The Albert Schweitzer HospitalFounded in 1913 by Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer, HAS is historically the oldest hospital in Gabon. For many years it was also the only hospital. It took us about 4 hours to drive there from the capital city of Libreville, where our plane landed. HAS is located in the province of Lambaréné and sits on the bank of the Ogooué River in the middle of a tropical rain forest. Next year it will be celebrating its 100 year anniversary!It turns out Gabon is one of the most stable and prosperous African countries. This is partly because of its small size and population and partly because it has had a stable and progressive government since 1960. In spite of this, the majority of people still live in poverty.
Land of Surfing Hippos and Beach-Roaming Elephants
With an economy dependent on fluctuating oil prices, Gabon has been looking to diversify its economy. One very promising outlet is eco-tourism. The former president Bongo of Gabon set aside an unheard of 10% of the country to be protected as national parks, and Gabon has some stunning countryside worth preserving. According to Lonely Planet Gabon is a place of “endless white-sand beaches, primate-filled tropical rainforests, rolling savannahs and estuaries.”
In fact, Gabon has one of the last virgin rainforests that touch the ocean, so you can see things like hippos surfing in the ocean, elephants roaming the beach, and gorillas in the mist. We were able to take a boat tour along the river to see some of this beauty for ourselves. The tour took us through rainforest that stretched endlessly before us in complete tranquility. Truly, Gabon is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited – the Costa Rica of Africa.