Tarpon are one of the world's most explosive angling fish and the world's biggest tarpon are found along the west coast of Africa, from Northern Angola right around into Southern Senegal.
Most West African countries have little tourism infrastructure, and nothing aimed at the angler. GABON is an exception, but only because Frenchman Jean-Paul Sage settled there 28 years ago and opened two fishing camps on large saltwater lagoons in the south of the country.
The coastal lagoons of West Africa are so vast they sometimes run through one country into another, and extend deep into the tropical rainforest that covers much of Gabon, an Equatorial country about which South Africans know very little.
Gabon has a population of 1.3 million, most of whom live in the capital, Libreville, from which a single railway line penetrates into the interior. It is a stable, oil-rich country with a strong French presence. Most of the country is tropical rainforest -- the second city, Port Gentil, can only be reached by boat or air, and the two fishing camps of IGUELA and OLENDE both lie south of Port Gentil.
Name: The Gabonese Republic
Head of State: President Omar Bongo Ondimba
Capital: Libreville (500 000 inhabitants)
Surface area: 267 667 km˛
Population: 1 383 000 inhabitants
Time Zone: UCT +1
Dialling code: 241
Currency: CFA franc, indexed on the €
Exchange rate: 656 CFAFr = €1 - 545 CFAFr = $1
Official Language: French
Two dry seasons:
• May to September (main dry season)
• December to January (small dry season)
Two rainy seasons:
• September to December (small wet season)
• February to May (main wet season)
Fishing at these camps is either from seven-metre, outboard-powered "banana boats," (use of which is included in the packages) or by beach casting. Tarpon are the most sought-after species, but the vast lagoon systems include a variety of other fish as well, including several types of kingfish, springers, a form of garrick, great barracuda, king mackerel, and the cubera, a mangrove snapper that grows over 40 kg and eagerly accepts bait, lures or surface poppers.
Port Alfred's Edward Truter has visited twice in 1998 and is one of the few to succeed with tarpon (a small one) on fly. Most tarpon are caught on drifted deadbaits in the lagoon mouths, and the camp record stands at 118 kg. (259 lbs) Says Edward: "I've never seen so many fish anywhere, not in Mozambique, not in the Florida Keys, not in West Africa. My belly was sore for days afterwards, thanks to the butt of my rod and lots of willing fish."
His father Bruce, well-known Port Alfred angler and now magazine publisher adds: "To choose a lure, just reach into your box and tie on whatever comes out. It doesn't matter, the fish are that plentiful." And being Bruce, he adds: "Please ask the guys to release what they don't need ..."
(1) SEVEN NIGHTS, OZURI ESTUARY -- US $ 1 744. (single supp: FRF820.)
Sun -- Depart JHB 1640 hrs by Air Gabon 747, arriving LBV 2030 hrs, where you are met and transferred to Tropicana Beach Hotel for overnight, b/b.
Mon -- Transfer to the airport for 0730 hrs flight to POG, where Francois meets you and transfers you by boat to Ozuri. Five nights full board, with daily boat fishing.
Sat -- Boat transfer back to POG for return flight to LBV, met and transfer to Atlantique Hotel for overnight on b/b.
Sun -- Early airport transfer for Air Gabon's 0655 hrs flight to JHB, arrive 1225 hrs.
(2) SEVEN NIGHTS, IGUELA CAMP – FRF7 990 (single supp: FRF820
Sun -- Depart JHB 1640 hrs by Air Gabon Boeing 747, arrive LBV 2030hrs, met and transferred to Tropicana Beach Hotel for overnight, b/b.
Mon -- Transferred back to the airport for flight to Omboue (45 mins), then combined 4x4/boat transfer to Iguela Camp.
Mon-Sat -- Full-board at Iguela, daily boat and/or beach fishing.
Sat -- Transfer back to Omboue for morning flight back to LBV, met and transferred to Atlantique Hotel for overnight, b/b.
Sun -- Early airport transfer for Air Gabon's 0655hrs flight to Jhb, arrive 1225 hrs.
Note #: If the Libreville/Omboue route is not being flown, then a four-hour boat ride along jungle waterways from POG is required, which adds to the cost.
(3) 14 NIGHT PACKAGES TO IGUELA AND/OR OZURI: With Air Gabon currently flying JHB/LBV/JHB only once a week, on Sundays, the only other option is 14 night packages. A 14 night package to IGUELA CAMP, with first and last nights in LBV as above, would be FRF13 313 per person sharing.
A similar 14 night package to OZURI ESTUARY is US $2 757 pps.
OZURI / IGUELA COMBINED: On 14 night trips (only) it is also possible to do a combined trip to both camps, spending five nights at Ozuri Estuary and then transferring by boat (two hours) to Iguela Camp for seven nights, with first and last nights again spent in LBV. The cost of such a package is FRF14 616 pps, (based on 3 pax.)
OFFSHORE FISHING: During the dry winter months of May to Sep, when tarpon fishing is at its worst but offshore sailfish and general gamefish are plentiful, Francois Horent operates offshore trips directly out of POG. Because the fish are close inshore and because POG accommodation is less costly than Ozuri Estuary, a seven night sailfish/kingfish/wahoo/barracuda etc trip at this time is US $1 386 pps, based on 3 pax. There might also be some tarpon around during these months, but these should be considered a bonus.
Final Note: Whether you book a Gabon trip with us or any other agent, be very sure what is/is not included. Our packages include both SA and Gabon departure taxes; meet-and-greet at all airports (very important in a French speaking country); all hotel/lodge/airport transfers within Gabon; and CNS gift.
Regular client Michael Viljoen is a man who always has a smile on his face. After an August trip to Bom Bom, off the coast of Gabon in West Africa, Mike has even more reason to smile -- the fulfillment of a life's dream with a 1,000 lb blue marlin.
Mike opted to release the fish. For catching it, and even more so for letting it go, he earns one of our engraved silver beer mugs, so that every time he lifts it to his lips he can remember "the big one." Of Bom Bom Mike says simply: "It's the place closest to paradise that I know. And the fishing is wonderful, too!"
July and August would be the two top "big blue" months. Each September Bom Bom hosts an international billfish tournament, and they're keen to have South African teams participate next year. The event is fished in teams of three; give us a call if you're interested.
Bom Bom Resort is actually on Principe, smaller of the two islands that make up the Republic of Sao Tome and Principe, 400 km off the coast of Gabon. To get there one flies from Johannesburg, overnights in Libreville, and then flies out to the tiny island country the following day. Five full board days and nights at Bom Bom, final evening back in Libreville, and then a midnight flight to Johannesburg.
Such a seven-night trip costs R8 790 per person sharing (or R10 593 for a ten-night Wednesday-Sunday package), and Bom Bom's's fleet of 9/10 metre boats range from U$475 to U$ 675 a day. Best season is from July through to December, with August being probably the best month.