Port-Gentil

 

 

The World’s Most Expensive City

An oil plant in Gabon.

Port-Gentil,city, western Gabon. It is located on Lopez Island (in the mouth of the navigable Ogooué River) and on a bay sheltered by Cape Lopez, which juts into the Atlantic Ocean. The nation’s chief port and industrial centre, it is linked by air with Paris and major West African Centres as well as with many Gabonese towns.

Port Gentil is no ordinary town. That much is clear from the moment you touch down in the small coastal city in the West African nation of Gabon. Next to the airport exit, a gaggle of shrieking, minimally dressed women dance to loud rock on the terrace of a bar called Le Aero Club. “Come fly me!” one shouts down. Instead, I accept a taxi driver’s offer of a ride into town — a 10-minute drive that costs $30. We drive past another bar, A Qui La Tour? — which roughly translates as “Whose round is it?” although the driver insists it means “Who am I having sex with next?” There are also several ads for premier banking services, a weather-beaten, 1970s-era hotel offering rooms at $600 a night and a billboard hawking a new model Peugeot ($40,000) behind the slogan: “Don’t think about it. Just buy it.”

Improbable as it may seem, this unprepossessing town of moldy red-tiled villas surrounded by virgin tropical forest and white-sand beaches was named, a few years ago, as the world’s most expensive city. With a bunch of carrots selling for $10, a box of eggs fetching $13 and rent on a medium-sized house touching $6,000 a month, it’s still comfortably in the top 10. The reason? Port Gentil is a ville petrolier, an oil town that has drawn rig workers and executives from places as far away as Texas, Aberdeen and Caracas to earn fortunes pumping Gabon’s oil reserves — and spend it like there’s no tomorrow.

The sheer volume of cash sloshing around Port Gentil’s streets lends them an unreal atmosphere. At the dump on the edge of town, Gabonese boys sort through trash in search of something to eat. But walk into any downtown cafe, and $400 will get you a bottle of 1999 St Emilion Premier Cru Bordeaux. The handful of paved streets are scarred with potholes the size of small swimming pools, but they are jammed with new top-of-the-range SUVs. Excursions on offer include tours of the jungle on giant-engine trail bikes or tours of the coast in giant-engine speedboats. And money and hydrocarbons meet in delicious symphony at one of Port Gentil’s smartest restaurants, San Lorenzo, whose $30 special is currently “fresh tuna in oil.” The manager, Ludovic, a trim 25-year-old Frenchman who was born in Port Gentil and returned to open a restaurant after cleaning up as a model in Paris, is candid about the effect his home town can have on your sanity. “Almost everything costs in Port Gentil,” he grins. “But madness — that comes gratuit.”

That’s view is shared by Emile Gorayeb, whose family owns half the town’s restaurants, hotels, casinos and nightclubs. Born in Madagascar, Gorayeb was once a petrolier himself, at a refinery in France. But what brought him to Port Gentil was not oil. Instead, at the edge of town, he built a sanctuary for gorillas, chimpanzees, wild pigs, deer and other animals rescued from hunter traps or injured on the roads. His self-financed foundation is part scientific institute, part environmental lobby, part zoo. His latest project is to have Port Gentil’s schoolchildren plant thousands of palm trees around town. If his oil industry friends thought he was crazy before, he confides, they now openly refer to him as Deng Deng, a term from the local Fang language that loosely translates as “Hot Brains.”

Gorayeb certainly becomes quite feverish when he talks of how robbers broke into his cages and slaughtered his animals. (“I cried, oh, I cried.”). He’s just as animated discussing Port Gentil’s future. “If there’s a big sea or even a lot of rain today, Port Gentil floods for days,” he says. “This town is built on sand — there’s no soil — and it’s almost underwater already. I used to have a bungalow on the beach. Today, the sea has taken the beach, all 200 meters of it, and the bungalow. If we get hit by a hurricane, it’s bye-bye Port Gentil.” He has relayed his concerns to the petroliers, “and they know full well that some of the blame for global warming, disturbed weather patterns and rising sea levels is theirs.” But except for a single firm funding a study of Gabon’s environment, they confine themselves to hearing out Hot Brains, then politely showing him the door. “This town is being eaten by the sea,” says Gorayeb. “Just saying ‘Hello, bye-bye’ is not enough any more.”

I leave Gorayeb and take the short drive to the airport. In the main hall, a series of departure boards list oil company charters arriving and leaving every five minutes during the morning and evening rush hour. Hello, bye-bye.

For years, Gabon’s economic capital has been cut off, but that’s changing

An end to non-splendid isolation for Port-Gentil

An artist’s rendition of the Port-Gentil-Omboue project, which will link Gabon’s second-largest city tothe rest of the country.

For years, Port-Gentil, the second-largest city in Gabon,has been supreme in its isolation. There is no roadconnecting it and Libreville, the capital, and the only way toreach it is by air or by sea.

The city and its surrounding regions, with rich oil reserves,are also home to a large number of oil companies. Indeed,it is from Port-Gentil that Gabon draws much of its wealth.

But Port-Gentil’s isolation is expected to end soon, thanksto a road that a Chinese company, China Road and BridgeCorp, is building from Omboue, 93 kilometers to the south.

In a second phase from Omboue, another 270-km road willbe built to link it with the national road network.

“For years, the country’s economic capital has been cut offfrom the rest of the country, just like an island,” says YangYi, general manager of China Road and Bridge Corp’soperations in Gabon.

“It is expensive to fly to Port-Gentil, and the boat service is unreliable.”

Easy, cheap transport has thus been a dream of Port-Gentil residents for years.

“That will be realized with our project,” Yang says.

Construction of the Port-Gentil-Omboue project started in March and is expected to becomplete in five years.

The cost is $600 million, with 95 percent of the funding coming from low-interest loans fromthe Export-Import Bank of China and the rest from the Gabonese government.

The cost is high because of the technical difficulties of the project, Yang says.

“A road of less than 100 km would normally be a lot less expensive, but this project is verydifferent.”

The road will pass through vast swamplands, and two bridges will need to be built, he says.Each of these will be more than 5 km long, making them the third and fourth-longest bridgesin Africa.

So that shipping is not hampered, the number of piers holding the bridges will need to belimited.

“This will be a huge challenge for us,” Yang says.

The base of the road will need to be very solid to cross the swampland, which means deeperfoundations and thus higher costs, he says.

Another big problem is the lack of building materials near the construction site.

CLIMATE

The highest recorded temperature was 38.0 °C (100.4 °F) on 26 February 2016; the lowest recorded temperature was 13.2 °C (55.8 °F) on 1 August 1953.

Port-Gentil’s climate is classified as tropical. When compared with winter, the summers have much more rainfall. According to Köppen and Geiger, this climate is classified as Aw. In Port-Gentil, the average annual temperature is 25.6 °C. The rainfall here averages 1952 mm.

TRANSPORTATION

Port Gentil is technically on an island, and no bridge connects it to the mainland. The limited number of paved roads within the city are also poorly maintained. It has an airport, Port-Gentil International Airport, serving as the main channel of transportation with the world. Regular flights connect it with Libreville, capital of Gabon. Oil company charters to other destinations are a regular sight from the airport.

The airport in Port-Gentil

ACTIVITIES IN PORT-GENTIL

  

There are numerous opportunities for activities in Port Gentil.

Walks along the alleys in the splendid garden “Parc Animalier et Botanique”, relaxation near the waterfall, discovery of local flowers and animals, adventurous crossing on the suspended bridge. Entrance and visit are free of charge.
The Sagora beach is located at a 5 minutes driving distance from the hotel while the beaches of Cap Lopez and Relais Bleu are at a 30 minutes driving distance.

On the way to Cap Lopez you can enjoy sport and relaxation at the Golf Club of Port Gentil.

At a 5 minutes drive from the hotel you’ll find a fitness center with all the latest equipment and courses.

You can also visit the grand Village and the Balise markets where you’ll find local fruit and vegetables, local fabrics, local crafts etc…

Finally, you can also rent a boat and go fishing….

The hotel provides you with a Plan Guide Service and the “ l’annuaire Privé ” (directory of Gabon) where you’ll find an exhaustive list of restaurants, night clubs, shops and sport clubs or activities in Port Gentil.

THINGS TO DO

Cathédrale Saint-Louis

Photo of Cathedrale Saint Louis

Circumscription: Diocese of Port-Gentil

Type: Roman-Rite Cathedral Cathedral

Rite: Roman (Latin)

History: cath. 2003

Bar Lounge”la Villa Club “

Image result for port- gentil Bar Lounge"la Villa Club

Adult entertainment · Port-Gentil, Gabon

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