Since I’m not able to go to Angola to do manatee surveys this month (visa issues), I have a bit more time in Gabon. So I made arrangements to return to Iguela in Loango National Park. I did manatee surveys there for 3 weeks last year and found 4 manatee carcasses during that time. I had to leave the skeletons behind (many thanks to Tomo for making sure they stayed safe!) and wanted to retrieve them this year. I also wanted the opportunity to take some more data on the lagoon, since I now have a depth sounder and a refractometer for salinity readings. Many thanks to Mr. Swanborn, the owner of Loango Lodge, for supporting all my logistics to return for 4 days!
On Friday I flew from Libreville to Pt. Gentil where I met a charter flight direct to Loango Lodge (much better than flying to Ombooue and bumping across the savannah in a jeep for 2 hours!). We flew down the coast and had beautiful views the entire way.
Sandbar just off the coast near Fernan Vaz Lagoon:
Where N’gowe Lagoon meets the sea- the embrochure:
Aerial view of Loango Lodge: The little plane we flew down in, just after we landed on the savannah:On Saturday I went to the north end of the lagoon with an Ecoguide named Armel and surveyed for manatees, stopping to record environmental data along the way. We saw one manatee, several hippos (including a tiny baby wiggling it’s ears as it watched us) and lots of birds.
On Sunday we went south to the Rembo Rabi River, which drains into the lagoon. I went several miles up this river last year, but this time we went way up and now that the rainy season is in full swing, I was able to see the flooded forest for the first time. It is amazing- the river channel was 8 meters deep, the banks are completely flooded and the water in the forest is 1-5m deep! It’s easy to imagine a manatee swimming among the trees, eating fruits that have fallen or overhanging leaves. There were also a few open swampy areas with grasses and other plants they like to eat. We didn’t see any, but I wasn’t really expecting to with the deep water and the enormous area of flooded forest.