The Margouilla's Advice on Nightstopping in Libreville

LIBREVILLE – LEON MBA (FOOL/LBV)

 

What airfield can I expect?

Libreville is a large international airport, open H24. Jet A-1 is available at all times from fuel hydrants located on stands numbers A1 through B8. Avgas is normally available in drums, but you need to find a pickup truck and a pump to bring them to your aircraft; the price was recently  400,000 XAF per drum! Check for availability before you go as the stock is sometimes depleted (tel: +(241) 05 93 01 20). Tiedowns are available for lighter aircraft on the Aero-Club apron.

Security on the airport has been called ‘deficient’ by ICAO, which blacklisted Gabon altogether in 2008 for this and other reasons. Many improvements have been made, however, and security at Libreville airport is definitely above standard when compared to the rest of African international airports.

Flight plan filing is a bit tedious: first you need to drop by the Gendarmerie (military police) office located on the ground floor, at the southern end of the main terminal. They will stamp your flight plan. Then you will have to bring it to the Asecna airport office located under the old control tower to have it filed. The same Asecna agent will give you two bills to pay: one for the outbound overflight fees, one for the airport fees. This is all you have to pay. Handling is not mandatory.

Hiring a taxi to town will usually cost you 1,000 to 2,500 XAF depending on how far you go. Hourly rates are about 3,000 to 4,000 XAF, and a day can be negotiated at 25,000. If you choose to pay only for a seat in the taxi, like most people do, rides will cost from 100 to 500 XAF per person depending on how far you go. Rates double after 7 PM. Always agree on a price before climbing in the cab.

 

Where am I?

Located in the Komo River estuary, Libreville was originally home to small villages of the Myénè Mpongwè tribe. The Portuguese explorers were the first to discover the Gabonese coasts in the 15th century. Several European outposts were established in the centuries that followed. However, proper colonization of Gabon only started in 1839 when Commandant Bouët-Willaumez of the French Navy signed a treaty with King Denis of the Mpongwè. Several treaties of the same nature followed, and less than a decade later, the whole Komo estuary belonged to France. A small fort was built in present-day Libreville, with the intent to serve as a base to fight slave trade in the Southern Atlantic. Commandant Bouët only gave the name Libreville (literally ‘free town’) to the settlement in 1849, after the slaves of a captured slave ship were freed there.

During the colonization era, Libreville lived mostly from the tropical wood industry. However, when independence from France was granted in 1960, oil was found and it soon became the country’s largest source of revenue. Young President Omar Bongo used the petrodollars to turn Libreville into the economic capital of Central Africa. In the 1970’s, most of the colonial buildings were demolished and replaced by high-rise office and residential buildings.

Today a 600,000-inhabitant capital, Libreville has lost much of its prestigious ambitions as Gabon’s economy crumbled, following decades of mismanagement and corruption. Infrastructures are not maintained, and poverty is growing. Yet Libreville remains the most Europeanized city in the sub-region, offering a comfortable lifestyle and vibrant nightlife.

Central Police Station: +(241) 76 09 50

Clinic El-Rapha: +(241) 44 70 00

Pharmacies (Forestiers): +(241) 72 23 52; (Okala Aéroport) : +(241) 45 55 06

Banks: BICIG (with ATMs at the airport), and plenty others in the city center

 

Where do I sleep?

Hotel le Maïsha (5mn from the airport)

 

            PO Box 516 – Libreville, quartier Sablière

            Tel: +(241) 73 03 33

            Fax: +(241) 73 03 69

Email: hotel-maisha@inet.ga

Splendid hotel located along the beach, in the nicest residential suburb of Libreville. The Maïsha belongs to a local politician who has turned it just about the most luxurious hotel in Central Africa. The large swimming pool and its jacuzzi, under the shade of coconut trees, are surrounded by a deck of tropical wood. Excellent French restaurant with a choice of fine wines. Amenities include satellite TV, private dining room, dry cleaner, fax, fitness center, piano-bar, conference center, and more. Airport shuttle on request. Internet in the rooms. The friendliness of the staff is the final touch to this hotel of exception. The nine suites start at 200,000 a night.

Le Méridien Re-Ndama (30mn from the airport)

            PO Box 4064Libreville, quartier Glass

            Tel: +(241) 76 61 61

            Fax: +(241) 74 29 24

Email: reservation@lemeridien.ga

The last of the large chain hotels in Libreville. Unlike its siblings, le Méridien has been properly maintained and is still up so the standard four-star hotels anywhere else in the world. Nice swimming pool overlooking the estuary, tennis court, fitness center. Airport shuttle service. Internet? Rooms start at 70,000 XAF.

Laico Okoumé Palace (10mn from the airport)

            PO Box 2254 – Libreville, bord de mer

            Tel: +(241) 73 20 23

            Fax: +(241) 73 16 29

Email: libreville@laicohotels.com

 

This former Intercontinental hotel has been taken over by the Libyan tourism group Laico in 2007. The new owner has undertaken a major renovation program in 2008, much needed as the palace was indeed falling apart. All rooms are air-conditioned, but depending on the one you get the carpet and furniture may be completely worn out. Swimming pool, tennis & squash courts, fitness center, and several shops. Airport shuttle service on request. Nice bar on the top floor. Internet? Rooms start at 65,000 XAF.

Hotel Tropicana (5 mn from the airport)

            PO Box 285Libreville, across the street from the airport

            Tel: +(241) 73 15 31

            Fax: +(241) 73 65 74

Email: tropicana@inet.ga

The Tropicana is a friendly beachside hotel run by a Togolese family. The rooms are arranged around a white sand beach, in the shade of coconut trees. Rooms are simple but clean, and air-conditioned. The outdoor hotel restaurant is cheap and good. Perfect for short nightstops due to its proximity to the airport. Rooms go for about 36,000 XAF a night.

 

Where do I eat?

Le Bateau Ivre (10mn from the airport)

            Quartier Batterie IV / Bord de Mer

            Tel: +(241) 73 03 59

Probably the best traditional cuisine in Libreville, served by a French chef who has been in town for a long time. A bit on the expensive side at 35,000 XAF per person on average.

 

L’Epicurien (10mn from the airport)

            Quartier Quaben

            Tel: +(241) 73 03 59

Probably the best traditional cuisine in Libreville, served by a French chef who has been in town for a long time. A bit on the expensive side at 35,000 XAF per person on average.

Le Jackno (10mn from the airport)

            Montée de Louis

            Tel: +(241) 73 16 25

Probably the oldest gastronomic restaurant in Libreville. Nice traditional menu, with innovations like mangoes au gratin. Becomes a club later in the night. 30,000 XAF per head.

Le Phare du Large (10mn from the airport)

            Quartier Batterie IV / Bord de Mer

Tel: +(241) 73 02 73

This French couple emigrated from Abidjan to start in Libreville another excellent seafood and traditional restaurant. Open on weekdays and Saturday evenings. 40,000 XAF or more.

La Dolce Vita (15mn from the airport)

            Port Môle

            Tel: +(241) 72 42 38

Nice setting for this Italian restaurant built on a wood pontoon. The menu is extremely varied and the cuisine simple but good. Expect 15,000 XAF per meal.

L’Odika (10mn from the airport)

            Montée de Louis

            Tel: +(241) 73 69 20

Come here for good African cuisine served on a terrace overlooking a calm garden. Nicely ventilated but no air-co, a bit hot at times. Cheap at about 15,000 XAF a head.

 Le Wapety (10mn from the airport)

            Montée de Louis

            Tel: +(241) 07 52 61 74

Laid-back atmosphere in this restaurant decorated like a theme park! Excellent cocktails and skewers. Not too expensive at 18,000 XAF a head.

Chez Marie Qui Fait Chaud (25mn from the airport)

            Quartier Nombakélé

            Tel: +(241) 05 32 13 59

All-you-can-eat grilled lobster, capitaine skewers and beer served in a shack by friendly Gabonese mama Marie. All-inclusive 15,000 XAF per person.

L’Aéroclub (on the airport)

            On the airport, next to Air Service hangar

            Tel: +(241) 06 24 89 39

            Nice and simple cuisine cooked by a family from Madagascar. Creole specialties. 10,000 XAF.

Le Garden Caffé (10mn from the airport)

            Quartier Quaben

            Tel: +(241) 73 89 89

            Email: gardencaffe@inet.ga

 

Good bar, with baby-soccer and pool tables, a pétanque field and a mini-golf track. Snacks, good pizzas, and bistro-style food. Approximately 12,000 XAF a meal.

 

Le Tivoli (on the airport)

            Quartier Aéroport

            Tel: +(241) 06 26 58 03

A good place to grab quick food. Italian specialties. Unfortunately the food quality has gone down over the years. Expect 10,000 XAF per person.

 

What can I visit?

Libreville is not attractive in itself; the beach is nice, but often littered by trash, and the water is not the cleanest. If you have enough time, you should try to escape. Transportation in Gabon is a bit complicated, so the options offered to you are few.

The Pointe Denis, on the other side of the estuary, is a regular weekend escape of the Libreville expats. Named after a former Mpongwè king, the place consists in a beachside row of restaurants, lodges and private bungalows. The beaches are often more attractive than in Libreville. The boat shuttle will bring you there in the morning and back in the evening from the Port Môle for 10,000 XAF per person.

The other usual weekend spot is to the north of Libreville: Cap Esterias is located just under final approach fix BINAS. You will need to hire a car for this 40-minute drive on a fairly good tar road. There, you will find nice secluded beaches with clean water and a few restaurants.

For souvenirs, the best place to go is the city center where you will find three Marché Artisanal selling African craft. The two small ones are the best. However, quality is generally low, and shopkeepers will ask unrealistic prices – bargain hard. A standard-size African mask, for instance, should go for no more than 6,000 to 8,000 XAF, but merchants won’t be afraid to start at 25,000…

 

Where can I go out?

La Licorne NOW CLOSED!!! Cry

            Montée de Louis

            Tel: +(241) 07 95 75 14

The oldest and most famous night-club in Libreville. Good music, cheap drinks and red-light atmosphere from 11 PM onwards; crowded every night, all ages.

Le New Cotton Club

            Bord de Mer / Maringa

            Tel: +(241) 06 23 99 38

Classy but very hot club with excellent music, aimed at 30 to 50 year-olds. Week nights start early by a karaoke contest.

Le Bomb Afro

            Montée de Louis

            Tel: +(241) 07 92 92 97

 

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