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SafariChick

Just catching up with page two here. Wow, that is scary what happened to @optig with the bridge collapse - I'm very glad you were ok, Owen! Not really surprising as those bridges looked like they were about to fall apart when we were there.  Shame about Viannet (was he really sick or did we just wear him out?!) - luckily @Sangeeta you can speak French so well!  Looking forward to more - tell us about those Red River Hogs!

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optig

The bridge collapse is another of those things which made this trip just so otherworldly. The incredibly slow train from Libreville was another. Who can forget the hotel Splenda in Boue? It was something out of a horror movie, and no I'm not stretching the truth. I was of course, amazed at all the new infrastructure being built by Chinese companies, but I have to wonder what will really be usable and what are merely white elephants. African dictators so often build monuments to their own vanity and that is what I thought when I saw the huge stadium in Port Gentil.  There are many examples all over Africa.

 

I have to say that almost all of my favorite parks in Africa were places that are visited by only a handful of tourists. Dzangha Sanga in the Central African Parks receives less than a hundred tourists a year, Camp Nomade in Zakouma roughly the same as does Liwonde National Park in Malawi. When we flew over Gambella National park, the nine of us were the first visitors in two years. Gonorezhou in Zimbabwe gets only 200 a year from outside Southern Africa.

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Kitsafari

@Safari_fire I didn't have a chance to say it but your photos of the mandrills are wonderful as well, especially the first and last ones. once again reflecting how expressive the mandrills were, and once again making me jealous of the good images you all had. 

 

So, @Sangeeta i'm not very clear from the comments - i think i missed something there but did you guys get an elephant charge along the way somewhere? 

and it looks like the boatman was once again master of the river! won't any of us give that poor fella a break?!

 

oh and @optig thank goodness you and the driver were not harmed when the bridge gave way. 

Edited by Kitsafari

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GEORGE PALLADINO

Owen you are so right with your observations of African leaders.I cant help but wonder how much of the dedication in Gabon is real also with commitment to tourism. I saw no signs of dedication to anything other than logging and mining but i'm hopefully wrong.

Back to the trip. Right after my epiphany on Sangeeta's admirable ways something dawned on me. Even though ive worked in Africa for over 12 yrs[off and on] building schools and orphanages i had missed something. I inadvertently brought my "American sensibilities" with me on a trek back in time! With this new knowledge stowed away my demeaner changed immediately. No longer being saddled by having to "make sense" of what was happening i was now free to let it fly. My initial reaction to seeing the tower at the end of the last 5miles of hiking went like this. Have any of you been camping in predator filled forests or woods?You routinely hang ALL the treats in a bag high in the treetops. Gabon had its own twist on this and WE were that bag of goodies high off the ground haha.

This presented a dilemma for 6 middle aged men who pee during the nite. So unbeknownst to our commander we made the group decision to judge the wind direction and urinate off the platform lest we run into one of those pissed off pacaderms haha.While laying in my tent [filled with a little guilt while laughing] i heard Sangeeta wondering aloud "Is that a shower passing by"?She got the last laugh when Steve and i were wondering what the hell was making that noise that had our ears popping like prior to a tornado.This realization was followed closely by almost being blown off the platform by her "personal cooling devise"haha.To say sleeping was intimate is an understatement. Not only could we here every noise a body makes but i thought i actually was listening to digestion in progress haha.Personally the bai was to confining for my taste stuck in that tower although it offered a nice vantage point for viewing and falling asleep with elephants trumpeting is amazing.The last thing of note were the stars without any light pollution.The trip getting there coupled with the people we met and having no more secrets from each other[due to the intimacy of accomodations]made this part of the adventure worth it to me.

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Sangeeta

Well, George,  - thankfully I was not included in that cozy sextet!😂

STers - just so you all know, I was a ship apart, sailing alone...with my trusty portable battery-operated fan that not only masked those digestive sounds (ewww!) but kept me blissfully cool at night, and dreaming of red river hogs and gorillas that appeared like magic the next dawn...

 

 

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gatoratlarge

Proof please!  (photos :D ) else-wise how are we to believe this?? :D 

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Atravelynn

@GEORGE PALLADINO, OMG, I just read your Gabon initiation in the river.  Thank goodness you survived to write about it and it seems this may be the only account out there.  "Biblical" came to my mind as well, @pault, right down to the baptismal metaphor of the river.  Then quicksand. 

 

When someone complains about inattentive service, tired accommodations, or  so-so food in future reports, I'll link them to post #30 over here.

 

You may have had to suspend the meaning of words on your adventure, but I am glad you've recovered your linguistic skills for the report!

 

And by Post #38 it really gets scary.

 

Looking forward to a return to this "ass burning" report in a week or so when I return from visit to friends in the US.

Edited by Atravelynn

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Sangeeta

Here you go, guys - red river hogs at Langoué Bai. I was hoping that one of our resident photogs had nicer pictures than mine, but Dave-With-No-Handle (haha @pault, I like that one!) tells me that he barely took any pictures at all, for a variety of reasons including high ISOs and not feeling so well, so here are some of the ones I was able to wrest from him. I do know that Uwe and Mark got some nice ones with their big cameras, and I also know that Steve has some very nice gorilla footage, so hopefully they will add them on later to the report...

 

202057238_Gabon2019-336.jpg.bdc184f4718b6cffed7db0e617064772.jpg

 

Red river hogs (aka potamochères) at Langoué Bai, Ivindo NP, Gabon, Aug 2019

 

1602467813_Gabon2019-349.jpg.42ebcc3f036b2056a17e6c2fd95ed2fd.jpg

 

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Fuzzy crop, but it gives you some idea of their funny faces and wiggly ears!

 

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Another cropped fuzzy one...

 

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This is how tiny the blobs were :D

 

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Ooee, look at them ears!

 

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Here are some of the eles at the Bai. Group 1 has posted lovely ele shots, so I'll just leave at these, unless the others would like to add some more...

 

1557327589_Gabon2019-288.jpg.fcb8fc7a7d00f80344f2835e691a84af.jpg

 

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Group 1's gorillas were lovely too, so I am not adding them here. Steve got a lovely video clip of the silverback charging - we saw both the wild groups that frequent the bai in our 2 nights at the platform. @Safari_fire, please do add some of your early morning shots of the first gorilla group, as well as some of the gorillas from the second wild family we saw in the afternoon. And some mirador pics too, please!

 

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Dave-With-No-Handle found another couple of mandrill shots in his files, so adding them here.1913996051_Gabon2019-137.jpg.e4c1f61c5ea86a85233b65312ab6edc6.jpg

 

803772405_Gabon2019-179.jpg.eece3d12bf9c7792e4fe2eb3429762dd.jpg

 

And our resident spider from the penthouse suite :D

 

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Sangeeta

@Kitsafari - no charging eles, Kit, but we did come across eles each time we were on foot anywhere! At Lopé we were forced to backtrack and try a whole other approach to the mandrills because of an ele family blocking our way. We saw 2 eles scurry away from us during the gorilla trek. And at Loango too, we met a friendly young male - that was a nice meeting and I'll  post a short video clip on that one later.

 

Thank you all so, so much for following along. Hoping that our missing 2 members, Steve and Mark will join ST soon and add their views (and their lovely photos and videos!) too. Steve and Mark were our little islands of sanity. At least they were for me. @optig @GEORGE PALLADINO , @Safari_fire were our colorful personalities. Dave-W-N-H started out quiet but the colorful ones soon managed to co-opt him too :D But Steve and Mark kept their sangfroid and their panache throughout the trip, and balanced the group out perfectly. They always had a smile when we needed one!

 

 

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michael-ibk

Fantastic Hogs, really awesome to see them like that! 

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mapumbo

Wow, I have never seen red river hogs before.

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gatoratlarge

WOWOWOW!  Love the red river hogs pics --- they really are special!  Their red color sets them apart!  And a charging gorilla??  What was he charging?  You really know how to incorporate the suspense into a TR! :D  My one regret from our trip to Gabon was not seeing the rr hogs...a reason to return...

Edited by gatoratlarge

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Galago

Wiggly ears and funny faces - yep! Superb!

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Kitsafari

wow that's a big troop of RRH - i counted over 30 in the first photo! so adorable and also my major regret not seeing them at all. Love those ears and the bright colours on them. did you see them on the left side of the platform? 

You know, for me, just seeing photos of the hogs feeding in the distance - whether one thinks the quality is good enough or not - is just wonderful for me. Wish we in Group 1 had seen them, but there you go, you can't wish for everything, but very pleased that they showed for you (arrrgggghhhhhhhh....). 

 

Dave WNH - just love that shot of the two looking into the sky with such longing. and yes - that spider at the platform kept me entertained in between the elephants, gorillas and sitatungas too. 

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gatoratlarge

Am I the only one who checks this daily for the next installment?  Not to be a nag but... :D I'm anxious to see more of Ivindo and what you saw in Loango so... chop! chop! :D 

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kittykat23uk

Well, I have finally caught up with all the Gabon posts from both group 1 and group 2. 

 

Wow! What an eventful time both groups have had! I am very relieved to read that everyone returned home safely despite their misadventures. 

 

Fabulous photos of the mandrills and the red river hogs in this report! Looking forward to reading more! :)

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shazdwn

Those red river hogs are the best looking pigs I have ever seen.  

 

Great report team, keep it up :)

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Atravelynn

Nice job Seal Team 6!   Your Blue Eye Luck charm may have saved the trip, @Safari_fire "Shackleton." 

 

Let me tell you MY ass is on fire with jealousy (if such a thing is possible) over those red river hogs!  Nice light on them--all 600 or whatever showed up--and many of the other creatures!

 

 

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Sangeeta

Well, it looks like Seal Team 6 thinks that Commander S has lost her moxie! Nothing further from the team, so I'll get re-started on my bits & bobs…

 

Gabon Parks – There, but for the Grace of God, Go I :blink:

 

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As @Inyathi mentioned in Group 1’s report, Ivindo is the hardest part of this trip, because it necessarily involves 2 sleepless nights on 2 overnight trains, a difficult stopover in Booué where there are simply no decent hotels to be had even if you’re willing to pay for it, and it also involves that long boat ride on the Ogooué river to get to Loango.

 

In hindsight, I think there are 3 ways to do this trip:

 

1) For the sane ones: Omit Ivindo altogether, especially since they now have habituated gorilla trekking in Loango. So in this case, you’d do a combination of Lopé for the mandrills (in dry season) followed by Loango. Both of these are relatively easy parks to access from Libreville. No boat rides at all.

This will give you all your wildlife targets with some luck. You'll have a couple of train rides and a couple of plane transfers and everything will be relatively comfortable.

 

862881098_Forestbuffalo2-Dave.jpg.157db518c61a08efdc27af700434b5bc.jpg

 

2) For the insane ones: Start with Ivindo when people are still feeling fresh and youthful and get this hardest section done first. Followed by Lopé and then back to Libreville, followed by Loango. No boat ride in this option either.

This will give you some good adventure and a nice shot at all the endemics. But it will be a couple of days longer than the 2-week trip, and a bit more expensive as well.

 

1616966668_Forestbuffalo3-Dave.jpg.49997dd077f7fe53c70269fc191ec8eb.jpg

 

3) For the truly insane ones: Start with Ivindo, then Lopé, then the boat ride to Loango (this is what we are doing with our 2020 group). This option for those who value the adventure component of the trip as much as they value the wildlife.

 

18407696_Forestbuffalo4-Dave.jpg.f6305c8c36d094857d4b3c5f94392394.jpg

 

And for the truly, truly insane ones, I was thinking we could put together an honest-to-goodness expedition type safari. Where people go in with equipment, supplies etc. into some hitherto unexplored areas of the country and we see what we see… no promises. I can’t think of too many places in the world where you can still do something like this. Gabon is still one of those places….

 

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Sangeeta

Water, water everywhere...

 

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Our train from Booué to Ndjolé was late, of course. But we made it there, where Guillermo was waiting for us with 3 vehicles, that whisked us off to Lamberéné in the very early dawn hours of the morning. Our driver told me that when he had driven into Ndjolé last evening, he had seen a giant pangolin cross the road just there... there, there, just there, by the road, right in front... :unsure:

 

@gatoratlarge  has posted some lovely pictures of the Schweitzer hospital, so please do see his post for that. Nothing new from us, except that the guys were given the loo to freshen up, and I got a room to myself, for which I was very grateful! :D  

 

Based on group 1's experience, we had organized 2 boats for this transfer down the river, so that we could act as a back up for one another. But believe it or not, we somehow managed to get separated - even though, as the advance boat, we waited and waited for the others to turn up. This makes me think that there must be multiple channels - or least more than 1 channel - for boats coming down the Ogooué. The boats went at a very fast clip because that is a pretty long distance to cover. We made it to Ombooué in about 5.5 hours, and the other boat chugged in about 20 minutes after us. The Loango team was waiting for us at the pier, where we had a lovely late lunch (quiche and salad) before heading off for Loango Lodge. Next time, we'll have walkie-talkies for the boats to stay in touch - or 2 sat phones.

 

I think Loango Lodge feels even nicer than it actually is when you get there after Ivindo! But Matthieu, the manager there, is a super guy and had matters in control. Ooh, we had air conditioning, a running hot shower and the lodge ladies were willing to do all our laundry too! The next morning, Steve, Uwe, Mark and George went off in 1 boat for their gorilla trek, whilst Owen, Dave and I took the day to meander down the river and get to Akaka camp.

 

All 3 of us agreed that these Loango waterways were just as beautiful as anything we had ever seen in the delta.  The birds were spectacular, the channels were silent -  periscoping ele here, daintily nibbling sitatunga there, and sunning crocs just further ahead... We spent the whole day idling along the channels of the river - enjoying the slow pace after the hectic days we had just lived through.  

 

For me personally, the experience was much enhanced by sharing this day with @optig His complete and total joy at seeing the commonest birds just kept bringing back to me how fortunate we were to be tooling down the coastal waters of Gabon, with nothing more to do than enjoy the sights and sounds enveloping us. Sometimes, it takes an Owen to revive the jaded senses. I think Dave will agree with me on this.

 

Here are some photos from that day in the delta...

 

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The croc with a bee on her bonnet :D

 

 

 

Ele 5 - Loango - Dave.jpg

Ele 7 - Loango - Dave.jpg

Slender snouted croc 4 - Dave.jpg

 

All images by Dave WNH, who is a very relaxed photographer, and I must say, it's lovely to get all these pictures with no effort on my part! :lol:

Edited by Sangeeta

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michael-ibk

Great images from Dave again - the Croc shots are especially cool!

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gatoratlarge

There it is!  My fix!  Great shots of the forest elephants---I still can't quite put my finger on it, whether it's in the eyes, the straighter tusks, the ears that seem sometimes slightly rounder, smaller and stick out from their head more?  But there is definitely a difference between the savanna and forest eles...these pics make the distinction more clear to me...when we were there just a scant week or two earlier, many of the elephants had a white gunk in the tear duct of their eyes which one of the guides said something about ticks...I didn't understand fully but I don't see the white gunk in the eles in Dave's pics...maybe the river washes it out...

 

Anyhow, great pics and report and I love the pics of the slender-snouted croc with his mouth open wide too :D PS it looks like you had some nice sunlight in Loango as well---we scarcely saw it emerge from the clouds while we were in Gabon---only on the Ongooue if I recall!

Edited by gatoratlarge

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Kitsafari

some excellent shots from Dave, especially on the elephants and crocs, and wow on his photos on the finfoot!  

@Sangeeta 

I agree with you when we meandered along the rivers and tributaries to and around Akaka camp. very peaceful. and I can imagine @optig 's oohs and aahs on the birds. 

 

But it didn't seem that you have as much issues as us with the tse tse flies? 

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optig

@Sangeeta@Kitsafari@michael-ibk @gatoratlarge I have to say that I'm even more amazed than you are with Dave's photos. On every trip his photos seem to improve. I must even after taking 21 safaris I enjoy it more and more and I keep discovering new interests 

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kittykat23uk

Yeah the photos are top notch! 

 

I think the forest elephants have a more feral look to them due to the mad, staring eyes :). The savannahs elephants have very long eyelashes giving then a softer appearance IMHO. 

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