"We dove under an oil tanker off the southern coast of Gabon. To us, it was like diving in pea soup, but we were very excited because this area of Gabon’s coast may be the most productive." —Enric Sala, explorer-in-residence and Pristine Seas director

Photograph by Enric Sala

Picture of ocean in Gabon
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Gabon is a wildlife Eden in West Africa, with 13 national parks covering 11 percent of its landmass, including megafauna such as gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants, and surfing hippos. Very little was known about Gabon's underwater life before the October 2012 National Geographic Pristine Seas expedition in partnership with the Waitt Foundation and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Led by Explorers-in-Residence Dr. Enric Sala and J. Michael Fay, the expedition surveyed and documented Gabon's underwater world.

On November 12, 2014, President Ali Bongo Ondimba expanded his father's conservation legacy by creating a network of marine parks covering 23 percent of Gabon's territorial waters, creating a first-of-its-kind network of marine protected areas in the region and closing these areas to commercial fishing.

The area will cover 18,000 square miles (over 46,000 square kilometers) of ocean and will protect some of Gabon's outstanding marine life: 20 species of whales and dolphins, including humpback whales and Atlantic humpback dolphins; and four species of marine turtles, the world's largest breeding leatherback turtle population and the Atlantic Ocean's largest breeding olive ridley turtle population among them.

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Video: Africa's Wild Coast

Peer beneath the surface of Gabon's coastal waters and discover the richness of life to be protected in the new reserves.

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