You don’t have to go to Loango National Park to enjoy some top-class beaches in Gabon. In fact, most of the country’s coastline is absolutely idyllic even around Libreville itself! Of course, the closer you are to the city, the more you will have to share the beach with others, but if you are looking for a bit of solitude then you can’t beat Point Denis just a 30-minute boat trip away!
Libreville actually lies on an estuary that flows into the Atlantic Ocean. On the other side is Point Denis, where the waters of the Komo River meet the ocean in earnest. Point Denis was colonized in 1839 when its chief was “persuade” to allow the French to open up a trading post there. This didn’t sit well with the tribes on the other side of the river, but then they didn’t have the guns.
Today, Point Denis forms part of the Pongara National Park, and besides a few scattered settlements and some beach resorts, the majority of this area is covered in lush tropical rainforest; literally, the jungle comes right up to the beach! If you are so inclined, you can organize two-hour boat trips into the interior with the possibility of spotting monkeys, African forest buffalo, and even elephants, but it’s probably not worth it if you are heading to any other national parks in Gabon.
The estuary side of Point Denis is the most developed with many mansions lining its shores up the river. Here the water is a bit murky but calm. The ferry will drop you off at the La Nouvelle Maringa resort, where you can enjoy the facilities for the day (around CFA 35,000 including transportation to and from Michel Marine) or spend the night (starting at CFA 200,000). Frankly, I wouldn’t bother with the day offering unless you really need certain amenities.
More intriguing is walking around Point Denis to the Atlantic. Here you can enjoy the full power of the ocean in splendid isolation. The first stretch can be a bit desolate at high tide because of some pretty extreme erosion but the farther you walk, the better the beaches become. About 5KM from Point Denis is the upscale eco-lodge, La Baie des Tortues Luth Hotel (CFA 300,000 a night). There are fewer people here and plenty of places to lay down a beach towel near the property.
Around a small bend is another eco-lodge that has not opened at the time of publication. There are no tourists, and the beaches are even better. However, if you have come this far, it’s worth going just a little bit further, around yet another bend, to a stretch of empty white sand beach. From here it’s several kilometers to a lighthouse, but if you came on a day trip, this is probably as far as you should venture.
The ferry to Point Denis leaves Michel Marine at 9:30 AM and returns at 4:00 PM (CFA 6,000 one way). Departures are usually delayed but its best to come early as the limited amount of seats can fill up, especially, on weekends. It’s also a good idea to buy your return trip at Michel Marine to avoid being stranded.
Cheap accommodations are limited at Point Denis. However, for budget travelers, tents can be rented for CFA 20,000 a night and rooms arranged for CFA 50,000. Contact Laureen for details (firstname.lastname@example.org). She also offer boat excursions for CFA 50,000. Note, I have not used her services.
If you have your own tent and a good sense of adventure then hiking along the Atlantic coast and spending a few nights seems doable; although, I haven’t personally tried it. Make sure to bring plenty of water, food, and sunblock; the restaurants at the resorts are not cheap!