Earth : Africa : Central Africa : Gabon : Coastal Plain (Gabon) : Tchibanga
Tchibanga is a city in Gabon.
Bush taxis will take you south from Libreville. Catch a taxi for Tchibanga early in the morning - the trip can take over 12 hours. Bring water, toilet paper and snacks, and ask to sit in the cabin of the truck, preferably in the passenger seat. The drive down is an experience in itself. There is also an airport in Tchibanga, though it is really little more than an air strip. Flights are extremely unreliable and can be dangerous.
Tchibanga is small and most places are within walking distance. You can rent a white and green city taxi for 100CFA or thereabouts to take you across town.
There is not much to see, though the surrounding countryside is pretty and very good for mountain biking; the hills surrounding the city provide very pretty scenery. The Nyanga river is also lovely, particularly at sunset. You will have to bring your own bike down from Libreville, however. Ask in town if there are any local Bwiti (anamist) religious ceremonies being held at night that can be viewed by foreigners. If you are lucky, a traditional Bwiti ceremony is well worth seeing. Most start at midnight and you can usually find them if you follow the sound of drumming (bring a flashlight - you don't want to step on a black mamba snake!.) Some ceremonies are closed to outsiders, but many will allow you to watch from benches on the outskirts and take photos. Bwiti involves the taking of a native hallucinogenic drug called Iboga combined with ceremonial dancing and drumming. Often the ceremony will be led by a local Nganga, or witch doctor, who will wear a costume of raffia and red, white and black paint. The Nganga may carry a fetish made from a power animal, such as the tail of a civet cat. Particularly interesting are the initiation ceremonies, where young people dress in white, red and black robes, take Iboga for the first time and voyage to see their ancestors. There will most likely be a drunk papa at the ceremony who will be happy to explain the details.
Walking or biking in the low, grassy hills surrounding the town is probably the best thing to do in Tchibanga. The town also has a small market with friendly mamas selling veggies, fruits, bushmeat and, sometimes, monkey. You can also wander down to the river and hire a local to take you for a ride in a traditional pirogue, or dugout canoe. Tchibanga, like most of Gabon, receives almost no tourists, but the locals are friendly and will be happy to show you the best of their town. Feel free to take photos, but be warned that you can expect half the town to want to be in the pictures! If you are there for a few days, it's well worth hiring a papa to take you "en brosse." This will involve walking out into the jungle areas to check hunting traps and the like. You should not wander into the jungle alone as you will without question get lost. A papa can explain the various traps he uses and show you local plants and animals. If you're lucky, you may see monkeys or even chimps! The area around Tchibanga is home to the most incredible population of snakes, most particularly, the black mamba. Locals hate and fear this snake and it is extremely poisonous, though not as dangerous as other snakes as it is very afraid of humans and will not attack unless threatened.
There are local artisans who make pottery, including statues, and carved wooden masks. Ask at the market - you will most likely have to travel some ways out of town to someone's house, but it is well worth it as any mask you buy in Tchibanga will not be made for the tourist trade, but for local ceremonial use. Sadly, the quality is not what it once was, so don't expect to find museum quality pieces. It is hoped that increased responsible tourism will restart the dying art of traditional mask-making in Gabon.
There is at least one or two little bushmeat restaurants operating in town. Ask the locals where they are. Make sure to try the baton de manioc, a speciality of the Punu region, and "sauce Nouembwe," a tasty orange sauce made from palm nuts. There is also a local "sauce chocolate," which is not chocolate but instead made from a local plant. The food is very unique and involves many meats, fruits and veggies you can't find anywhere else. For more western fare, try one of the three or four hotels in town, which all have the standard, but tasty, menu of chicken, rice, fries and fried plantains.
Regab or Castel, of course! Tchibanga is PACKED with street bars and even some food stalls grilling fish at night - mostly tilapia, but some meat kebabs and even chicken feet if you're feeling brave. Kebabs or tilapia with spicy red pepper sauce (pimant) are really good with your cold beer. Some of the hotels in the center of town have nightclubs. Try to avoid the fancy clubs in favor of the more local ones - it's fun to watch the locals dance to their favorite Zook or Zaireois tunes. I often wonder if "Premier Gao" is still #1 in the clubs! The Tchibanga high school students are great dancers and will put you to shame. It's customary to put a CFA note on someone's forehead when they're doing a good job dancing. Be forewarned that they love to watch foreigners embarrass themselves!
There are three or four good cases de passage, or motels in town. They are all centrally located and impossible to miss.