I am taking you off the usual travel path to discover Lambarene, a little gem hidden at Ogooué’s river shore in Gabon.
Located 4 hours by car, from the capital Libreville , in the Moyen Ogooué . The town is best known for its hospital built in 1913, by Noble prize Albert Schweitzer.
Between river and lakes
The Moyen Ogooué region, especially the “Ogooué and Lakes” part , has a rich and until recently untouched rainforest and lakes.
Lambarene is divided in 3 by the river in Adouma, Saoti and Isaac. At each shore you can spot small fish markets brought by pirogues from the various lake located near the Ogooué river.
Traditionally, people settled in small villages along the shores of the river and the various lake around. The Ogooué was then the sole means of transportation between them. People traded fish and bush meat like antelopes , boars…
Where to stay in Lambarene
Depending on what you want to experience, I would recommend :
- Staying in Isaac which is the newest part of the town but less charming (for me 😁 ) , where you’ll find most of the bars, restaurants and night life.
- Staying in the other shore. It’s the old part , quiet , with most of the old colonial buildings, the fish market
You’ll find a “reasonable” amount of hotels and guesthouses , but don’t expect to find 5 stars hotels (This is normally not what you are looking for if you ever come here, but who knows… ) . Still, some of them are correct places to stay with AC ( very verrrry much-needed if you go during the hot season) and even hot water for some(for the dry ).
I gathered some notable ones for you
Saoti : Ogooué Palace Hotel, at the shore of the Ogooué. There’s a small restaurant a pool
Schweitzer hospital : To support the hospital foundation , they are renting the old consultation rooms, 15 000FCFA by night (around 22€). I stayed in this one so I can talk a bit more about It and show you more picture 🙂
Really simple , clean and quiet. You have a small restaurant and access to visit the historical part of the hospital.
What to do in Lambarene
River and Lakes
The river and the Lakes are part of the town landmarks and history. Small villages are found throughout the Ogooué which in this part is divided in two .
- The “Oremb’ owango” which is the small part of the river given acces to lake Azingo, Ouambé, Nkonié… and villages like Adolè, Zilè
- The “Orembo Mpolo” the largest part of the river with lake Onangué, Ezanga, Evaro… and villages like Achouka, Dyelessi…
This is not an exhaustive list .If you use the satellite view of this map , you will see all the villages known.
You can rent a boat and depending of the season visit the lake and villages around the Ogooué. Some like Adolè have their access totally blocked by sand bank at the dry season.
The old catholic mission St Francois Xavier
Built around 1834 the mission has a church and a school still used today. The school is however in a very poor condition, due to the lack of renovation.
You can visit the old hospital and it’s museum.
Spotting some hippo
It was scary and exciting! as they could have easily break the boat, but we were with an experience fishermen. He works on the river daily crossing hippo, so he knew what he was doing.
The Culture in Lambarene
Lambarene is originally home to the Galoa (part of the myene lingustic group) and Fang tribes. Recently other tribes from the south have made their home there , you can also find Punu and Nzebi people.
To say hello you say “Mbolo!”
If you are interested in tribal art , the town is home to :
- The Okuyi dance, performed strictly by men (women are not supposed to talk about it…), for special occasion like funerals (but women are invited to sing), which is also a beautiful mask . The song if you are curious 🙂 Here
I have a Pinterest board full of them if you’re into It Here
- Women only traditional dances like Ndjembe, Abandji . The dancing, if you are curious 🙂 Here
Artist like Georges Mbourou (links to its portfolio) with his beautiful abstract paintings
- Nyemboue, made with palm tree nuts
- Ayara, made with pounded cassava leaves
- And the renowned “Nkondo” (Carp), which is a freshwater fish that you can eat in various form
- Odika, made with roasted bush mango kernel
Why I love Lambarene
I will confess my parents comes from this region so … I’m biased 🙂 But they left like 40 years ago for the capital / another country. I’m really excited to discover their hometown.I’ll return next year and hope I’ll be able to visit some of the lakes and villages.
I took my first pirogue lesson and went exploring the river Ogooué (the small part of the river 😁 It was also the dry season, so the river level and water discharge were low).
The preserved rainforest, the language, songs and arts of my people speak to me, and I felt like home and safe opposed to the days I spent in the capital.
I invite you to come and visit my little hometown 🙂 see you there!
If you want to know more about It, drop me a few lines bellow!
I'm an IT Engineer, bloggin at night and a bookworm the remaining time .
Come with me as I travel the world !