We were worried whether the bloodless peaceful (if there is ever such a thing) coup d’état that took place here in Gabon less than only 4 months ago would affect our chances getting here. The coup had been the conclusion to a 56-year-long rule of the Bongo family in Gabon and happened to be the 8th successful coup to occur in West and Central Africa since 2020.
But believe it or not, other than the e-visa website not working requiring us to apply for a visa in person (which only took us 5 minutes at the consulate!), we got in just fine as if there was no coup at all!
To obtain a visa for Gabon, you’ll need to present at or mail the following to the Consulate of New York:
- Filled out and signed application form
- E-mail or call for them to email you a PDF copy of the application; they reply relatively quickly to both
- Copy of yellow fever vaccination card
- Copy of your flight itinerary
- 1 passport size photo
- Money order of $200 (for same day) payable to the Consulate of Gabon
- Original passport
- If sending my mail: include a self-stamped envelope that is either express-mail or FedEx for the return of your passport
- Letti had sent hers from Las Vegas, NV to the Consulate in NYC and got her passport back with the Gabonese visa within 72 hours!
If you prefer to show up the consulate in person, schedule an appointment (again, whether by phone or e-mail, they’re pretty good at replying) any Tuesday at 12pm noon for a staff member to receive your visa application and passport.
I originally thought “same day” would mean a visa within hours requiring me to return later in the day, but it was actually minutes. I had first presented $180 to my appointment for the one week turnaround, and she said if I didn’t mind creating another $20 money order that I could get from a Chase Bank downstairs, I could get my visa by the time I returned. 10 minutes later (and running into a fan of The Monsoon Diaries on the street right outside!), she was true to her word and I got my visa! Fastest turnaround visa experience ever at a consulate. The only thing faster would be a visa on arrival.
From São Tomé, we stamped out of the country at a very basic passport office in front of security.
We then boarded an early early 7am ASKY Airlines KP 61 flight from TMS to Libreville.
With only 5 of us on a jumbo airline, we landed at 9am local time and was personally escorted from the skybridge to the terminal.
Showing our Gabon visas, we were let through while Sandy sweetly charmed them to let her get in on a transit visa for €70.
We were then picked up outside arrivals 20 minutes later by a driver named Lionel, who was reserved ahead of time by our Airbnb host Vanessa.
Having arrived so early before check-in, she agreed for us to enjoy a tour of Libreville beforehand, so we drove into the city along the main thoroughfare where demonstrations and military parades are usually held.
We first stopped at the 19th century Notre Dame de Lourdes Church, known for its front façade and hand-painted white and blue tapestry on the retable behind the altar:
We were lucky to run into the head Priest there who hails from Burgundy, France and is part of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign.
We then drove to the Church of St. Michael Nkembo (L’Eglise St-Michel), unique for its Pan-African mosaic on its pediment.
Head around the front on the right for the side entrance inside. Locals were very kind in showing us it was free to enter.
When here, pay attention to its 31 wooden columns carved by Gabonese artist Zéphyrin Lendogno that depict stories from the Old and New Testament.
Next, we drove for more churches at the area around Cathédrale Sainte Marie.
It was built in 1958 by Bishop Adama on the site of the former Fort d’Aumale, the cathedral hosted Pope John Paul II when he visited in 1981.
Although it looks much newer, a much older Notre Dame church sits behind the Cathedrale Sainte Marie that has been recently renovated:
We then drove by the Presidential Palace (Palais Presidentiel), which shall not be photographed (like every other presidential palace in West Africa).
Those feeling a little daring may also want to get a quick look at Cour Constitutionnelle du Gabon next door, another Gabonese government building you shouldn’t photograph.
Finally we stopped at Memorial Leon Mba, commemorating the first president of Gabon in 1960.
With a little extra time before check-in, we did some shopping for handmade bracelets at the Grand Village Artisans:
At this point Vanessa recommended that we check in first before visiting the museum but our driver, Lionel, insisted it was too early with an hour left. So we heeded his advice and paid the 4000 CFA entry fee for Gabon’s highly rated National Museum of Arts, Rites and Traditions of Gabon:
True to its reputation, the museum is certainly impressively high-tech, and even boasts a VR part at the end that takes you in on a very wordy and French spelunking adventure in a specific cave where they found the earliest recorded human remains and use of tools in central Gabon (they’re very proud of this cave here).
Having been up since 5am without any breakfast in our system, we then stayed even longer at the museum for an equally impressive lunch at the attached restaurant.
With our energy back now having food in our system, we happily drove over to check into our Airbnb where Lionel then asked us for 10,000 more CFA for spending an hour longer of his time (even though I bought him lunch!). I told him he should have let us know it would cost more when we had initially asked to check in before the museum and not put us in a bait-and-switch position. He then seemed to let it go and confirmed he’d take us to the airport the next morning at 7am.
Once inside the Airbnb, we started the laundry and both Lauren and Sandy took a catnap to catch up on sleep. At 5pm they were up again and we resumed our tour of Libreville with a walk along the the seafront (bord de mer) where locals relax facing the Atlantic Ocean as if it were Havana’s malecon.
Gabonese sculptures up to 20 feet tall line the seafront and the beach.
We walked a good 45 minutes along the seaside Independence Boulevard until reaching La Baie Des Rois, a new development property and neighborhood that looks to be the next big thing in Libreville.
As the sun began to set we sat down at La Braisere for an unexpectedly great mixed grill platter dinner.
And before it got too late where the taxis would begin to double their prices, we walked around a little more around before catching a friendly cab driver outside to take us back to our Airbnb for only 3000 Central CFAs.
- At time of posting in Gabon, it was 27 °C - Humidity: 89% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: n/a