Loango National Park, Gabon

The conservationist Mike Fay called Loango ‘Africa’s last Eden’. Here, warm streams criss-cross pockets of thick forest and salty savannah, while vast island-dotted lagoons and miles of white-sand beach provide habitat for all manner of creatures. It’s perhaps best known for its mythic surfing hippos, but you’ll also find the largest concentration and variety of whales and dolphins in waters, elephants wandering the beaches and an assortment of rare land mammals cavorting in the savannah. If your pockets can take it, Loango is one of the best wildlife-watching destinations on the planet. Sadly, there’s trouble in paradise: in 2010 Africa’s Eden, which invested millions in the network of luxury camps within the park, withdrew its Gabon operations, citing longstanding problems with Gabon’s civil aviation authorities who refused to renew the license for Africa‘s Eden’s own airline. The operation is now under new management, and travelers now arrive by boat from Port-Gentil.

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