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Wow - i'm so enjoying this TR which brings many flashes of memories from Gabon, but this CCC seems to have organised it down to a T. I'm amazed at the "wet walk" in the bai - never seen that before. how did you get the shoes to dry in time, or did they provide boots, or were you prepared with another pair of shoes?


Lango camp looks absolutely incredible with the prime view of the bai. 

Very much looking forward to your Sangha experience. 



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“And you’re OK with this?”   That was the question Terese would get as we shared with friends and family our plans to visit the Congo basin.  Trekking through the jungle, wading through swam

1/7  Jupiter’s Group – Up around 4:30am.  Being our first morning we didn’t have a routine and we didn’t get to breakfast until just after 5:30. But, we were still ready to roll by 6 as planned. 

1/5 – NBO to BZV 5am flight out of NBO.  We were early enough to ‘politely’ wake the immigration agent to get into the gate area.  Our Ethiopia Air flights were on time, planes clean, food good,

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 @Treepol – We certainly have been fortunate in our transfers, both on this trip and others.  In part, our fortunes are built into the overall itinerary: while we didn’t know how we’d get to Lango, we did know there were a variety of ways to get there.  As Clem got to know us, he felt comfortable putting us in kayaks with little more than a ‘how are you with paddling?’  Another example of the benefit of not just a competent guide, but one that really does get to know you as more than just clients and truly enjoys making those adjustments that really add to the overall trip experience.


@AKR1– Great to hear the videos are helping to bring the narrative alive and the listing of clip length.  This is my first effort posting any kind of video anywhere.  I learned on the first batch that anything over 60 seconds better be very, very compelling.  I welcome any feedback to help make the TR and links better for everyone.


@Kitsafari – We were very pleased with our experience with the CCC.  As the only concession in Odzala they are able to curate the experiences without concern for competing with other services.  The relationships between locals, researchers, park personnel, conservation organizations, and the CCC appear to be the epitome of Eco-tourism.


We bought shoes specific for this trip.  I hope this isn’t a violation of ST, but we chose Astral.  We’d never heard of them but with some research learned they specialize in footwear for wet environments.  The ones we chose had solid soles, drain holes in the toes and mid foot, had no coating or waterproofing, and had no insulation; though there was some padding around the ankle.  We opted for over the ankle style but most of the time only laced to the ankle.  These were the only shoes we had for all activities from flying to and from, to tracking and trekking, to paddling and wading.  We did have flip-flops for camp.  Combined with a thin, synthetic socks they were comfortable wet or dry, though they would dry in the sun in about an hour.  We would highly recommend them and will use them again for any similar environments.


Lango is a conundrum.  We would have enjoyed another day or two there.  It’s beautiful and we know there is so much more to see.  That said, we both agree we wouldn’t give up any days at the other camps…  another reason we’ll need to go back along with adding Gabon😊


@Sangeeta – Apologies for not responding sooner.  The CCC camps (lodges really) and Sangha lodge, in their own way, are every bit on par with Greystoke, Mahale and Chada, Katavi.  They are not inexpensive.  Being the only concession allows them to charge a premium (worth it in our view) sufficient to build and maintain the facilities one would expect given the cost.  We suspect the upkeep is significant and building anything less would be fraught with costly challenges not the least of which would be regular replacement facilities of less quality.

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1/12 continued – Up the Sangha River


The Sangha river…  Where to start?  It is wide, shallow, and smooth to our eyes but with roils here and there to indicate sand bars or other impediments below the surface.  It’s milk chocolate brown bordered by lush, dense, and vibrant greens.



In places the forest seemed to grow straight out from the river.



And in other places it hung suspended on vines, indicating how high the river can be in the wet seasons… a full 12 feet higher!



We traveled in an aluminum, flat bottom skiff with a 40hp outboard motor.  Even with earplugs there is a constant ‘hum’, but it becomes gray noise that we didn’t really notice except when stopping and starting.  It had two bench seats: we opted to sit on our PFDs for cushioning instead of wearing them.  It’s open with no wind screen so we enjoyed a constant and refreshing breeze. There is a sun cover… crucial!!!



Between the wind, motor noise, and earplugs there was little to no conversation.  The view was forever changing and forever the same.  Time seemed to be suspended.  There was almost a sense of isolation/meditation riding in the boat and seeing the forest pass by us.  There is time for the mind to wonder, to reflect.  Any connection to Kabo, Odzala, or Brazzaville slipped further from us with each bend, sandbar, village, and the never-ending wall of green between river and sky.


We made 4 or 5 stops along the way at police checkpoints and for immigration control.  We didn’t take pictures of the villages or any close-up pictures of residents.  In some cases, we were told not to.  In other cases, we simply weren’t comfortable.  That said, we couldn’t help taking this image from a checkpoint office when the officer stepped out… not a fancy office, but well organized and a pretty good view from the window. 



Passing through the checkpoints was smooth as far as we could tell.  We don’t speak French, so don’t know what was actually said.  But the process is pretty consistent crossing boarders whether at an airport, land crossing, or traveling upriver.  Our captain, Blase, knew where and who we needed to see, the process we needed to follow, and for the most part seemed to be known by the officers.  All stops were fairly similar:  coast in to the bank between people washing, fishing, kids playing, pirogues, and such; tie off to a root, branch or similar on a moderate sloped high bank; walk 50 – 100 yards to the checkpoint, smiling and waving to the kids as we became the object of their attention; wait a few minutes for the official to arrive, review our papers, and have us sign the book; then back down the slope, into the boat, and on up the river.


We did vary from the above process on one stop.  With all of the excitement of the Minister staying at Mboko and having breakfast at Lango, we were dispatched without lunches.  We had water from the plane but no food.  We think it was in Malongo we walked through the town to a store where we were able to buy some snacks.  We’ll be recommending to CCC and/or Sangha they consider extending time in one or more of the villages.  While we haven’t sought cultural experiences on other safaris, this is still so raw and natural, i.e. not a commercial boma created for tourism $, that in retrospect we would have enjoyed taking some time to interact with the people.


Common view along bank, particularly as we coasted into checkpoint villages



View of kids playing on an island from one of our checkpoint stops. 



Typical tie in point… just noticed the cushion on the seat next to the motor.  Oh well, the PDFs were comfortable enough.



Here and there along the shore there would be a break in forest where a home or two stood.  Some were inhabited and some were vacant.  Many along the river are semi-nomadic hunter/gatherers that move in and out of these home sites depending on the season.  Again, we were advised not to take pictures without first getting permission.  From the boat this meant holding up the camera and pointing at it.  If they waved an OK, we could shoot. 



If you look at a map, you’ll the Sangha river is the border between the Republic of Congo and Cameroon where we put in at Kabo.  Shortly after the first checkpoint stop in Bomassa is three corners.  This is where the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and Central African Republic converge.  Continuing upriver and leaving the RoC behind us, Cameroon remains on the left and CAR on the right.  There are no stops on the Cameroon side, though the largest town we saw along the river was Libongo. From the view and what we learned later, among other things, Libongo is a lumber town with a sizable mill on the river.  Quite a way further and just prior to Malongo the river is no longer part of the border, flowing now entirely in the CAR.  While the views don’t change, I felt this as another step deeper into the wild.


As we passed by Bayanga there was relief and excitement.  It was now approaching 5 hours on the river, stops notwithstanding.  It simultaneously seemed to have been an eternity and a blink of the eye.  All thoughts and searching now turned to Sangha Lodge.  The lodge is tucked into the forest and rooms positioned so well that it is very difficult to see unless you know what you’re looking for and where. 


We put in on a sandy beach.  From there we crossed a small river by hand ferry, walked up a slope and covered stairs, and were greeted with cool juice, wash cloths, and a team – FAMILY – of people that make Sangha Lodge one of the absolute standout camp/lodge experiences we have had in Africa.





Facilities are welcoming, open, well placed for enjoying the views and built to blend with the forest.  The community dining, lounge, library, and viewing space is at the top of the stairs coming up from the ferry.  Great location as we welcomed the cool drinks and wash cloths each day we returned from our excursions.  A trail continues up the slope providing access to each of the rooms.  They have been replacing the old rooms.  We were in the new #5:

Our room’s viewing deck.



Note the full wrap screens for viewing… they are still very private as the back is solid and there is dense forest between cabins.

View in from deck.



View out



View of back from trail



Ensuite with on demand(ish) hot and cold water.  Sometimes the hot water needs to run for a bit to make it from the ‘boiler’ to the room, but for the most part we showered in the early evening when a cool start to the shower was quite welcome.



Sangha Lodge stands out for so many reasons, but for us the quintessential difference that sets it apart from all other camps we’ve experienced is Rod, Tamar, Alon, Maja, Tessa, Fulvia, Pedro, Alain, Guylain…  While Fulvia and Pedro may have moved on, I have no doubt Rod and Tamar will seek out and foster the same familiar approach.  It is difficult to adequately express through words the difference, but I suspect it comes down to the passion they all have for Sangha and the Pangolin Project and their desire to share it.  The evening meals included everyone, bouts of malaria notwithstanding:  Rod and Alon missed a couple of evenings.  Conversations ran the gamut and were reminiscent of family gatherings at home.  To be sure, Rod and Alon have a special and quirky sense of humor; but once you understand, it becomes quite fun and entertaining. 


Alain, Guylain, and the entire staff supporting the lodge…  Always smiles.  Always there offering a helping hand, cool drink, or snack.  It was never forced, and we were welcome to go behind the bar or into the cooler if there wasn’t anyone around.  Never needed to.


A toast to Fulvia!  We may make a trip to whatever camp she ends up working at (I believe she was heading for Kenya, but who knows with the pandemic) simply to enjoy her personal hospitality and magic touch with food… fresh focaccia, bruschetta, antipasto, and little touches to meals that took them from very good to memories we’ll recall when preparing our own meals or dining in fine restaurants throughout the world. 


The first example of the personal investment came when Rod learned that we were sent upriver without lunch.  While he had no part in the mix up, it was clear he was personally upset and concerned.  We were fine albeit a bit hungry.  It was too late for lunch, but he moved hors d’oeuvres and dinner up.  And as we learned over our 10 days there, best to self-limit on the hors d’oeuvres because they could be a full and balanced meal on their own. 



We’d had one of the most unique days of travel.  The serene breakfast view over Lango Bai, the arrival of the Minister and her entourage, challenges with the cruiser, quick flight into the sea of green broken by brown river ribbons, up the river, village stops and views, and then Sangha Lodge…  and not a bad view to close the day.



1/13 – Dzanga Bai


Up around 5:30 to enjoy coffee and review of gear for the day.  We’ve always enjoyed our morning coffee on safari but sitting on our private deck looking out over the river was pretty special each morning.  Breakfast around 6:30. We opted to sit out near the viewing deck each morning…



Down the steps, ferry across the river (not the Sangha, the little tributary), and into the cruiser.  Pedro was our Sangha driver/guide.  Clem sat shotgun.  T and I filled the next row of seats for the 20 minute drive up the lodge road, down through two B’aka villages, and down the WWF road to the headquarters just before Bayanga.  At HQ we picked up Christian, our WWF guide; Yaff, our chainsaw man and a dead ringer for a young Wesley Snipes, right down to the wrap around, mirrored sunglasses; and Ayus, our B’aka tracker.  Except for the two days we went upriver for treks in the Valley of the Giants and up the waterfalls, this was the morning routine.


All loaded, off we went for the 1 – 1 ½ hour drive to Dzanga Bai.  The road becomes a track, becomes a vehicle path requiring some clearing every morning.  Sometimes it only required some cutting of branches from inside the cruiser.  Other times it required Ayus get out and trim.



And other times it required Ayus, Yaff, and Christian…



While none of our trips required the chainsaw, there was evidence of old and recent chainsaw clearing. In one place on the spur road to Dzanga Bai we saw where it took 3 days to eventually get the tree fall cleared.  BIG trees, but we'll save that review until our Valley of the Giants trek.


We left our cruiser at the WWF camp at the end of the Dzanga Bai spur track.  We understood the trek to the bai would take around 35 minutes and include some water crossings in the first 5 – 10 minutes.  The prior evening Rod had said the path was smooth and that he’d walked it barefoot on occasion.  I decided, ‘what the heck’ and started off barefoot but with sandals for the section after the water crossing.  I must admit, I loved the idea of walking barefoot through Central Africa/Congo.  It was worthy, but I didn’t do it on our return😊


Ayus looking back to make sure we were staying together, Pedro and Terese next, and then Clem and Yaff.  Note: Pedro and Clem are carrying shoes, Ayus and Yaff are carrying their flip flops, and Terese was wearing her boots.  There is no right or wrong way to do it, as will be shown on our return…



I’d scoured the internet for everything I could find on Dzanga Bai.  I watched video, viewed stills, read reviews.  Nothing prepared me for those last few steps before the platform.  We were told about midway to the Bai that we were to keep talking to an absolute minimum, keep on eye on Ayus for any indication we needed to stop, and that when we get to the bai we were to continue directly to the steps of the platform and up as quietly as possible; no stopping for pictures.


About 5 minutes out we could hear the occasional rumblings, roars, and trumpeting.  Hard to describe the anxious anticipation.  As we weaved through the last bit of thick forest, we started to glimpse clearing and the posts of the platform… and beyond an elephant here, an elephant there, and then as eyes started to grasp what we were seeing - all the time being aware of foot placement and trying to keep moving toward the steps – it wasn’t an elephant here and there, THEY WERE EVERYWHERE! 


https://youtu.be/svRESwoNS6w - 29 second 180* panorama of Dzanga Bai with a great trumpet at the beginning.  Shot wide angle.  The bai is truly huge.


The far, right side of the Bai



Far, left



Far, Center



Mid, Center



Near Center



Most of the day we spent on the platform.  It is spacious, covered, and open.  While it can sway a bit if people are walking around, it is only an issue if shooting video.  The cover is essential for shade.  I’m sure it is welcome in the rain as well.  While we were there it was sweltering at times. If we didn’t have shade it would have been unbearable.  Being open is great for whatever breezes came along, and they mercifully did from time to time.  Being open also means sweat bees (tiny flies) have access.  They don’t bite, but they swarm to the eyes.  At times they were relentless, and we sought cover under head nets, but most of the time it was fine.  In fact, we only remember the heat and the flies because of our notes.


A little after noon we went down to ground level for eye to eye views.


https://youtu.be/K1hRS7nC1rc – This video is 3:06 long (you can skip through if it moves too slow😊).  Audio at the beginning is heavy with wind and shutter snap but soon is replaced with bird call and some fun elephant rumbles and trumpets.  The mineral hole in front was a center of interest and as soon as one gets access, another will push them out.  A group made a bee line from the forest directly to the hole.  You’ll see the mama would only tolerate the calf for a bit, then push it out, but the calf was persistent and got back in while mama remained out to ward off others coming in. Then we were discovered and had to retreat.  We spent close to ½ an hour on the ground.





Racing stripe



Two Tone









A little later in the day a couple of Giant Forest Hogs came into the bai.



Almost forgot the buffalo!?!

In the relative cool of the morning on firm ground



When it heated up they moved to mud.



Sometimes they roamed and mingled with the elephants, but mostly the elephants moved them out.



There were elephants coming and going the entire time we were there.  They are constantly moving, calling, covering with mud, sucking up water and minerals, bullying and being bullied...  It is near impossible to convey the experience.  How many you may wonder?  We counted as many as 155 in the bai at one time.  With them moving in and out I have no doubt we saw over 300.  Later in the trip we will return to Dzanga Bai and will share more information and images.   

What the heck, one more classic view.



At around 3:15 we packed up and headed back.  We were delayed a bit because of elephants on the trail, but otherwise we moved at a pretty good clip.  Our experience walking in helped with footwear decisions going out…

Socks work on the dry in between mud and wet.                                                                       And they work in the water too!



https://youtu.be/WdMl2WRgLew - an 11 second “Disney” moment for Clem… Walking through butterflies along the river. (mostly because it's fun and his mother will be so proud!)


The drive back was uneventful.  We dropped off Christian, Ayus, and Yaff, and then back to Sangha Lodge.  We got back around 5:30. It was still very warm.  We love the western view out over the water, but this also means the room takes direct sun in the evening.  We both enjoyed cool-off showers before heading down to the lounge area for drinks, snacks, and dinner.



A worthy sunset



Tomorrow we track gorilla.  Or, do we?

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This was simply an outstanding episode. What a transfer- while it seemed a long 5 hours down a river on a tiny boat with a noisy 40hp outboard motor, your comment “ it simultaneously appeared to be an eternity and [yet] a blink of an eye “ says it all. A special shout out to the superb Dzanga Bai videos, especially the one at eye level that’s technically superb and allows the rest of us to really experience part of what you saw. Great pictures as well. 
Along with @johnweir excellent report this one now really confirms Sangha Lodge is something truly special in deep, untamed Africa. Thank you again. 

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Correcting Sangha Lodge name
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awesome videos - such incredible sights of the elephants, hogs and buffaloes. your 5-hour ride on the water might have been noisy but it was first class compared with what we had in Gabon. I would have felt completely safe. 


sangha lodge sounds just perfect. and thanks for the info on the treks to and fro the bai. socks, or crocs seem the way to go!

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@AKR1 – Thank you.  I’m about 1/3 of the way through @johnweir Sangha TR.  We’d finalized our trip prior to their trip, and I was off ST until earlier this year.  No doubt his and @optig reports would have driven or reassured our decision to commit 10 days to Dzanga-Sangha and Sangha Lodge.  I’m going to hold finishing his TR until I’m done posting ours so as not to be swayed in my presentation/recollection.  However, I absolutely agree with your assessment that the combination of our TRs should give anyone interested sufficient beta to make a decision and hopefully inspire more people to go.  As John points out, there needs to be more tourist travel to help support and sustain the lodge and the conservation efforts in the area.


There are some clear changes between last May and when we were there in January.  For one, the new rooms at Sangha lodge are almost complete.  Also, it sounds like the building we relaxed in at Bai Hokou (next episode) was under construction last May.  Tremendous infrastructure progress in a short period of time… but another reason more visitors are needed.


@Kitsafari – The noise wasn’t a negative, but for full disclosure in a TR I felt it necessary to let prospective visitors know.  As in most experiences, attitude makes all the difference.  For us, the noise was just part of the experience, not a negative and perhaps a positive as it forced a certain level of isolation and hence freedom to simply observe and let the mind wonder.  


There was never a concern, or incident to cause concern, about security or safety at anytime on our trip.  I’m looking forward to reading your Gabon TR.  Perhaps after that we can have a discussion on support, comfort, pioneering, safety, security, et al as these all impact how we go about exploring, whether it is a first time game driving safari or pioneering areas with little to no tourist history or infrastructure…  if there is such a topic already on ST, please point me in that direction.


Footwear – We took gaiters.  While we found them indispensable trekking mountain gorilla in Virunga and Rwanda, we had little to no use for them on this trip.  Wading was always over the ankle, rendering gaiters more of a hindrance to drying than a protection against water getting in.  The humidity is so high, and it is so warm, that within minutes of the vehicle stopping, and hence losing the convective cooling and drying, we were soaked hat to sock.  We’d thought the gaiters would be useful for keeping debris and insects out, their primary value in Virunga.  But debris and insects weren’t an issue in Dzanga-Sangha.

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1/14 – Bai Hokou and the Mata gorilla group

Today’s plan was to drive the 3 – 3 ½ hours to Bai Hokou and track Mayele’s group.  The morning went as expected.  After picking up our WWF team we headed out the same road toward Dzanga Bai.  Vines and branches encroached, necessitating occasional stops to cut them back.  We were starting to understand the relationship between speed, overhanging branches, branch and vine height relative to the cruisers hood, canopy, and roll bars such that we could anticipate whether we needed to duck, put an arm up to deflect, or simply test our ability to ‘not flinch’ as a branch whips past us.  While I enjoyed the game, I believe it was this morning or the next that Terese decided to shift from the outside seat to the middle seat to reduce potential whipping.  While little to no sun breaks through the canopy we found it practical to wear our sunglasses for protection from insects and debris. 


We had special circumstances that are likely not to be repeated, but that I want to share.  First is that Clem was trained at Odzala by Alon.  So, there was familiarity and friendship along with the stories we enjoyed in the evenings.  Second, with Clem scheduled to fill in at Sangha Lodge in a couple of weeks, he was with us so he could learn the area, people, procedures, etc.  This benefited us in that he understood us from the week prior in Odzala.  The other benefit was Pedro was his primary teacher.  Raised in Belgium, same generation as Clem, and similar guide school experiences contributed to them hitting it off right from the start.  It was almost as if they were long lost friends.  Third, Pedro was interning at Sangha, part of his guiding education.  While he was teaching Clem about Sangha, Clem was teaching him about species, behaviors, realities of guiding, and butterflies.  These combinations provided us with a unique experience and broader insights into our experiences. 


The last mile or two is arguably the trickiest track to navigate we’ve ever encountered.  People pay big bucks at amusement and ORV parks for such rides!  No other way to describe and images don’t do it justice: You’ll need to go and experience it yourself!  Listening to Christian and Yaff goading, challenging, and laughing just added to the overall fun and good humor as Pedro white knuckled us through.  Clem paid close attention as he’d be tasked to make the drive next time.


The Bai Hokou camp is similar to Dzanga Bai’s camp albeit larger to support more volunteers for both research and habituating.  There is a large, comfortable, screened community space we were able to use as we waited for information from the trackers.  Tracking the groups here is more similar to Rwanda and Virunga: There are tracker/observers that radio back to camp to advise on each groups location.  This is also in place to control how many humans are near each group as there are various researchers also viewing.  We originally planned to view the Mayele group.  We learned they had not been found yet this morning and that they had been far out the previous days.  We had the option of waiting or we could switch to the Mata group.  The Mata group was much closer, just a 2-minute walk!  Plus, they were in the bai!  But trackers hadn’t seen Mata himself and we’d likely only see the females and juveniles.  On top of this, evidently the Mata group is the least habituated of the 3 groups and there was no telling how much time we might have with them.  Seeing a silver back is really cool, but simply watching gorillas interacting is very rewarding too.  We also had two more tracks planned.  So, we opted to see the females in the near by bai. 


In addition to having masks, in Dzanga we also washed our hands and dipped the soles of our boots in sanitizer before entering the forest.  I wish all trekking/tracking followed such strict rules.  We had to wait a bit after entering the forest.  Turned out there were researchers with the group, and they had to return before we could continue.  The wait was only a minute or 2 and within 5 minutes of leaving camp we were descending a small hill to the edge of the bai. 


The bai is relatively narrow, maybe 50 yards wide where we were.  Across from us it was bordered by a steep hill, thick with forest.  Farther up it tended to flatten out and curve away, so we don’t know how long it was. Where we entered it was very similar to Dzebi with incredibly lush, green grasses.  Sure enough, on the other side of stream we saw some of the group.  More than that, in the middle of the bai, strolling to our side, was Mata himself.  We would have been quite content to stay where we were and simply observe but the trackers were insistent we follow them through the forest on the edge of the bai for better views of Mata.  We tried twice to indicate we were fine where we were; we would rather observe from a distance than chance chasing this ‘least habituated’ group out of the bai.  Our objections overruled, we followed them into the forest, losing sight of all the group for a few minutes, but coming out a little further up stream where we had a peekaboo view of Mata on our side and the rest of the group on the other.





While the group drifted out of sight, Mata remained visible in the shadowed fringes of the bai.  We enjoyed putting the cameras down and just watching as the dappled sunlight simply wouldn’t allow for worthy images. 


           --This situation is one of the reasons we book multiple tracking days. Knowing we had more days, we were able to simply enjoy watching him without feeling the need to ‘get the picture.’  It is also interesting to observe the trackers reaction to us not shooting.  They kept wanting to move us, we learned later they equate shutter snap with happy clients.  Clem understood we were good just watching and I do think he had to work with both Pedro and Christian to communicate to the trackers that we were content to sit, watch, and simply let things unfold.  Between video, no shutter snap, and using live view screens on the back of the camera it can also look like we aren’t shooting when in fact we are.  Kudos to Clem for helping to manage the communication. --


Indeed, sitting still for a bit, some of the group came back into view across the bai.  We watched them for another 20 minutes or so.  They would feed a bit, move, feed some more.  The adults tended to move only a few steps before settling in while the juveniles tended to be a bit more restless or perhaps less efficient in their moving from spot to spot.  Eventually they moved up into the forest and then up into the trees.




Always fun to see infants clinging, peaking around, and getting a free ride...




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcc1727bfU4 - This 94 second video reflects the activities we observed.  While there is little doubt they knew we were there, they went about their business in a very casual way, not indicating in anyway they were aware of our presence. This viewing was more similar to our time at Dzebi Bai in Odzala than the other tracking experiences, even Ngaga.  About 2/3 in, with audio turned up, you can hear the mama with the baby on her back grunting.



As the group moved into the forest, Mata moved out into the bai.  He looked at us, as if to say ‘I know you’re there… and you are allowed to be here because I allow it’ and then he headed across and into the forest.




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwwosLLRtKM - This 62 second video… is one of my favorites.  You can also hear in the background the trackers ‘tlock, tlock’.  The sound is used as part of the habituation process, signaling no harm is intended.


We had about 40 minutes with them before they all effectively disappeared into the tree.  While we could hear them and occasionally see movement, the darkness of the canopy against the brightness of the near noon sky made it difficult at best.  We agreed the quality of the viewing made up for any 'lost minutes' and started to make our way back to camp.  Along the way we camp upon a mass of butterflies.  Quite a contrast, gorilla to butterfly...



Clem was quite adept at catching, displaying and explaining features unique the each specie, and releasing again.



We followed the same wash/sanitize process going back into camp.  Seemed unnecessary, but Pedro explained that it was easier to maintain the process if it was done both going and coming than just going in. 

What happens to those that don’t follow the rules😊 And in back is the large screened community space.



We then took a walk down a side trail to their natural shower and wash area... and bat hangout.



Pretty crazy, but it wasn’t even noon yet!  There was a small part of me that almost felt like we’d violated some code about ‘earning the view’.  But that was a very small part and we all appreciated how amazing it was to have such a great viewing so close.  We decided to have lunch at the camp.  Christian and Yaff interacted with the camp staff.  Ayus brought out some handmade bracelets, necklaces, and such.  We didn’t have cash on us, but communicated we’d like to see again another day.


Back to the lodge relatively early.  We moved our deck chairs off to a shady spot and alternated enjoying the shade and taking cool showers.  This also gave us an opportunity to catch up on notes, review images, and make adjustments to gear choices for the next day.  Cool drinks, appetizers, and another amazing dinner.  We talked with Rod about the possibility of staying overnight on the Dzanga Bai platform.  This would mean some changes to our itinerary and was contingent on the WWF, but at least the possibility was being explored.  Then off to bed.  Tomorrow we net hunt with the B’aka.

Edited by GBE
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Ufffff!! I just came across your fantastic TR right now!!! I have to confess you it is actually my dream to visit Loango, Odzala and Sangha!!!!  Thank you so much to share this experience with ourselves, it is very much appreciated! :)

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What a great trip this is. Gorilla heavy, but that is no bad thing. And how spoiled have you been?! Sounds so wonderful. 

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@jeremie Thank you for your kind words.  I hope to get back to writing in the next day or two...  only about 1/2 way through with several new experiences to share.  I hope you realize your dreams as the basin is everything and more than we imagined it would be or can convey with mere words and images.


@pault ... we really get "spoiled" on our next day of tracking:-)  

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Can you give us further information about Dzebe BaÏ?

Where is it located and how far is it from Ngaga and Mbomo? How often are they visited by tourists? What is the scientific project there?


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It's a few hours from the camps, on the edge of the park. Hadn't really opened to tourism when the lodges were still opened, but we're planning to.

APN monitors it and has a group of habituated gorillas not far from it.


Amazing trip report, brings me back home while stuck in France😄

Hope you're good!




Edited by Clem
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Recalled this trip report while watching PBS in the US this evening - they had a fascinating segment on Dzanga Sangha. Had interviews with Park Rangers and Rory Young. Recommended if you have access. PBS Newshour July 28. 
@GBE a gentle reminder to consider restarting your excellent report 🧐

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@jeremie My apologies for the delay.  What @Clem stated is about as much as we could have provided.  Prior to our trip I was able to find a mention of Dzebe on a TripAdvisor review, but since your inquiry, I haven't been able to find it or any other.  


@AKR1 Thank you for the PBS lead.  I've built the next 3 days:  B'aka hunting, (Koki) pangolin, back to Dzanga Bai for a day and over night.  Hope to have it loaded in the next hour or so.

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1/15 – Net Hunting with the B’aka


This morning started much like the other days with us driving through the B’aka villages to pickup the WWF team.  Typically, we would see people here and there going about their business.  More often than not we exchanged waves and smiles with an occasional call out between Pedro and someone he knew. Kids would run after us waving, calling out, and trying for a ‘high-five’.  This morning there were many, many people lining the road, all clamoring for our attention and opportunity to be selected for the hunt.  Going on these hunts is coveted for a number of reasons not the least of which is the prospect of catching something.  On top of that, we provide transportation to locations farther out that might provide better results.  Also, everyone selected gets a share of the fees paid to join the hunt.  We didn’t pick anyone up on our way through to the WWF.  Christian decides who is selected and this would be done passing back through on our way to where the hunt would occur this day.


To our eyes the selection processes is chaotic.  With dozens of people out with nets trying to get in the vehicles, Christian had his hands full demanding some stay out/get out while others could get in/stay in.  All the while there are others watching, cheering, encouraging, distracting Christian so others good get back in…  kids running around.  It seemed explosive but everyone seemed to understand how far they could push.  It was a fairly even split between men and women as well as young and old.




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lniumqSvSmU – This 43 second video is primarily of the singing and clapping that started as soon as they were in the vehicles and for the most part continued the entire drive to the hunt site.  The elephant at the end delayed us a bit, but such is traffic in the jungle.




We reached our hunt site in about an hour, elephant delay included.  Christian provided a brief explanation of the hunting process and how the meat would be split if something were caught.  With that, we were off down the track a bit and then into the forest.  There are no trails, unlike the path out to Dzanga or most of the gorilla tracking.  This gave us a much different perspective on how ‘thick’ the forest is.  While visually it is open, i.e. not lush with giant leaves or dense with Marantaceae, the sheer volume of trees and vines made passage a fun and challenging obstacle course, especially at the pace set by the B'aka.

The drive to the hunt                                               Nets up close


The walk up the track                                                                                     Trail-less Forest



We’d asked if we could participate in the hunt and were told we could join in the making of noise to force animals from their freeze to flight instinct.  Nice thought but not practical.  This experience is not staged nor contrived.  The B’aka are there to hunt.  They were focused and moved to maximize their time.  While we may have been welcome to participate, they were not going to jeopardize their opportunity by slowing down or instructing us.  In the end, this was fine.  We had little to no down time between observing, getting explanations on the hunt, learning about the flora, drinking from a tree branch, watching Ayus make net string/rope from a vine, and the list goes on and on. 


The hunting process is a series of stringing the nets, making noise, pulling the nets, and moving to the next spot.  It is amazing how quickly they get nets strung.  While we could only see where two nets came together, they always were at exactly the correct length:  Two B’aka would come into view from opposite directions, hanging their nets as they go, and miraculously meeting and connecting the nets without gaps or excess.  Within minutes of the nets being set they would begin the process of taking them down.  How they could do this without getting them tangled or hung up on branches is amazing.  Per explanation, no single person was in charge; “they all know what to do”.  They went through the setup, noise, take down, and move 8 times over the 2 hours spent hunting.





https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRz6xZ78c3w B’aka Net Hunting – This 1:42 video is a mix of net set and net take down with the shouts and noise in the background.


Throughout the hunt, they are also looking for and collecting other things.  In the below picture we see her net over one shoulder, a collection of leaves in one hand, and a smile showing off her filed teeth…



After the hunt they built a shelter (in about 7 minutes), lit a small fire, and had some fun dancing, clapping, and singing before we all gathered for a group picture.





And a wave good-bye.  One thing that was constant from beginning to end were their smiles…



If we return, we will absolutely hunt again.  Maybe twice so we can be more than passive observers. 


We were back to the lodge by about 1 for lunch.  We then took a short break before heading out to see if we could see Koki, the lone Pangolin under their observation/study.  It is quite warm and humid in the afternoon and we were quite optimistic when we learned Koki might be just a 15-minute walk from the lodge and only about 5 minutes off the road.  That estimate may have been spot on.  It’s a little funny that we probably weren’t more than 100 yards off the road, but the tangled density of the forest slowed us to a virtual (and literal) craw.  That same tangle of forest made shooting pictures a bit tricky, but she afforded us some nice views and a very enjoyable time just watching her move through the branches. 










https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCP1dCwXcF8 - Bracketed with tongue action at the opening and closing, this 87 second video also includes raiding some ants and climbing.  This is one of the more worthy videos...  just saying.



After about an hour she climbed herself into the far reaches of the trees and out of our sight.  The trackers said she likely wouldn’t descend and would be shortly looking for a hollow to bed down for the night.  With that, we headed back to the lodge and enjoyed a quiet evening relaxing on the deck and watching the fisherman below.


At dinner we learned that our request to spend a night on the Dzanga Bai platform was approved for the following day/night: No problem for Rod and team to adjust our itinerary to accommodate the WWF.  We discussed gear and logistics and headed off to bed – marveling at our day’s experiences and with excited anticipation of the upcoming night at the Bai. 


1/16 – 24 hours of Dzanga Bai

We started a little later this morning.  This was good as we wanted to review our gear decisions for the extended stay at the Bai.  And while the routine was very similar to previous mornings, there were some other differences; Namely more gear and trips to load the vehicle and a few more conversations between Clem, Pedro, and Rod on the logistics.  Oh, and time to sit with our morning coffee, watching the fishermen and listening to their singing…



We arrived at the platform around 11:50 am.  While Christian and Ayus helped carry gear to the platform, they left shortly after arrival and wouldn’t return until late morning the next day.  Being familiar with the platform and bai, it took little time for each of us to pick our spot(s) and set up for the day to come.  Around 12:30 Pedro started to set up lunch.  By 1:30 we’d all finished lunch, cleaned up, settled in… and both Clem and Pedro were sacked out.  By 2:15 Terese had curled up for a nap as well.  On one hand, how on earth can anyone squander time on the platform with a nap?  On the other hand, the beauty of visiting twice and spending the night is that there is no sense of urgency to keep watch every second of every minute.


Right up to about 3 it was very comfortable on the platform.  It was warm but with a nice breeze to keep us relatively cool and the sweat bees to a minimum.  But then the breeze stopped, the humidity became stifling, and the sweat bees saaaawwwwarrrrrmmmmmd!  I believe we all opted to wear head nets for a time.  Later the breeze picked back up, the sun was a bit lower in the sky, and it became very comfortable.  We took this time to set up a couple of sleeping tents, a hammock tent, and get our sleeping bags/mats and personal gear situated for the night. 


Life on the platform, in no particular order…







Up to about 5 the activity in the Bai was pretty similar to our previous visit.  Elephants would come and go with a solid 135 – 155 visible at all times.  There was constant activity posturing and scheming to get access to the coveted mineral hole directly in front of the platform.  There were numerous mock battles, ongoing roars and trumpeting, and a constant flow into and out of the various “hot spots.”  A ½ dozen buffalo wallowed in the mud; ignoring and being ignored by the elephants.  Giant Forest Hogs wandered through; not ignoring or being ignored by the elephants.  Actually, pretty funny to watch some of the smaller elephants chase off the hogs. 


The ebb and flow of the bai was non-stop...

going deep                                                        coming up pink                                                        drinking it down



mud can be fun too


how the older kids play



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jbtn8avTxhg - This 60 second video is of the classic trunk plunge, blowing of bubbles, drawing up, and then sauntering off as they enjoy the fruits of their labor.  This process is going on throughout the bai all day, and we assume all night based on the sounds we slept/didn’t sleep through. 


We were enjoying the softer evening light on the bai, something I’d hoped staying over would provide.






Then, at 5:42, Terese called our attention to the left edge of the bai.  A string of Bongos!  3, 4, 5…  13, 14, 15…  23, 24, 25… 36 in all.  They paraded across the bai directly in front of us and well up into the far right end of the bai.  We watched them as day turned to dusk and they faded into the shadows as dark fell on the bai.  What a great wrap to the day.








https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJhDzE8ZReU - Bongo in Dzanga Bai is a 90 second video of them coming into the bai, crossing in front through the mud, and then grouped in a part of the bai with more vegetation than mud.  While your eyes will be drawn to the Bongo you may also enjoy watching, and listening to, the elephants as well. 



Night on the bai is a whole other experience.  Lights are kept to a minimum on the platform.  Dinner after dark is a little tricky without light, but with the Bongo capturing all our attention through the last light of day we thought it a fair trade.  Besides, it was a fun adventure figuring out what we were eating by taste and texture!  In the dark before moon rise there is little to nothing visible.  So, by 8:15 we were all sacked out and listening to the sounds.  Wow!  I suppose there was just as much roaring, trumpeting, and splashing during the day, but with hearing as the primary sense it was really something.  Somewhat by choice and somewhat because of the all-night party in the bai I don’t think any of us got a full night sleep. 


I was first up at around 4:45. The low moon and heavy mist created eerie shapes and shadows.  As day broke, the mist was so heavy there was no visible sunrise and the far end of the bai remained obscured.  We could see 1 buffalo and 1 bongo but otherwise all elephants.  The most evident difference in the morning was that most of the elephants were their natural darker grays and browns.  The few that had a little red or yellow only had a remnant dusting.  There weren’t any in the mud holes either.  But, we witnessed a significant increase in mock battles.

                                  Some battles were in the open.                                                                                              Some were in brush                                                                         



And some were just a little different!



Everyone was up by 6 – 6:30. We broke down the tents while Pedro set up coffee, juice, and breakfast; All the while gazing out over the bai. The sun and mist vied for supremacy for a good part of the morning and it wasn’t until about 9:30 that the mist finally succumbed, and we started to get views across the entire bai.  As the morning started to warm the bongo left, more buffalo came in, colobus could be seen in the forest fringe directly across from us, and the elephants started covering in mud.  It was really fun to watch them enter charcoal grey and over about 15 – 20 minutes completely cover themselves in a vibrant yellow coat of mud.  By about 11 the tapestry of colors in the bai looked very much as it did when we arrived the previous day.  Wonderful to have seen a 24-hour cycle.

The sun would start to burn off the mist                                                                   Then the mist would settle back in                      


And a common view in the morning haze... especially the charcoal gray of the elephants.



 As the mist gave way to the sun and the bai started to heat up, the elephants started covering themselves in mud.  

Enter charcoal...



Exit gold plated...



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukJpF12Zyqw - 'Dzanga from Black to Gold' 78 second video is as the title suggests.  The actual time was about 17 minutes, during which time others came and went.  This process went on all day long.  Some good trumpets on the video as well.



A couple of classic views…

All mudded up and ready for the day



Who doesn't love a cow and her calf...



Christian and Ayus arrived around 9:15. At 11 Christian suggested it was decision time, i.e. stay, and pay for another day, or pack it up and head out.  We were content with our experience and knew we could come back again if we wanted.  Loaded, down the steps, a last glance back, and into the forest.  We did have to pause a couple times in the forest because of elephant activity.  Our final elephant view was while we were wading the last bit of the trail…



We were back to the cruiser by noon, the lodge by 2, showered and seated for lunch by 2:45.  The rest of the afternoon we relaxed in the shade next to our cabin.  Down for drinks around 6 and some great conversations with Rod, Alon, Clem, and Tessa.  Dinner at 7:15 was fish from the Sangha river: As with all the meals it was delicious and prepared perfectly.  Lite conversation with friends during and after dinner was the perfect conclusion to the day.


A final thought on Dzanga Bai – I asked Terese what she found most memorable about our time on the Bai.  To wit: ‘We were there, surrounded by everything that goes on, with little else to do but simply be there experiencing it as each moment unfolded.  There was no urgency to keep eyes alert, yet there were always multiple activities to capture our attention.  This allowed us to relax and simply soak it in… or take a nap… or watch the others on the platform…’  We can’t think of another experience like this on any of our safaris.  


1/18 – “you are so lucky”


Those were Christians words to us as we reached Makumba… but I get ahead of myself.

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Wow, it just look like an amazing experience... Thank you for sharing :) 

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What a sensational Bongo sighting, fantastic!

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@JayRon It was quite a trip and it's fueled desire to explore further in west central Africa.  Happy to share... just trying to figure out why it takes longer to post a trip report than it does to plan and take the trip:-)


@michael-ibk It really was sensational.  It was one of those times when the guides were perhaps more excited than us, and that, in itself, is fun to witness. 

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Superb videos- the Bongo one in particular is just tremendous!  Overnight in the Bai appears to be a unique experience not for the faint of heart. So glad you restarted this Trip report. 

Edited by AKR1
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Such magnificent gorilla photos and the bai is just eden!  Thank you for sharing!

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  • 2 months later...

spectacular sightings and experience immersing in the bush during the night at the bai. woohoo Bongos!


So why were you so lucky? at least hoping for another instalment soon @GBE ?

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@AKR1 I believe staying on the platform will be bookable in the future, reducing the uncertainty of waiting until you arrive.

@gatoratlarge  So happy you enjoyed the gorilla images.  You got me to go back and look at them as just a reminder.  The Makumba images (next installment) are very different, but 'magnificent' in their own right...  I highly recommend watching the video if for no other reason the last 2 to 4 seconds.  It still makes my heart jump.


@Kitsafari To a certain extent our luck comes from opportunity:  Increase the opportunity, increase the potential for luck.  That said, I think any visitors to Odzala or Sangha will have 'luck', as the nature of both parks and the lodges that support the type of safari we describe in this review lend themselves to incredible viewing.  While we'd hoped to see Bonobos, our primary impetus for requesting an overnight on the Dzanga platform was to simple experience the bai from dusk through dawn, knowing both dusk and dawn are the more active periods for most animals.  We've also spent considerable nights "out" while on safari and are very keen on the sounds and smells (We owe a review of our 17 days on foot across the southern Serengeti, Olkarian Gorge to Nasera Rock, and Ngorongoro's rim.).  That said, when T called out to look left to the bai edge and we saw the Bonobos, for sure we were feeling LUCKY!  


Why is it posting reviews takes longer than trip planning or the trip itself?  Alas, I'm posting the next installment now and anticipate the final installment in the coming days.

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@KitsafariI'm chuckling now at my misunderstanding your luck question...  Not luck about seeing the bonobos, but "your are so lucky" in the next installment... Hah!  thank you for tonight's smile.

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1/18 – “you are so lucky”


Back to the earlier 6:30 breakfast/7 start.  After the WWF pickup we headed for the Mongambe research camp.  This is located on a spur road between the turnoff to Dzanga Bai and Bai Hokou.  We arrived around 9:45. Familiarity now with Pedro and Christian contributed to efficiencies and we were on the trail by 10.  We were informed the Makumba group was on the move and that it could be a very long day.  Yay, yay, yay…  We’d heard that often enough and had concluded they subscribed to the ‘better to overestimate and arrive early’ than the alternative.  Whether that was the case, or we moved at B’aka speed, we approached Makumba’s group in a mere 45 minutes.


Makumba’s group is the most habituated of the 3 groups.   Their apparent comfort with our presence made for one of the best gorilla experiences we’ve had.  This was particularly key when we first approached as they were in a denser foliage area.  Here are a couple of peekaboo shots we took on arrival, thinking we’d then simply sit and watch…

400605897_15.001peekabooMakumboGroupRESIZED.JPG.284bdd4d55dedfcab94ca2660d130b39.JPG   1598089366_15.002peekabooMakumboGroupRESIZED.JPG.9bc14425b23a167f39b9a0898ec0c66d.JPG






We seemed to be in the middle of the group.  They didn’t seem to be moving off.  So, we settled in, got comfortable, and enjoyed views of activity on the ground as well as in the trees.  We had a relatively clear view of Makumba, albeit his backside.  But this shows how truly big he is.



We were quite content when, without any apparent impetus, Makumba very deliberatively and without hesitation rose and lumbered toward us.  We weren’t that far away and the speed at which he moved, coupled with our being comfortably seated, set up an extraordinary next 20 minutes.  He first sat in the one spot that provided an unfettered view. 



Shortly thereafter he adjusted his position, while not quite as clear a line of sight, he came much closer.  Rather than backing away, our guides simply placed their hands on our shoulders and whispered to stay down and not move.  All the while they continued their reassuring ‘tic-toc’ noises for Makumba and his group.  There, Makumba sat “with us”, not more than two long steps away…







For 20 minutes he sat in front of us munching on fruit, glancing at us as if to make sure we knew he was granting us audience before him.  


https://youtu.be/MT3ZRnFkpng  This 28 second video is one of my favorites for proximity, sound, and the final look… worth waiting for the last 2 seconds.


As comfortable as we were sitting, kneeling, and crouching while Makumba snacked, we welcomed the opportunity to stand and stretch when he decided to take the group elsewhere.  The elsewhere was out into a small bai.  While we lost track of Makumba, we were treated to an extended viewing of the twins.  Yes, the 4-year-old twins foraged together in the open of the bai for about 5 minutes.  We thought we’d seen one or the other while in the forest, but to see them out in the open was beyond anything we’d hoped for.  This was also one of those times where the guides and trackers were pretty excited too.  Very special conclusion to our viewing as we were approaching our 1-hour time limit with the group.



As we started to back away and turned around, we saw Makumba lumbering out of the forest and into the bai.  Our guides graciously, and perhaps because our path out of the bai was somewhat limited, allowed us to continue watching.  It wasn’t so much that he was particularly close to us. Nor was it that the light was really good and contrast of his darkness against the vibrant green of the bai was near postcard perfect. 



It was what was beyond Makumba…  Forest elephants.  Sitting there in the grass we were watching Makumba in the foreground and forest elephants in the background!  It was about now that Christian whispered, “you’re so lucky.” 




We watched for another 10 minutes or so and then made our way back into the forest.  On our trek back we learned bais tend to be elephant or gorilla specific but rarely both and even more rare is for them to share the same bai at the same time.  Up close snacking, the twins, and Makumba and elephants in the same view...  Yes Christian, we'll concede we were 'so lucky.'  We were back to the research camp by 12:30, had lunch, were in the cruiser by 1:15 and back to the lodge by 3:30. 


The water pump was down, so we weren’t able to shower.  So, we did the next best thing and had G&Ts, beers, and snacks on the deck. 



We (Clem, Pedro, Terese, and I) joked about how bad we smelled but none of us really cared.  It is the nature of days in the basin.  You are warm, wet, and dirty much of the time, but after a while you get used to it.  Water was running a little later and we were able to shower before dinner.  Another great day capped off with another wonderful sunset and incredible meal.



1/19 – Valley of the Giants


We slept in an extra hour this morning.  Rather than driving to our start point this morning, we would motor up and across the Sangha River for a trek through the Valley of the Giants.  So, with breakfast around 7:30 we were down to the skiff by about 8 for the 15 – 20-minute cruise up and right around the corner.  - By the way, this was our chosen breakfast spot pretty much every morning.  Each morning at the lodge breakfast included eggs if requested along with fresh bread, fruit, cheese, meats, and several juices.  Oh, and coffee!  Truly, we eat better and healthier on safaris than we do at home. -



The river was still glassy as we headed upriver.  The community lounge is on the right with one of the older cabins in the middle and our new cabin center left. 



Where we left the boat there really is no trail.  The high bank was worn in places, perhaps from animals or from previous guests.  Whereas researchers, trackers, and guests tromp down and maintain the trails and paths to the bais and gorillas, there simply isn’t enough traffic in the Valley of the Giants.  While our tracker/guide may have seen the route as a path, to our eyes it was virgin terrain.  Early on we learned to be as attentive to sound foot placement as whether we leaned on or grabbed something for balance or leverage.  This was the “jungle” we anticipated prior to leaving home.  As noted earlier, Marantaceae in this area has thorns…



And open areas should not be viewed as invitations to sit down.  Recalling Clem’s explanation of the symbiotic relationship between certain ants and trees, this was a prime example:  Open area under the tree filled with ants and lots of ants on a branch we tapped with a walking stick.

657566134_16.004AntTreeRESIZED(3).JPG.090f017e7ba95d11c2dd67fdcb2e15dd.JPG   1173742432_16.006AntsfromAntTreeRESIZED.JPG.ff5073b9874c2d0719af93bb48be940a.JPG


While we were here to see the Giants, the ants weren’t the only small things to be seen.  From the time we got off the boat we never lacked things of interest: from insects, to mounds, fungus, moss, flowers.  Following are just a few examples.

1402397164_16.006VGinterestingthingsRESIZED(2).jpg.0af50b2b1e964202128ad61bc9dcb2d9.jpg    529267412_16.007VGinterestingthingsRESIZED(2).jpg.1c6b83899bf9285122803b3d57827c9e.jpg




1046958580_16.009VGinterstingthingsRESIZED(2).jpg.4a03b8fdc6495d772d0b7b821d735598.jpg   1930915901_16.010VGinterestingthingsRESIZED(2).jpg.1dafe56655c7ed555b600b65b1967984.jpg   408643234_16.011VGinterstingthingsRESIZED(2).jpg.f727a584d7ea0b3af627614576a05124.jpg


There were narrow chasms between rock cliffs to explore…



That isn’t entirely true as this next image shows…  The 'rock' wall on the left is actually the trunk of a tree!



The trees were getting large, indeed.  This moderately large tree shoots up through the first canopy and is lost in the overexposed light above the second canopy.





The challenge of showing how large, giant if you will, some of these are is that they are so large and the jungle so thick that only parts of the tree can fit in a picture.  Note below Clem and Terese 'hiking' around the trunk of one of these giants.  And below that, Terese standing at the base of one of the buttressed roots of a truly massive tree. 





With giant trees come giant vines.

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A few more images, including one of several cascades and pools we enjoyed both for the sight and sound as well as the opportunity to cool off.






2043879808_16.022RESIZED(2).jpg.afb306b8ab450b06f2b30d82ee1af621.jpg   1413627669_16.023RESIZED(2).JPG.30e902e199587e653e0faf427916f814.JPG


Back at the river we had about an hour wait for our pickup.  Part of that time we watched a column of ants but soon decided it would be advisable to move to a series of rock shelves that extended into the river but still remained under the banks overhang.  Very comfortable and relaxing. 


We enjoyed a mid-afternoon lunch at the lodge.  3 guests arrived: Vivian from Australia, Elizabeth from US (Tessa’s Mom), and Allison from UK.  They met on the flight in from Bangui.  Around 4 we all loaded into the larger boat and motored upriver for about 45 minutes.  Then we enjoyed drinks, snacks, and good conversation for the 75 minutes we floated back to the lodge.   Despite a late dinner to accommodate the sundowner cruise, with everyone pretty tired after a long day of travel we were still back to our room and in bed by 9.


1/20 – Mayele Group

Back to our 6:30 breakfast, but a little different with other guests.  It was fun to see their anticipation and excitement.  They would be heading for Dzanga Bai.  We, on the other hand, were headed back to the Bai Hokou research camp with plans to track the Mayele gorilla group.  The new guests got the cruiser.  We got the local version of a truck for hire.  The owner of the truck drove, Clem sat shotgun, T and I had the backseat, and the rest of the WWF crew and Pedro sat in the bed… Ouch!


2-hour 15-minute drive to the camp.  This included a few stops to clear overhanging branches and take closer looks at butterflies.  We only took enough time to use the facilities and gather our gear before heading out.  When we were here days earlier, we only needed a matter of minutes to get to the Matta group in the bai near camp.  Today we headed out the other side of camp and at a very brisk pace took a little over an hour and a half to reach Mayele’s group.  This trek also included a fair amount of mud.  We found it curious the efforts the guides and Christian went to in order to avoid getting their feet wet or muddy.


As we approached, the word from the research observers was that the group was in a bai.  Jeez, what luck.  But, by the time we worked our way across logs spanning a slough – some of us giving up and sliding down the embankment and wading across – the group had crossed over and into some fairly thick Marantaceae.  While this wasn’t very photogenic, we thoroughly enjoyed our time observing.  Below are a couple of images, most of Mayele but with another adult and a youngster in for good measure.  What was particularly interesting about this viewing was what the group was doing.  For the most part they were all belly crawling along the ground and picking out specific leaves to eat along the way.  Sometimes they seemed to find ‘the’ spot and would stay for awhile until they consumed all within reach.  Then, they would belly crawl on.  Christian explained that they did this because it was more efficient than bending down for each leaf.  It really was fun to watch.  And, it was behavior we hadn’t seen in any of our previous gorilla treks.















We were all so comfortable sitting and watching that I think the guides lost track of time.  We’d been with the group for a good 75 minutes when they let us know we needed to wrap it up.  It took an hour and a half to trek back to camp.  After a quick lunch, walk around camp, and purchase of some bracelets and necklaces Ayus had made, we were back in the truck and on our way.  


Instead of dropping the WWF team at the main crossroads as we had each previous day, we took a drive through Bayanga and dropped each at their homes.  It was interesting and had me thinking I’d like to return the following day to walk through the market.  No images from town.  While the B’aka are OK with pictures, we were informed the residents of Bayanga were not. 


We were back to the lodge by around 3:30, showered, transferred pictures from the last several days, and were down to the lounge by 5.  We shared pictures of the pangolin, bongos, gorilla twins, and Makumba with the elephants with Rod and staff.  Shortly thereafter the other guests returned so we put our pictures away and enjoyed hearing all about their experience at Dzanga Bai.


We had a late dinner and were treated to a visit by the ‘near resident’ civet.  A nice cap to a very fine day.


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See - how lucky you are!


Makumba is so handsome. Love how he clutches the fruits in both hands, and how he glances at you guys to make sure you get his best side.



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