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krisek Pointe Denis - A travel report by Krys
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Pointe Denis,  Gabon - flag Gabon
19178 readers

krisek's travel reports

A little paradise place with endless empty beaches

  6 votes
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The marvellous beach land across on the other side of the Gabonese capital\'s estuary, Pointe Denis, is a wonderful spot on our planet. What an escape from Libreville\'s bustle! And still wonderfully under discovered by travellers.

Giant sea turtle at midnight
Giant sea turtle at midnight
I suspected that Pointe Denis, just across Libreville, on the other side of the river's estuary, could be a good spot to spend a few lazy days. A random local person on Facebook, confirmed that. I was looking for a good location for a New Year's Eve beach party. He said that a few years back he had a great time at Pointe Denis. I was sold! The only guidebook that featured few pages on Gabon did in fact mention the place but it suggested that it was a spot very hard to get to with virtually no facilities. I investigated a little on the Internet but I could find very little.

Eventually, I found the very expensive Pongara Ecolodge south of Pointe Denis on the net, which suggested that I contact the Assala Lodge. I did and I found that getting to Pointe Denis was easier than the literature cared to mention.

The main entry to Pointe Denis was from Libreville's Port-Môle. There was a little black stand, right through the blue gates, on the right hand side, just before the Libreville-Port Gentil catamaran landing, with the writing on it suggesting that it was the spot to get info on Pointe Denis boats. But it was only manned on weekends in the morning at about 9am and in the afternoon at about 3pm, when the regular service ran. On other days, one had to have the boat booked. There was a phone number to call, but the best place to get the transfer was to call the lodge, where one wanted to stay.

Normally, the small catamaran boats would call at the Maringa Hotel at one end of Pointe Denis and then at the Assala Lodge, at the other end. The ticket was, I think CFA5,000. I was not sure, because it was bundled in the price of my accommodation at the Assala.

The long stretch of the beach between the Maringa Hotel and the Assala Lodge was truly magnificent. And for most parts, one would be the only person on it. The waterfront was lined with grand mansions belonging to rich white people, who probably only occupied their houses during weekend and holidays.

Favourite spots:
One of the leaning baby palm trees
One of the leaning baby palm trees
A few spots along the endless beach with leaning palm trees made my heart skip a beat and and swallowed a few more megabytes of my camera's memory. I thought that the southern bit of the island had slightly more idyllic stretches of the beach (like the picture opposite). Yet, this part of the island seemed more densely populated than the northern tip. And I think the northern end of Pointe-Denis had wider beaches, too. Still, a smaller number of leaning palm trees. This was the eastern side of the island.

The western side of the island, along the banks of the Rogolie river, was completely different. It was wilder and occupied mainly by the locals. The river banks were not particularly sandy on this side, but the lush vegetation made it feel like a part of the equatorial jungle.

What's really great:
Small section of the beach
Small section of the beach
I think that the greatest quality of Pointe Denis was its underdevelopment in tourism terms. There were not many lodges, hotels, etc, so the place was so relaxed. The beaches were empty and the waters were clear. The owners of the mansions and pseudo-palaces acquired quadbikes and jetskis, and used them often, though. This somewhat disturbed the tranquility of the spot. One could walk for miles on the beach and see no other person. On a weekday in particular. The lack of facilities meant that only residents of the villas and weekend homes lining the beach travelled across from Libreville. The beach must have been several kilometres long. From Assala Lodge to Maringa Hotel, it took about an hour of walking. The other one, the Baie des Tortues, was even farther along the beach and around the tip of the island, some 20 minute walk. I discovered no other beachside lodges, yet I heard that a new small one, 20 minute walk south from the Assala was about to be opened.

Libreville's skyline seen from Pointe Denis
Libreville's skyline seen from Pointe Denis
From a traveller's point of view, or rather from a visitor's point of view, there were no sights at Point Denis in tourism sense. The only sight that could capture some imagination were the flickering lights of Libreville at night on the other side of the estuary. During a day, if there was little haze, one could see the entire skyline, with the presidential palace in its centre. Good zoom camera, and you break all the paranoidal no-photo rules ;) The city looked massively better than it really was. At sunset, the entire waterfront of Libreville would appear to glow. The several high rise buildings, the presidential palace, the white curved side of the Museum of Traditional Arts reflected the sun rays. In the distance, one could spot the massive white-ivory structure of the new football stadium, erected for the African Cup of Nations, to be hosted jointly by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in January and February 2012, just two weeks after my departure from Libreville.

Suite no.7 at the Assala Lodge
Suite no.7 at the Assala Lodge
I stayed at the Assala Lodge, who charged CFA55,000 for a nice en-suite double room or CFA100,000 for a sea view huts, one of which was a honeymoon suite. The service was excellent, the place was directly on the beach, very well maintained. They had their own power generators, and offered a full bar service on the beach dotted with baby palm trees. There was an excellent restaurant, although a bit pricey (CFA8,000 for a brochettes de poisson) and with limited menu that was missing grilled fish! Yet, all dishes they served were excellent.

The rooms were spotless. The central part of the spacious suite number 7, which I got was the very comfortable king size bed. Behind it, there was a full flushing loo in one corner, and on the other corner, there was shower spot. I call it a shower spot, because it was not a cabin. An open shower corner. So, if you happen to be staying with someone with whom you have physical secrets, then they would discover them all while you showered.

The Rogolie Night Club
The Rogolie Night Club
The real nightlife spot in Pointe Denis was the Rogolié Night Club, located in the 'village' just behind the Assala Lodge. It was really civilised. It had plenty of seating, a small central dance floor, two small private rooms and a bar with tall stools. There was a DJ box at one of the corners of the main room. This club changed CFA5,000 per drink (€7.62 or £6.40), which was very expensive even by European standards. On top of the very rich white community, Pointe Denis had a sufficient population of very rich Gabonese, who could afford CFA5,000 drinks and who would comfortably fill the entire venue. Apart from the president, who of course had a residence on the beach, there were also a few ministers, who lived here, including the Minister of Internal Affairs. And they definitely could afford very expensive beverages.

The club normally operated on weekends, when Pointe Denis was full of businesspeople from the mainland, travellers and the rich Gabonese. It opened its doors at 10pm. I was lucky to be around on a Friday, the penultimate night of 2011, so I could check it out.

The Reggae Bar
The Reggae Bar
The beach was Pointe Denis's one of the two hangouts. It was long. It was pretty. Its sand was like powder. It seemed not to end in either direction. And it was empty in most parts. The other hangout was a local rustic bar near Hotel Maringa. It was very simple and had limited supplies, but it was real and very animated. It was located right on the beach with the bar overlooking the water. Quite a perfect location for a bar, really. The proximity of the other hangout, the water splashes on the shore, the balming breeze, the swaying palmtrees... Plus it offered a great opportunity to meet the local youths, who did not like reggae. They loved it! It was quite a hike from my lodge, so I did not frequent it too often. Well, not as often as I would like to, anyway.

The Assala Restaurant
The Assala Restaurant
Beside the lodges and hotels, I found no other spots to eat. Yet, reportedly, all the accommodation options on the beach could win cooking awards. All them were small-ish places, so there was no cooking for the masses and the menus were short as meals were prepared from fresh ingredients. This feature alone guaranteed more than half of the success. I filled my stomach mainly at the Assala, but I did try the Le Rogolié pizzeria. It was also attached to a hotel of the same name, but it was the only other eating spot near the Assala.

Other recommendations:
Exhausted giant leatherback sea turtle
Exhausted giant leatherback sea turtle
In season, running between November and January, the giant marine turtles come to Pointe Denis to lay eggs. It was very easy to organise a nighttime sighting of this wonderful event. As simple as to speak to a local for directions. Guided tours were not necessary. The sightings can easily be done just few minutes stroll from the Maringa Hotel or the Baie des Tortues lodge. The turtles usually come at the high tide and after 10pm, and the viewing can last until 2am, depending on tides. When I passed the giant logs at the tip of the island, right after Maringa, the sea was too high to walk along the water's edge. I had to climb onto the beach. And then, I almost stepped on the giant sea turtle just finishing laying her eggs! She was massive! At least 1m70cm from head to tail. I must have startled her, I'm sure. But I was also a little shaken that I had almost tripped over her. She was just covering her eggs with the sand. She looked exhausted. I could swear I could see tears in her eyes.

Published on Thursday January 12th, 2012

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Fri, Jan 13 2012 - 02:46 PM rating by magsalex

Another well written and informative report.

Fri, Jan 13 2012 - 03:12 AM rating by wojtekd

Great report about unknown place... I like the last chapter most. I was in Libreville, but nobody told me about giant turtles just across the estuary. Discovery!

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