think it is better
                                  to favour the long term and the development of ecotourism, which has
                                  considerable potential in Gabon."

                                  After lengthy discussions, the national parks council has finally
                                  ordered Sinopec to halt its exploration activities and WCS reported
                                  that it had begun this week to pull its workers out of Loango.

                                  While they are celebrating this conservation victory,
                                  environmentalists fear this conflict will be only the first of many
                                  to come. An immense iron ore mining project is about to get underway
                                  in Belinga, northern Gabon, and it is also being run by a Chinese
                                  company.

                                  "If Sinopec can get away with this in Loango, we risk seeing a whole
                                  string of abuses in Belinga," one conservationist told AFP.

                                  "We don't intend to stop Gabon exploiting its underground resources
                                  but it has to show a good example by enforcing its own laws." - Sapa-
                                  AFP http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?
                                  set_id=1&click_id=86&art_id=qw1159509420126R131
                                • bobutne
                                  afrol News, 13 October - Steadily dropping since its peak in 1997, Gabon s oil production is finally experiencing a slight growth, new statistics reveal. In
                                  Message 16 of 16 , Oct 15, 2006
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                                    afrol News, 13 October - Steadily dropping since its peak in 1997,
                                    Gabon's oil production is finally experiencing a slight growth, new
                                    statistics reveal. In the same period, Gabon has been reduced from
                                    the third to the sixth largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.

                                    According to statistics released by the US government agency Energy
                                    Information Administration (EIA), Gabon's decrease in oil production
                                    has now stopped. During the first nine months of 2006, Gabon produced
                                    237,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) of crude oil, EIA informs. This is a
                                    small increase from 2005.

                                    Contrasted with Gabon's 1997 peak of 371,000 bbl/d, 2006 oil
                                    production however has declined by 36 percent. "In part, the decline
                                    in production is due to maturing fields and a lack of new fields
                                    coming online, something that Gabon is working to change over the
                                    next few years," the US agency explains. Despite these efforts, EIA
                                    however foresees further "looming oil export declines."

                                    The main reason for Gabon's decreased oil production is found on its
                                    largest producing oil field, Shell's offshore Rabi-Kounga, which now
                                    only produces around 55,000 bbl/d. This is down from its 1997 peak of
                                    217,000 bbl/d. In an effort to extend the productive life of the
                                    field, Shell in 2003 however began re-injecting associated natural
                                    gas into the field.

                                    Apart from Rabi-Kounga, Gabon in fact has been successful in
                                    increasing its oil production during the last years. Given the
                                    current high world market prices, Libreville authorities have managed
                                    to recruit several smaller firms to bring new oil fields online in
                                    Gabon.

                                    Vaalco, Addax Petroleum, and Sasol are involved in the Etame offshore
                                    field, with a current of approximately 18,000 bbl/d. In July this
                                    year, Addax Petroleum purchased the interests of Pan-Ocean Energy in
                                    Gabon for US$ 1.4 billion. The acquisition now makes Addax the
                                    largest producer in Gabon, with total production of more than 100,000
                                    bbl/d.

                                    Further investments are also on track. Only last month, FirstAfrica
                                    Oil completed initial drilling in the offshore East Orovinyare
                                    oilfield. The company hopes to have production from the field online
                                    by the third quarter of 2007. Initial production is expected at over
                                    7,000 bbl/d. Several onshore fields are also currently being
                                    explored, developed or expanded.

                                    Gabon was hit hard by the declining oil production, with its highly
                                    ineffective administration being used to almost unlimited revenues.
                                    Despite its small population of about 1.4 million, limited social
                                    spending and a very slow progress in developing infrastructure, the
                                    Libreville government had accumulated a debt of around US$ 3.8
                                    billion - debt payments now amounting to 40 percent of the annual
                                    government budget.

                                    Faced with a financial crisis, Libreville during the last two years
                                    has reformed its economy, increased transparency, embraced good
                                    governance and achieved new oil investments. In 2005, Gabon finally
                                    experienced sustainable growth figures, with GDP increasing by 2.7
                                    percent - around the same as population growth. Also inflation was
                                    reduced to close to nothing, following decades of hiking prices in
                                    the oil-driven economy.

                                    In 2005, Gabon registered per-capita GDP of approximately US$ 5,000,
                                    which is significantly higher than the sub-Saharan African average of
                                    US$ 1,500. However, analysts estimate that 60–70 percent of Gabonese
                                    live below the poverty line despite forty years of large oil exports.

                                    http://www.afrol.com/articles/21928
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