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xelas

Some days are faster, and some days slower in the nature, about 10 years ago told us a fine naturalist, and a great person. Being there, in the nature, is what really counts! @Kitsafari, your green is only one of a pale shade compared to my deep Hulk-like green of envy. However both groups were having a proper adventure, mandrils more or mandrils less.

Above photos a truly masterpieces!

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Sangeeta

Thanks all for reading along - I’m waiting briefly on the next installment to see if Mark can share his mandrill images with us too. 


- A couple of quick corrections: on day 2 of our trek, Mark joined us as the 4th person and it is possible he got a couple of the big boys on his camera. Mandrills were the main reason for him joining this trip, so Uwe, Steve & Dave were kind & stayed back.

 

- Kit, I’ve been rethinking the trek time. I think maybe 1.5 hours to get to the mandrills and 45 mins on the return is a better estimate.

 

- Our sightings were not as good as the first trekkers - mostly just furry feet & bodies & foliage mainly - but yes, a few good glimpses of the boys too.

 

- @Kitsafari, that particular shot of the 2 mandrills hugging is my favorite one too! Great minds :D

 

- @Gatoratlarge, that’s a good point, I should send a link to Dr. Lehmann. I have a sinking feeling that Dave has already deleted everything he considers ‘crap’ photos, so who knows how many useful mandrills have been relegated to oblivion already? I’m just glad I managed to get these from him, because he did nor think they were any good, haha.

 

- @Peter Connan, what sort of horns could those black tusks possibly be? 

 

- @Galago, haha those are lovely captions! Looking forward to more creative ones!

 

- @Pholidota - sadly no giant pangolins on this trip. Dr. Lehmann had collared a couple of males, but their range is so large that tracking them in a forest environment becomes impossible, even with the collars. He’s hoping to collar a couple of females and hoping that makes the tracking easier. We will keep everyone posted, but he was hopeful that the project would be ready for our 2020 July trip. 

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SafariChick

Dr. Lehman did mention on Facebook on Sept. 30 that he and his team had, the previous week, collared "a beautiful, healthy and incredibly powerful adult female" Giant Pangolin, so that is great news!

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Atravelynn
On 10/19/2019 at 12:37 PM, Sangeeta said:

Aaargh, having a lot of trouble uploading the photos properly! Please can one of the mods clean up the post please - remove the dangling image at the end? Thanks!

All looks good.  I detect nothing dangling.

 

The expressions on the mandrills' faces are priceless!   Outstanding photography to capture those faces.

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GEORGE PALLADINO

The first hint that this trip would be like no other should have come when a rail system measures its on time performance by "did the train make it there today" hahaha.The optics of a 200 yard long train approaching a 20 yd platform is so absurd as to not be able to explain to those who havent experienced it. Suffice it to say the ensuing mad dash to find your compartment in total darkness only to find the first step to be anywhere from 1ft to over 5ft high from the field level was a study in absurdity. Oh yeah and did i mention alot of this went on while the train was moving!

This is BEFORE we even officially begin  at our first park. My great admiration for the doctors efforts in habituating the mandrills prevents me from commenting further on the benefit of visiting Lope'. However my personal account of sightings was limited to balls of fur running at dizzying pace behind lots of foliage.Dave's shots are stunning to say the least.That compliment had to be choked out of me after my initial meeting of Dave has faded haha. He looked at me like "hell no im not goin with this guy" and my sentiments were very similar.I couldnt be happier than to say i read him totally wrong and might even be fond of him alittle haha.This despite him egging on Owen to interview---interrogate me upon that first encounter[can you say GESTAPO!!!]haha.

I'll end with sharing that the international signs for danger or even expression have not had the luxury of makin it to Gabon yet. Upon entering Lope lodge with very little sleep i decided to head down to the river to look it over and take a short dip to hopefully help snap me out of the jetlag and exhaustion of the first 36 hours.While walking down to the river where mind you there is a beautiful sand landing i encountered 3 different locals that saw my towel and life jacket and pointed down towards the river.These points were NOT accompanied by a shake of the head nor finger side to side or up and down. So me being in a semi-comatose state thougtht they were pointing the way for swimming.I am a white water kayaker and rafting guide and the river seemed kind of knarly with boils limited eddies and reverse hydrolics but i thought what the hell everyone pointed. I walked up stream 100yds and after finding the rock to jump from launched myself into the melee. To my utter amazement i went straight down thru the rapidly moving water now realizing I FORGOT TO THROW ON MY LIFE JACKET!

In an attempt to not make my opening foray into a short novel i'll give you the abridged version. 40 minutes of hard swimming later i was about a mile downriver thwarted by every attempt to make it to shore by boils that pushed me back out into the main current. I tried every ferrying move ive ever been taught[or even thought of ] only to be thrown aside like a leaf. I have a muscle disease that under stress paralyses the function into rock hard spasms.I had reached the end of what i could do and was dragged under.It amazingly was Very peaceful so i had some time to talk to God and it dawned on me what an asshole i had been. I am reckless and even though im ill everyone that cares for me asked for onl;y one thing to get there blessing to try this challenge. "George, please dont do anything stupid"! I couldnt even live up to that small request leaving my floatation behind and not telling anyone i was going.Armed with this knowledge of my legacy being one of a special needs traveler at stake i asked God to help me not to die like this. One last push with whatever pieces of my body were still functional proved to be enough to allow this story to be recounted haha.After a bit of rest i began my quest to return but not till i slid down to my waist in wet sand at the first gap between boulders. I've never been in quicksand but ive been in cement upto my waist before and this was what it felt like.The absurdity of escaping the river only to perish in quicksand sent me into a fit of laughter like some "touched"traveler who had been driven delerious.To find an end to this great piece of literature im in the middle of, upon seeing me back down at the lodges beach the local boys there dragged me up the hill to where the first rooms were all the while calling me a hero. When one of them who spoke english came to see about the commotion i finally got an understanding of why they thought "hero" when i was thinking more like "asshole".Apparently i was the only person they ever witnessed who went into that river and CAME BACK OUT! The pointing was meant to convey the message DONT GO IN THERE, but without the proper nods and shakes i was clueless. Thanks for your patience.

 

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mapumbo

At first I am thinking this is a wonderful fiction writer, telling a hair raising story.  Then I'm thinking, maybe this may have really happened.  Holy cow!

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SafariChick

oh my GOD @GEORGE PALLADINO - that is insane! What a story - and you'd barely begun your trip! Wow, I am glad you made it out to tell the story and have the rest of your trip! And I do agree about the trains - I fell getting out of one and possibly getting into one too and required a lot of help with them - they were crazy! 

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Kitsafari

unbelievable @GEORGE PALLADINO! you win - hands down on who faced the greatest danger. 

 

it was a miracle you found such strength to get yourself out of the river - your survival instincts are incredibly strong. I had seen the boiling and churning waters from the rushing rivers at the lodge and thought never ever would anyone want to swim in there. 

I'm still stunned from how you have described it. 

 

 

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gatoratlarge

@GEORGE PALLADINO Holy Cow!!!  We barely knew ye!  Now why would Dr Lehmann have reservations about taking you into the forest? :D Great writing and glad you returned alive and safely!

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michael-ibk

Wow - glad you made it out of that George! What an incredibly scary situation!

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GEORGE PALLADINO

My intention was not to illicit sympathy or win any contest. Sangeeta asked me to share some thoughts and i figured a well timed warning of the perils of miscommunication might save someone in the near future who wanted to run the gauntlet that is traveling thru Gabon haha.I will apologize now for the length of my posts its just that there are sooo many contradictions in everything we encounter that i find it impossible to stay focussed since that would only tell a story from one of the available options for interpretation that words represent in this enigma.

So now that our time in Lope' is over we are gathering at a modest 3hr early period[to give us a fighting chance of making the train haha] even though we can see the station from the lodge.Something was happening that required participants to ignite most of the flat fields burning the grass even though it was the dry season.At this juncture in my Gabonese playbook i was too overwhelmed by the absurdity to be particularly interested in trying to find out what the hell they were doin so i loaded into a vehicle and got ready to assume the position on the train platform and do my best imitation of meditation while waiting and being sure not to make eye contact with any of my 6 "shell shocked" companions.Inevitably our eyes would meet to be followed by one of an endless barrage of head shakin at the lack of understanding we possessed in figuring out their methods.What i didnt foresee was that my preconceived notion of what words meant had been broken and it was part of the "process" necessary to survive and possibly enjoy this adventure.Words like plan,commitment,schedule and especially TIME had no real meaning.I would have to suspend the rigidity of schedules or times of departure lest i be swallowed by the futility of this fruitless exercise haha! 

Now that the frustration had begun to be replaced by giggles of helplessness our group began to forge a strong bond that would ultimately be paramount in enduring this "mental safari" that we found ourselves in.I for one didnt enjoy the lobbing of invisible word grenades that challenged my ability to understand how we were going to thrive prior to setting off on our next chapter but Gabon had its reasons haha.I'll pick up the action when we changed modes of transport heading for the bai. 

Now that we have made it to the switch from train to car i started feeling alittle more familiar with the procession towards our goal.However we quickly went from blacktop to logging road with a few areas that were more akin to mountain bike trails[do they really want us to drive on that?haha].Just when it appeared that each of us had come to the same way of seeing this shitshow from different vantage points we are notified that we have to be at the river ferry crossing within a 45 minute window. Seems there was a holiday and the capt didnt want to work so our "ferryman" cross the river Styx made his demands. Just when i gave up on Time it came back to bite us in the ass haha.We had no way of knowing what surprises were in store for us once we completed this latest challenge but we were about to find out.Goodnite.

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pault

@GEORGE PALLADINO Amazing story! Biblical!


I think you might be mixing up sympathy and polite amazement. Surely nobody is sympathetic? :D Congratulations on not dying! Seriously.
 

I don’t think your posts are long at all, and while you are right that they are not focused, I think that rather suits the situation. Clearly, at times, the only order and logic of this trip was that forced on it in advance or in retrospect. I hope your trip calmed down a little after the first few days, like the first.


@Sangeeta Thanks for persuading “Dave who forgot his handle” to share his beautiful photos. I hope he will share more with us because no amount of words can match them... although I am enjoying the words immensely. 

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GEORGE PALLADINO

Thank you Pault for that encouragement and being biblical is the greatest compliment i could ever get as Jesus is my favorite author. But He wrote in circles also so im in good company hahaha.My story consists of observations that i was making of others but i had no way of knowing if they felt "shell shocked"or just looked that way haha.Iam going to post tonite and then wait for my fearless leader[Sangeeta] to catch up before continuing so enjoy the quiet haha.

Once we dismounted unscathed from the ferry things began to change rapidly.We were now deep into primary forest and an occasional chimp could be heard along with other appropriate sounds other than the whine of the engine. A short spell later we reached our embarking point where we were to meet our porters and begin the long trek to the first camp or the bai itself if time permitted. Oh but wait there isnt a porter in sight! Now ready with contingency plans at a moments notice Sangeeta flew into action and arranged for "most" of our luggage to be carried by quad that we would rendevous with 11 miles up the trail.

Crisis averted[or so we thought].Not 100 yds into the journey the first quad with all our gear and one of our loved members Owen broke thru the first wooden bridge and was dangling almost completely flipped over! I will not attempt to bring levity to this moment as it could have been an unparalled tragedy if not for some of the wood members holding firm and a good dose of luck.For me this became the defining moment in our adventure gone awry.Have you heard the phrase"it takes a village"? Well it would take humans from across the globe with all different backrounds to mitigate the pending disaster and set us right again.

While we pooled our knowledge and began tentatively unloading the payload something unspoken began to be felt. We were now one organism tied together by the instincts that bind us [LIKE SURVIVAL!!haha].One hour later no harm no foul but we would have to have the gear shuffled from one side to the other of the bridge by hand since no more traffic could cross. That meant the one machine would have to make extra trips and we'd be at the mercy of the park service construction crew to have this back in order in 2 days for our return[no problem there haha]. Owen being OK relieved us so much that i dont think we batted an eye at this precarious start[or maybe Gabon would have to try much harder if it wanted to dent our fresh new resolve]. IT DIDNT WAIT LONG.Prior to entering the foot trail we got 2 familiar suggestions, walk in single file and if an elephant charges it will be run followed by climb if necessary.Standard mundane reminders that understandably were revisited. But the last instruction may have been [without being too dramatic haha]the most ludicrous demand ive ever encountered.

TRY not to crunch the leaf debris as we proceed!!!!!!!!!!!Its a primary forest 6 inches deep in foliage and were expected to tip-toe our way past elephants while not crunching a leaf. Are you freaking kidding me? David Caradine in his TV role on Kung Fu couldnt come close to success haha.So began the trek. At this point i would like to inform you guys that my new friend Owen could go from a childlike wide-eyed 8 year old to a scholar of which ive seen no equal at the drop of a hat.Thing is if you caught him during his wonderment episode an elephant sighting went something like this.At the highest decibel possible OH SHIT AN ELEPHANT, rendering hours of silent tip-toeing irrelevant haha.I have been around the world and encountered all sorts of animals but those guys really dont like us.They have SERIOUS anger issues possibly because they are still hunted routinely.None the less our hardened souls and fearless leader emerged intact at the first camp 4 hours later.See you after my compadres add their thoughts,peace.

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Safari_fire

My first post on this group, but you all know me thanks to Sangeeta introduction!  I think I felt like the image below

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Some more images from Lope, just for the fun of it. Enjoy!

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optig

@GEORGE PALLADINO Thanks for reminding me of your mishap( to put it mildly) at Lope. I forgot about it due to the fact that throughout the journey I was mostly overwhelmed by stress. I appreciate your kind words. Our trip proves that fact is indeed stranger than fiction. 

 

Who could construct a resort on a beach opposite those giant tanks to store oil? No wonder it's only open on weekends. I thought that the place owned by a French couple was simply bizarre. 

 

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wilddog

So @Safari_fire you can only be Uwe with a nom de plum like that. Welcome. Pleased you survived your ordeal :)  I can only assume that there were no long term consequences for your ass or any other 'bits'

 

Relieved to hear @GEORGE PALLADINO you survived your swimming session.

 

@optig talks of stress but it is clear that you all had some of that

 

Thanks everyone for the contributions so far..................................really enjoying the read and feeling safe! :lol:

 

 

Edited by wilddog
Because I cannot type correctly this morning!

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Sangeeta

Seal Team Six and Commander S

 

We were all sitting around the dinner table, including all of Group 1 I think, at Résidence Océane when George walked in – a big tall, guy, with a bandana around his forehead, a sleeveless vest, a few tattoos, a braid and a handlebar moustache to boot. And as if that were not dramatic enough, he was wearing a bright orange life preserver around his neck :D Suffice it to say, we were awestruck!  Well, most of us were. Not so, Owen, who took it upon himself to verify George’s bona fides with a detailed cross-examination of his antecedents, while Dave suddenly seemed to develop tunnel vision (if I can’t see him, he can’t see me!). The rest of us tried to put George at ease, but Owen was having none of it, until George finally escaped upstairs to his room, probably extremely relieved to escape the interrogation and wondering what he had gotten himself into, and I staggered off to bed wondering how on earth this group was going to work out – I could already see a disaster of epic proportions looming! But, as said Scarlett, tomorrow is another day…

 

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All Aboard the TransGabonese...

 

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[This is a video link below]

Clocking In at Owendo...

 

 

'Tomorrow' dawned bright and cheerful, until we heard that Viannet, our wildlife guide and tour leader was ill and could not accompany us on the trip after all!v Really?? Gabon is not the type of place where you can easily pivot to find a replacement English-speaking guide, so it was decided that Guillermo himself would come with us to Lopé, and the guides at Loango would be there with us at Loango, so it was only Ivindo that we had to manage by ourselves. I hadn’t a clue what that really meant as we set off from Lopé station, after the usual acrobatics of jumping onto a mile-high train in the middle of the night. By now though, our engineer Uwe @SafariFire had the Gabonese train system perfectly sussed. He knew where our car would be, where the pantry car and engine cars were located, what time we would get where, not a problem! Once in Booué, we spent a couple of hours recuperating at Hotel Splenda, and the next morning it was off to Ivindo. Not without an incident or two, but we were off.

 

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Getting ready to leave Splenda!

 

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George beside another river, but where is his life preserver!

 

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Well, at least one person has a life jacket on!

 

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Owen at Rock Camp

 

From George’s description of his ride, he and Owen were clearly in the boring car…

 

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Uwe called this his Font Gabonis, 100 pts! 

 

Dave and Steve decided they were better entertained perched on top of the luggage car…

 

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Doesn't look very comfortable to me!

 

Uwe, Mark and I sat with the park personnel, Candy (who Group 1 knows) and Francielle in the minivan. I must say, we were the fun car. Because by now we had realized that if were going to enjoy this trip to the fullest, we had to be active participants in our own destiny.

And so we sped along at 100 kmph/hour behind the other cars on the red laterite logging roads, and enjoyed a riveting musical performance by the very talented young ladies/rap artists who were riding along with us. I hope you enjoy this bumpy video as much as we did.

 

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[This is a video link below]

Rapping On the Road to Ivindo!

 

Personally, this is the moment when it all changed for me. It was no longer a frightening task I had - to have suddenly been thrust into the role of the tour leader (as the only French/English speaker & Chalo Africa representative) of a group of strangers, who had all expected to visit Gabon in some comfort. This is the moment I actually began to feel how lucky I was to be bowling along, listening to French rap, and one of the very, very (maybe 200?) few people who make it to Ivindo every year. One of the few lucky ones who had the rare privilege to possibly encounter naïve gorilla families in their native habitat. To sleep with elephants trumpeting beneath a mirador. And perhaps, perhaps even get to see red river hogs! Was the glass half full or half empty? I decided then that it was much more than half full.

 

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Broken planks and a broken quad - but Owen was fine, and all was well!

 

From the next day, oddly enough all of us found ourselves in that same optimistic frame of mind, I could see that on all the faces. No more impatience, no more astonishment, no more irritation. We had become, as George called us, Seal Team 6 and Commander S, All for One and One for All, and it was going to take more than a little Gaboning to break this team apart. 

 

Seal Team 6 - All for One and One for All

 

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@Safari_Fire, I don’t think Dave took too many pictures in Ivindo. Up to you, Mark & Steve to please add some nice ones here, please. Else it will be my stuff :O

Edited by Sangeeta

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GEORGE PALLADINO

Funny Sangeeta it was at this exact moment that i went from wondering what this small Indian women was thinking takin on this daunting task of logistics,co-ordination[as if that were possible] and safety for a bunch of adrenaline freaks for nature to a great admiration for your efforts as your short legs traversed the toppled trees and slid down the myriad of debris littering the [trail?haha].So it was now set in cement Seal team six with commanderS would not fail while leaving no man [or woman] behind.Even if the angriest elephants on the planet coupled with the one in a million chance of encountering the chameleon of snakes[gabon viper]added to our daily peril haha.We now had our mission! It was no longer seeing this or photographing that, the barometer to be met for success was to JUST GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE together and unharmed haha.I know we ALL experienced things that were unexpected or uncomfortable[ to state the obvious] but i for one came out the other side with a different perspective on the term "safari". This was a test of ability to stay strong mentally while being put thru our diminutive leaders warped vision of her safari boot camp haha. The graduates thank you for your efforts and leadership. Now im free to stone you with my future musings hahaha.Sorry no pix's, im barely able to navigate a computer keyboard[can you say caveman].

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Zubbie15

Just catching up, those mandrill photos in post 16 are amazing, must be one of the most unique sightings on this site and captured so well!

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GEORGE PALLADINO

Let me be clear about this. I was in the second group along with Sangeeta and Owen. My viewing were similar to the episode of Star Trek where the "tribbles" were everywhere but all that could be glimpsed was small balls of fur moving at high velocity. Tone down the jeolousy haha. Dave acted like no big deal just tough tredding when he returned so i  thought nothing more of it. He is a mentally "challenged"!! I study animals and have never seen pixs with more detail and character than these ones so BOOJA to our seal team photographer ha.

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gatoratlarge

Far be it from me to pressure anyone but I think I speak for many, more more MORE!!!  😀 The anticipation is killing me! 😅 I'm really loving this report --- so cool to read about your adventures through your collective eyes...

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Safari_fire

From the trip narrative it is obvious that this is not your standard Safari trip.  If one is used to luxury safari camps and not open minded to mishaps or surprises, this trip is not for you. This is true adventure, the real stuff, perhaps as explorers felt many decades past.  No tourist crowds competing for the perfect shot of the animal du Jour (ok only three or four of them 😊). 

We all had our moments of discomfort, that in other societies may have let into legal action.  Not on this trip, not in Gabon.  We had the fire incident courtesy of yours truly, water incident courtesy of George, earth incident by a collapsing bridge, the only one missing is air, no one fell from a cliff. We all were taken out of our comfort zone, but at the same time we thrived as a group.

As many cultures in Africa do, I’m also a bit superstitious. On post 42, while boarding the Trans Gabonese train, note my Blue Eye luck charm. Legend says in Greece and Turkey that the Blue Eye fends off the bad spirits, and I think it worked hard for me on this trip.  One example when we boarded the trains at midnight and found out that our assigned seats were taken, we received many dirty looks at first, but then I have to say people freed up the seats.  Another example I did not flare up!

Gabon has not been overrun by tourism, making the people genuine what could be perceived as rough as seen from an outsider, but they are dead honest. 

-          - The fun we had with the rapping girls, there might be some dance videos at Rock Camp.

-          - The ferry captain that was mad since he had to work on the National Holiday, I would have been mad also I had to work on July 4th. 

-          - The photo when we left Akanda with all passengers on the boat with brand new life jackets provided by the park service (must be posted on Parcs Gabon web page).

-          - The translator that could not figure out why in the world one would travel from so far away to Gabon to see wildlife.

-          - Language barriers can be overcome. On the way back from the Bai while walking in the forest, yes we walked many kilometers through the forest, the park ranger pointed out so many natural features of the trees that is became mind boggling.  The most impressive was the seed that grow on the root of a tree,

Life is simple in Gabon, food is basic, and perhaps in some instances the presentation left a lot to desire, but then no one really became sick.  We all had our day of tourist digestive issues, but that was it. One goes to basics, the bush toilets had in many instances the precious paper and always an air freshener as a luxurious item. Sleeping in an REI tent on the Bai.

I never traveled in a span of two weeks with so many methods of transportation to get from one town to another.  The Trans Gabonese train, my first train ride in Africa and it was great, trucks, ferries, long boats with tired engines, quads, unopened Chinese built roads, plane ride with the ever reliable Afrijet, you name it, we took it.

We set foot in places that do not see more than 200-300 tourists a year.  This is less people than my first trip to Antarctica on a Russian ice breaker over a decade ago, where I was among the first 300 persons after explorers of the caliber of Shackleton on some islands.

Gabon is fun, the barrier from the luxury safari camps to the general population is not there.  One is forced to interact with the locals, opening a complete new dimension to the journey. Gabon is people, tribal rituals, pure adventure and wildlife. Where in the world can you find a place like Gabon? 

There are many stories and photos of the Bai, Loango NP, whale watching, please keep tuned.  There are even rumors of more than one sighting of Red River Hogs……

Till next time

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optig

@Safari_fire @GEORGE PALLADINOYou both express the experience far better than I can. I was so tired at times that I simply couldn't absorb it all. And there was something surreal about it all the time. Did anyone ask why a French couple would build a resort on a beach opposite a huge oil facility? Sure, we all traveled to Gabon to see this. Even in our hotel in Libreville did you notice that there was bushmeat on the menu? The place is just so surreal in a way even more so than Dzsanga Sanga National Park in the Central African African Republic. I'm proud to say that I never complained. The only thing I regret missing was the Red River hog.

 

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Kitsafari

RED RIVER HOGS????

 

 

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wilddog

This is certainly an amazing report and I can only admire those that did it and of course @Sangeetawho organised it all, even if there were a few 'hiccups' on the way. :o I think we can all recognise the problems experienced in Group 1, as shown in @michael-ibk &Co's report and then Group 2 had further, somewhat more dramatic, problems.

 

I admire the  determination and fortitude of both groups. You are true pioneers of the road less traveled or, perhaps never travelled. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

 

I wonder who will do the next adventure to Gabon? Sadly not me, too old now for massive adventures.

 

Well done all.

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