View of the kitchen and dining/living room buildings at Langoue Bai camp. All the buildings were built on top of a large open rock clearing, so no forest was cleared for the camp.
The camp is really well done- 5 platforms with large tents, a dining/living room building, an office, kitchen and shower buildings all built on a huge area of flat rock. The first afternoon we took a short walk to a nearby clearing and saw a pretty rare bird, the Picathartes, as well as some grey-cheeked mangebeys. The Bai (which is a Pygmy word for “clearing”) is another hour hike from camp so that most human activities are far removed from where the animals aggregate. For the next 2 days we spent all day at a raised platform at the edge of the Bai. The first day we saw at least 14 forest elephants, 50 red river hogs, forest buffalo, Sitatunga (a type of forest antelope), 4 gorillas and some cool birds including a Great Blue Turaco. The next day there were more elephants and sitatunga, plus a family group of 11 gorillas came in, including several tiny babies riding on their mother’s backs. It’s surreal to be there, you feel almost like you’ve been dropped into Jurassic Park. A researcher from Cornell’s Elephant Listening Project, Peter, is in Langoue for 6 weeks recording elephant vocalizations on Autonomous Recording Units (ARUs) which are the same type of units my colleagues will use to record whale calls in Angola. It would also be neat to see if these units can determine manatee presence in Gabon’s lagoons someday. Elephant chasing Sitatunga out of the water hole.
The viewing platform at the Bai has 3 levels- researchers on the top, tourists in the middle, storage on the lower level. There were so many butterflies everywhere, it was unbelievable. We saw some amazing species.
A civet (rare dog-like African mammal) that we saw on 2 different nights! (Photo by Andrea Dondona)
Carnivorous flower (like a Venus fly-trap). It was about the size of my foot, and Ruth (who has worked in this forest for 4 years) had never seen it before. The biodiversity here is asounding.
Happy campers- Lucy, Viginia and Andrea by a big tree in the forest.
After 3 fabulous days, we walked back out of the forest and got a ride back to Ivindo. Ruth mentioned that some of the guys who worked in the park might know if manatees were ever sighted in the Ivindo or Ogooue Rivers (which intersect near the town of Ivindo), so we went and talked to a few of them. I had previously been told (by others) that manatees were not found east of Lope on the Ogooue because of rocks and rapids in the river, but I had also heard one report that manatees have been sighted at Tsenge Tsenge, which is east of Lope on the Ivindo River. The Ivindo guys also said they knew of manatees at Tsenge Tsenge, and said an old fisherman at Ivindo had seen manatees there as well, but not for about 10 years. They had some other interesting info as well. Now that I’ve seen the rapids myself, I’m sure manatees could swim up them in periods of high water. Manatees in Florida swim equally strong currents going up power plant intake pipes!