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GEORGE PALLADINO

First to Kitsafari--special forces use a combo of one half lavender essential oil,quarter chamomile, quarter alcohol and then put it in a lemongrass lotion base[unscented].Its expensive to make but seemed to do the trick.

Next is Owen . This is my first time traveling with Dave but after 40 years of adventures around the planet i have yet to meet his equal when it comes to photography. Now if we can only do something about his personality disorder hahaha.

To our leader we have not abandoned you, i was just waiting for others imput before finalizing.I CAN'T IMAGINE the trip without the river travel.By far its the most productive viewing mechanism along with adding to the primitive narrative of our wandering.How can you beat the wildness of how its always been done?

Loango was over the top after our initial "baptism by fire" of travel accomodations in Gabon haha.The staff and REAL perked coffee were the stand-outs.

However hands down Akaka camp was my favorite place.The private nature of floating down waterways harkens back to a primal connection to the inhabitants there way before us.This was my first experience of an elephant SO ANGRY that it followed us INTO the river just to make sure we got the message.I'd like to suggest a program be set up for attitude adjustments of elephants with an invitation to Dave to join also haha.I struggle to this day in properly identifying what it is i felt but i KNOW i felt it. This is unique to this trip in that its as much of a people safari as an animal one.If you want to observe, get the shot and get home then best you stay there! But if you want to be actually woven into the fabric of every day and participate in "being" the action instead of watching it then Gabon has a few surprises you might grow and be challenged by.Put East Africa out of your mind cause this place has more in common with Mars than that haha.

 

 

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optig

@GEORGE PALLADINO I couldn't agree with you more about the beauty of going down the river. I agree with your comments about Gabon and East Africa.

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gatoratlarge

@Kitsafari the sitatunga seems to be covered with tse tses like the one we saw so I bet it was similar but they definitely bite some more than others 

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Sangeeta

Pretty Ladies, Rambunctious Youngsters and an Exhausted Silverback

 

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Sorry for the vanishing act, everyone. Our gorilla trek was fabulous. Gabon’s gorilla trek was easy-peasy compared to their mountain cousin treks in Rwanda and Uganda. Group 1’s hike was a bit longer and harder, but we had it easy. It was a long-ish walk (about 8-10 kms RT), but over flat terrain, and mostly on a well-defined trail. We did need to hop over occasional fallen tree trunks and once we were off the trail, the ground was a bit uneven, but compared to the Virunga Massif, this was a piece of cake!

 

When we got to the research station in the morning, we heard that the group had been feeding on some delicious things, and that the silverback had gotten so engrossed in these delicacies, he had not realized that his family had moved on without him. So the scouts were reporting that K was very agitated and we should wait until he had reunited with the family… So an hour or so of nail-biting moments followed (thinking they might tell us that this would not work today after all!), we were thrilled to boat over to the actual research camp and get started on our trek.

 

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Youngsters at play...

 

It was a pretty calm and relaxed encounter, except for the one female who shrieked loudly as soon as she saw us, but then everyone calmed down. We mostly saw 1 or 2 females, with some babies, the silverback (mostly recumbent or sleeping because he was exhausted from his frantic morning of searching for his family) and some youngsters playing with one another – seemingly never tiring of chasing one one another, tumbling around on the ground, climbing trees and jumping off… their games were lovely to watch, and yes, just like human kids, with patient babysitters watching over them. They did not come as close to us as they are apt to do in East Africa, possibly because they are not quite as habituated as them.

 

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Again, a beautiful set of gorilla pics by Dave WNH – the lip coloration is from whatever they had been eating that morning, and completely natural, though it looks startling like lipstick! So glad we had our own private photographer along with us for our visit :D 

 

And finally, the Recumbent Silverback...

 

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And a few more...

 

Gorilla 7 - Gabon - Dave.jpg

 

 

Gorilla 9 - Gabon - Dave.jpg

 

 

Gorilla 15 - Gabon - Dave.jpg

 

 

Gorilla 16 - Gabon - Dave.jpg

Edited by Sangeeta

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Galago

Oh my goodness, what photos! If I'd taken just one of those shots I'd be chuffed as nuts and Dave has provided oodles of great ones! Ever think of entering Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition Dave? I went to the exhibition at the Natural History Museum (London) recently and some of these photos could be right up there with the winners.

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TonyQ

Wonderful photos Dave, really superb. They do deserve a wide audience.

Thank you for posting @Sangeeta  please thank Dave if he does not read this

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Kitsafari

WOW on the gorilla shots! Where have you been hiding, Dave????

Those eyes and all the details and expressions on the faces, and the young one hanging from the tree, thinking up the next mischief.

 

The last shot is just awesome - it needs to be blown up and hung at Loango Lodge, or my hall is just as fine. 

 

Edited by Kitsafari

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gatoratlarge

Incredibly intimate shots---WOW!  THanks for sharing Dave's photos and for the narrative @Sangeeta!

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kittykat23uk

Beautiful shots! Hope I get some decent ones in Uganda 😊

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Josep Maria Cerda Masso
On 11/8/2019 at 6:21 PM, Sangeeta said:

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….

 

Dear Sangeeta, it has been delightful to read the memories and thoughts of Gabon 1 and Gabon 2 and admire the wonderful photos posted!! If you ever organize such safari for the truly, truly insane ones, count on me! I volunteer!

Edited by Josep Maria Cerda Masso

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Alexander33

Just add me to the list of fans of Dave’s photos. From the light and conditions that are evident, I know how hard it is to get shots like those under such circumstances, and he really nailed it, and then some. 

 

Continuing to enjoy this report very much.

 

Edited by Alexander33

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kittykat23uk

Did anyone watch seven worlds one planet tonight? Behind the scenes skit at the end, they were filming on the platform at the Bai two gunshots went off, poachers had killed an elephant. 😭 The BBC crew abandoned the platform straight after and headed back to camp as it was getting dark. Not a good situation to be in! 😱

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inyathi

@kittykat23uk Yes I watched that very frightening, I wouldn't want to have to make a run for it through the rainforest at night, knowing there are forest elephants around. However, just to clarify and avoid any confusion, the latest issue of BBC Wildlife magazine had a separate section Seven Worlds | One Planet On Location, this has a written account of this incident, by Jo Haley who you saw in the film, the poaching incident she describes occurred at Mbeli Bai in Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, this is next door in the Congo Republic, not in Gabon. I was slightly surprised that they didn't name the location as Mbeli Bai in the film, if it hadn't been named in the article I might have assumed that's where it was, partly because the park is managed by WCS, and WCS were thanked in the credits. Very sad that another elephant was killed. especially a forest elephant as they are slower to breed, but at least good to know that the poachers were caught.   

 

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kittykat23uk

@inyathi that's good to know as I was not aware that there was another Bai. 

 

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inyathi

@kittykat23uk  There are actually many different bais in the region, bai is simply the Bayaka word for a natural clearing in the rainforest, my understanding is that they are created by the actions of forest elephants seeking out minerals, over hundreds or even thousands of years. There are to my knowledge lots of them in CAR, Cameroon, Congo Rep and Gabon, I’m not sure about the DRC.  Langoue Bai is just the best known bai in Gabon, probably the largest in Gabon which I’ve only read about is Mwagne Bai in Mwagne NP that apparently has lots of bongos and elephants, this is one for the truly insane @Sangeeta where do I sign up?  Otherwise some of the other named bais, besides Mbeli Bai that I know of, are Lango Bai in Odzala-Kokoua NP in Congo Rep where Lango Camp is located and then Maya Nord Bai also in Odzala, then there’s Dzangha Bai in CAR famous for its forest elephants and Bai Hokou where there are habituated gorillas, these are just the best known bais, Langoue Bai is the only one I’ve visited, the others I’ve just read about or know about because the BBC has filmed at them or maybe they’ve featured in Nat Geo. There are a whole load more, probably some that haven’t as yet been visited and surveyed, I know purely from looking at a research paper that I found today, that there are at least 16 bais that have been surveyed in Lobeke NP in Cameroon and Nouabale-Ndoki NP in Congo Rep, 5 in the former and 11 in the latter. I don’t really know very much about the other rainforest parks in Cameroon, but I would assume they may have more bais. 

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Sangeeta

Alice, the White Rabbit and the Crocodiles who Talked

 

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As I finish up here (while still hoping that @Safari_fire and some of the others will add their thoughts/pictures to this report over the holidays) – it strikes me that there was something distinctly Alice in Wonderland-ish about this safari of ours. Both our groups went down a few unexpected rabbit holes, only to discover a brand-new topsy-turvy Africa at the other end – full of strange creatures and all manner of idiosyncrasies that we couldn’t have imagined before. It was a fascinating, exhausting, sometimes overwhelming but always an exhilarating journey.

 

Looking back on this trip, had I seen a White Rabbit pacing up and down at Lopé Station, saying « I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date!» while the station clock hands whirled dizzily overhead (as it was doing), I would no longer be surprised by that sight! And certainly, no one thought that it was in the least bit strange for us to be chatting up crocodiles! I kid you not, there really are talking crocs in Gabon :D

 

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It was our last night at Loango. That morning, we had learned that a whale had been caught in a net and the boat that was supposed to have taken us to see them had now been pressed into a rescue operation and therefore, we could no longer go to see the whales… Of course everyone understood, but I must confess to being secretly very disappointed. Along with @gatoratlarge, the breaching humpbacks had been at the top of my Gabon target list – as high as the mandrill and red river hogs for me. I had missed seeing them earlier in the year off the coast of Madagascar from Ile Ste. Marie and I had pinned all my hopes on Gabon, but it was not to be. As we sat around pre-dinner, I was a little bit despondent. Then we heard the distant sound of a hooting owl. Dmitri told us that the area was home to a healthy population of Pels, and that the bird we could hear was a Pels Fishing Owl. Did we want to track it?

 

In this eccentric land of startlingly abundant African finfoots, crocodile trifectas (love the expression @Atravelynn), casual kingfisher pentafectas, giant flocks of murmurating river martins and who knows what else,  surely we could track down a Pels? So we piled into our trusty little boat and set off into the pitch black night to find an owl that was hooting persistently and repeatedly from a location that sounded quite far away.

 

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 (These really are a mix of river martins and terns, I promise!)

 

I don’t think I have waxed poetic in the other parts of this report, but here I must give up all pretense of objectivity. As we navigated almost blindly down black-water papyrus-lined channels using the weak light from a torch as our guide, I could literally feel the great privilege and luck that was allowing us to experience something like this. At that moment, there was absolutely nowhere else I would have rather have been, but floating down that silent channel in Loango, on the west coast of Africa, with the soft sound of the engine purring in my ears, in companionable silence with my safari mates, as the Pied Piper Pels beckoned us hauntingly, closer and closer towards it. It was magical. And in keeping with that enchanted night, we fairly easily (given Dmitri’s skill and knowledge of the park) managed to track down the elusive Pels.

 

An image of the Pels taken by Dave WNH. He also took this picture of a flying squirrel (?) that evening. Not sure what exactly this is, but perhaps one of you can tell us.

 

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As we headed back to the lodge, Dmitri cut off the engine, we came to a halt, little waves nibbling against the boat, and all of a sudden, we were jerked out of our delicate poesie and reverie by horrible vomiting sounds emanating from the back of the boat. What on earth was that? It was Dmitri. Mais que faites-vous, Dmitri ? we asked, much astonished. C’est pour appeler les crocodiles, madame, he responded, pausing briefly for breath before starting the belching and bellowing anew. What on earth?? He stopped and it all went quiet, and then out of nowhere, we began to hear little burbling sounds coming back to us from the water. A muted version of Dmitri’s hollering. The crocs were talking back!

 

C’est quoi, Dmitri? Apparently these vomiting sounds are the distress calls of slender-snouted crocs! When the crocs hear this sound, they congregate towards the croc in distress (to help it or to eat it? we don’t know). Mais je vous jure, madame, ce sont les crocs qui répondent… It was hysterical. Were we really sitting in a boat, surrounded by a number of now-fairly loudly burbling crocs, who were joined in a crocodilian duet with Dmitri? At that point, everybody simply cracked up – with Mark & Uwe deciding that they would give Dmitri a run for his vomiting sounds - and with much yukking and heaving, our merry boat party headed home…

 

I tried to turn on the sound on my iphone and tried to take a couple of videos of these sounds, but the crocs are very faint here. The next person heading to Loango Lodge, please, please go with a good audio recording device and try to capture these absurd sounds. I am adding the video in any case, just to give you an idea of what this was – and to prove that, honest to goodness, I’m not making this up! In all these many years of safari, this has to be among the oddest and most memorable wildlife encounters that I have ever experienced.

 

The Talking Crocs of Loango

 

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For the fans of Alice and Lewis Carroll, this poem seems particularly apt, doesn’t it? :D

 

How doth the little crocodile

Improve his shining tail,

And pour the waters of the Nile

On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin

How neatly spreads his claws,

And welcomes little fishes in

With gently smiling jaws!

 

I believe every word of it. And I’d be pretty willing to bet that Lewis Carroll wrote this little poem as he was floating along on a boat in Loango! (or, on a boat at the bottom of Murchison Falls, that's the other place, haha)

 

It is hardly strange, then, that a report that started out with little northern talapoins and an Ass on Fire, should meander its way to end with talking crocs and Alice au Pays des Merveilles. Only in Gabon.

 

*********************

Edited by Sangeeta

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Sangeeta

Cast of Characters

 

And so ended our Gabon Adventures. There were days on our trip that were very similar to Group 1, and I have not repeated those stories in this report. When I look back at this safari now, 4 months on, I am frankly surprised by how vivid some of my recollections still are. Much of that I attribute to the characters I met on this trip – each so vivid, and each such an integral part of this story…

 

Group 1, the Pioneer Group :

 

@Kitsafari – Partner-in-crime No. 1 & imaginer of crazy trips :wub:

@SafariChick – Partner-in-crime No. 2 & also an imaginer of crazy trips - the next one she's planned is TAME, haha :wub:

@michael-ibk and @AndMic – Two safari charmers with big, big hearts :wub:

@gatoratlarge – Happy go lucky adventurer & also an imaginer of crazy trips :wub:

@Josep Maria Cerda Masso – will be in touch with you about the ‘truly insane’ trip – you and @inyathi both! :wub:

 

Vianet Mihindou – guide for Group 1

 

Group 2, Seal Team 6 and Commander S:

 

@GEORGE PALLADINO – the man with the Rambo tattoos and our bush comedian who kept me in splits :wub:

@Safari_fire – the best sport that I have EVER had the good fortune to encounter :wub:

@optig – He has the virtue of making people see old things with new eyes :wub:

Dave WNH – Photographer extraordinaire – thank you for letting me use them here :wub:

Steve – His calm demeanor and good humor masked a very adventurous spirit :wub:

Mark – A consummate wildlife lover - he noticed every single animal that crossed our path :wub:

 

Bwiti Family and Village

 

The King of the Benga

 

David, Joelle (Mandrill team) and Keita (Lopé guide) at Lopé

 

Lopé mandrills

 

Ivindo NP Team – Candy & Ivindo NP Crew at Langoué

 

Gorillas, forest eles, sitatunga and red river hogs

 

Dmitri – excellent Loango guide

 

Western lowland gorillas, whales, birds of every feather, forest buffalo and so much more.

 

Last but Not Least – our own Guillermo – the Man from Gabon! :wub:

 

***************************

 

We do have a new and improved version of this Gabon trip scheduled for July 2020 ! For those of you who have been motivated by these tales, please PM me and we’ll make it happen!

Edited by Sangeeta

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Sangeeta

Thank you very very much to everyone who has followed along with us. Very relieved I managed to bring an end to this, though. Now I can safely go back to reading all the other reports that have stacked up - and to clicking likes when I have nothing particularly original to say :D 

@inyathi - I pulled up some info on Mwagna Bai. This could be an epic trip. Giant pangolins in Lopé, Kangou Falls just for the heck of it and Mwagna Bai to finish! If we have you, Josep and I signed up already (errr...) then we need 3-4 more to make this happen! @gatoratlarge, do you hear us?

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TonyQ

Epic indeed. Thank you for bringing all of this together. It has been a great read,and it sounds like an outstanding trip

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Galago

How entirely appropriate that you finished up with Pel's and the call,likened to the sound of a lost soul falling into a bottomless pit only to then be surrounded by talking crocodiles. Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice.

Thanks for the report, it's made for quite a read!

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SafariChick

Brava, @Sangeeta and team! I love the Alice in Wonderland references, very apt - and I was literally laughing out loud reading about Dmitri and his sounds (and listening to it too)! The Carroll poem about the croc is a perfect ending.  Happy to be a partner-in-crime for future crazy trips - but also kind of excited to have a tame one next - then after that, ready for more insanity!

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Kitsafari

Pel’s!!!!!!!!

 

While our group ended with the dwarf crocodile dundee, your group ended with a talking croc! 

 

What an equally crazy adventure you guys had as well. It isnt Gabon if you arent having a crazy adventure there.

thanks @Sangeetageorge, Uwe, owen, Dave for sharing all your thoughts and stories .

 

we can still keep dreaming, of adventures that are yet to be, right?

 

In a Wonderland they lie 
Dreaming as the days go by, 
Dreaming as the summer die.” 
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

 

Edited by Kitsafari

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inyathi

@Sangeeta 

 

Great report.

 

I presume that Dmitri knows his owls and their calls, because Loango also vermiculated fishing owls, I've never seen the latter species, it is quite similar but smaller and has streaks on the chest rather than spots, I would just be interested to know if they also see vermiculated there.  

 

The “flying squirrel” is not actually a squirrel at all, it’s an anomalure, they are sometimes called scaly-tailed flying squirrels, but while they are rodents, they are not in fact squirrels, they’re a great example of parallel evolution, as they are related, but not closely related to the true flying squirrels of Asia and North America despite their obvious similarity. I don’t know what the species is for certain, but I might suggest Beecroft’s anomalure, but I’ve not seen this species and didn’t see any anomalures in Gabon.

Edited by inyathi

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Atravelynn

"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 "

 

Why am I not surprised?

 

I thought I'd see how the burning buttocks in Gabon were faring, after not checking in for a while. To my delight I find Alice in Wonderland and  "vomiting" crocs and of course more fabulous photos of the amazing wildlife.   My husband in the other room asked with concern, "What IS that noise?" as the croc video was playing.  I should have responded, "Someone's ass is on fire."

 

These twin reports on Gabon are a unique sensation!

 

 

Edited by Atravelynn

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Sangeeta

Thank you to @kittykat23uk, @Alexander33, @gatoratlarge, @Josep Maria Cerda Masso,  @TonyQ, @Galago, @SafariChick, @Kitsafari, @inyathi and @Atravelynn and to everyone else who has stopped by to look in & for letting me know that you enjoyed the report. Even for us old-timers, it's nice to get feedback :) 

 

@inyathi - Dmitri mentioned vermiculated to us and I think we may have looked for it, but not much luck. The other bird that we wanted to see but missed was the Loango weaver. We were lucky to see both the black bee-eater and the black-headed bee eater, but no nice pictures of them sadly - @Kitsafari got some wonderful ones, however.

 

And what do you know,  we even inadvertently managed an anomalure??  Whoa!! We had no expectation of a hard to get one like that at all! :o  In fact, I almost didn't post the picture and Dave almost didn't send me the pic because it did not meet his exacting photo standards! So glad that he did and that I decided to put it up anyway. You are a treasure, Rob. Beecroft's or otherwise, we'll take it :D 

 

I really do think Gabon is a unique place with the most dizzying array of extraordinary wildlife, and hopefully, as more tourists trickle in, they will develop a culture of tourism and tourism-hospitality. If not, the Chinese companies are already there, deep in the rain forests, chopping and logging away. These logging roads are giving locals more access to bush meat and poaching will def increase too. We have to help be the eyes and ears on the ground, we really do.

Edited by Sangeeta

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