Loango National Park Gabon – Hosting Guests at Akaka

My Gabon Experience – Part 5

Continuing my adventures in the Loango National Park in Gabon, this story tells of a small adventure that took place at Camp Akaka, where I hosted guests in one of the wildest most beautiful parts of the world that you could ever imagine.

Camp Akaka is a 3,5hr boat ride through the Iguela Lagoon to the Ngowe River, where you have to soak your head in water in respect of the river god for a safe passage. Sorry I forgot the name of the river god. The boat ride up the Ngowe River has to be the most spectacular journey you will ever take in your life. (See some photos near the end of this story)

River god ceremony
River god ceremony

Journey 1 to Camp Akaka

To begin this story, I originally only went with Jannie and a few other staff members to Camp Akaka to sort out some building and maintenance issues. We needed to put up some new staff tents that would be used for the overflow of a few guests who would be going there shortly who refused to share a permanent safari tent.

For this we needed to also install a toilet, shower and basin urgently, which would then also be available for the staff to use. They’d have a kitchen soon enough too.

Forest site
The site for the bathroom on day 1 – BTW – that’s the now famous “Roggaire” on the right
Wooden Platform
The brand new staff platform that would house some tents and a kitchen for them

The boat ride to Akaka was rather pleasant, with hundreds of rosy bee-eaters, Cassine spinetails, a few Pied kingfishers, Giant kingfishers and many species of egrets and herons. I so badly want to be able to go up the Ngowe River to Akaka and just have the time to take photos of birds one of these days. It’s absolutely beautiful.

We saw a few elephants along the way and even one swimming across the river in front of us. We caught a glimpse of a buffalo in the flood plains and even saw a python resting in a tree, but impossible to photograph.

Swimming elephant
Forest Elephant swimming across the Ngowe River, almost completely submerged

Jannie and I decided we were so tired after being driven around in the boat all afternoon that we needed a sundowner beer on arrival. We enjoyed a few drinks in the tranquil setting and Jannie cooked all of us a delicious dinner. It was an early night to bed, as we had to labour a bit the next day.

Camp Akaka
The view of the new deck, and living area at Akaka when arriving by boat
Deck shot
The evening view from the deck

Early the next morning I awoke to the sounds of the African jungle with a myriad of bird calls, some distinguishable to me, some not. Forest elephants were screaming the odds some way above our camp and some monkeys (I’m still trying to learn the different calls) were hollering just above my tent. I was in paradise.

Safari Tent View
The view from my safari tent over the flood plains where 2 rivers meet
Toilet
Nothing fancy, but running water miles from anywhere is pretty impressive in these parts
Shower
Proper cold water shower. There is a plan to provide hot water too.
Safari Tent
Camp Akaka Accommodation is a basic safari tent, but comfortable with electricity, beds, cotton linen and running water
Safari Tent
One of the tents from the river – terrible photo with my phone

My little Utopia collapsed soon after my first cup of coffee, as it was time to start building and repairing. Working in that environment doesn’t have it shortages of a few injuries to hands and feet, plus large quantities of sweat, many different bites from mostly spiders, mosquitoes and tsetse flies, which are the most irritating of all.

As per usual, when you’re stuck out in the jungle far from anywhere, things go wrong, materials break and we need to call on our MacGyver skills,  and luckily for us  Jannie and I are very skilled in this department.

We accomplished a lot during the day with building, plumbing and general repair work. But, because we were short a few crucial items (only because they were faulty to begin with) I would have to venture back to Loango Lodge to get more supplies.

Drilling Wood
The wood is so hard it smokes like crazy when drilled. Drill-bits break, so they use nails to drill the holes and then hammer in massive nails
Pit Hole
The pit for the loo
Outdoor bathroom
Day 1 and this outdoor bathroom completed from nothing – see first pic in this post – amazing
Outdoor bathrooom
Full bathroom in one’ish days with running water – toilet, shower, basin
Small Safari Tent
A smaller safari tent under the platform for the overflow of guests, soon to be staff accommodation

Jannie was staying on as there were stilI a few things he wanted to do, so “Roggaire” and I headed back to Loango Lodge. We arrived at night, only to be told by Matthieu that I would be heading back again in the morning with a family of four. Actually I offered, because there really was nobody to assist the trainee we were sending through. it just wouldn’t have been fair on her or the guests.

N staff were at the lodge because there were a couple of deaths in the village and because just about everyone is “related”, quite a few staff members were off on compassionate leave, which could last any length of time. No one was quite sure, hence me and the new trainee heading off too Akaka

Journey 2 to Camp Akaka

The next morning I collected the supplies we needed to complete the maintenance, which was a mix and match of whatever I could find in the storeroom. The rest would have to come from Port Gentil with the next transfer.

All the food, drinks, linen, loo paper (highly important where the big green leaves are generally infested with ‘biting’ ants and are therefore an unsafe alternative), petrol, diesel and fresh water was loaded into the boat and we headed off for a long day trip to Akaka. I was looking forward to spending some time with the guests enjoying a slow meander up the river and not having to race there and back to finish a job.

Entrance to Ngowe River
Pink-backed Pelican landing at the entrance to the beautiful Ngowe River
Ngowe River
The beautiful Ngowe River

We saw some cool birds again as well as a very chilled slender-snouted crocodile chilling on a horizontal tree trunk. I still didn’t have my “nice” camera with me so I didn’t really take too many photos of birds. In fact I took none, sadly!

Slender -Snouted Crocodile
Slender -Snouted Crocodile

We came across an elephant having just exited the river. The guide drove our boat fairly aggressively directly towards it. This was a good teaching moment from me to him, to learn how to approach elephants and other animals on the river without frightening them and / or stressing them out. Eventually when the boat was side on and not directly aimed at the elephant, it relaxed and the guests got in a good long sighting and took some memorable photos.

Forest Elephant
A lone elephant the guests got to enjoy for quite some time
Forest Elephant
Forest Elephant feeding on the river bank

Arriving at Akaka, I assisted with the last few maintenance issues before Jannie had to leave. Trying to finish everything off in a hurry seemed to put us a hundred steps backwards, due to even more faulty fittings that left us without any running water. Rogairre managed to tie some rubber tubing around the fittings to the guest tents and we only leaked a small amount of water. The kitchen had no water at all. This proved quite a hindrance during the cooking process, let alone the dish washing constraints.

Next thing I knew it was time to start preparing dinner for the guests. Having been a bit concerned about the chef’s lack of kitchen preparation time at Loango, I decided to give myself a few hours to get the food ready. Mainly because I was petrified I’d cock it all up.

Kitchen
The kitchen before the sink was removed to be repaired, which then became really broken
Washing Dishes
Dish-washing duties with no sink – terrible!

Next thing I knew it was time to start preparing dinner for the guests. Having been a bit a concerned about the chef’s lack of kitchen preparation time at Loango, I decided to give myself a few hours to get the food ready. Mainly because I was petrified I’d cock it all up.

I obviously created the most tantalising beef curry anyone’s taste buds have ever had the privilege of encountering. Dessert was somewhat of a disappointment I have to say – fried bananas with some sugary caramel I tried to make out of white sugar. It’s the first time I tried to make caramel ju and it showed, because the guest’s faces when I dished up this plate of blandness were one of boredom and disappointment. Luckily the 16 year old son was so hungry he loved all 4 of the portions.

We actually had a pleasant evening watching elephants from the deck just before sunset and a mixture of Rosy bee-eaters and Cassine spinetails swooping on the insects above the water. The guests later went on a crocodile tour, of which there are many that can be found in the spotlight in the Ngowe River.

I must say lunch the next day was a hit with some “grilled” (a.k.a. baked and sautéed) lemon and herb chicken with a smashing dessert of tinned peaches and Gabonese waffles.

After lunch we packed up the camp and made sure it was spotless for when Sylvie would return, because like I mentioned in my previous post, she doesn’t take sh1t when it comes to cleanliness.

The Bar Area
The bar area
Dining Room
Inside dining area if there are too many mosquitoes outside on the deck

Heading back along the river we saw a few more elephants and buffalo’s and the scenery as always was spectacular. Arriving at camp after about the 3,5hr journey, I was shattered. I have a new found respect for our camp staff that have to make wonderful experiences for our guests with very few ingredients and tools. Luckily the Ngowe River at Akaka teams with life in the dry season, making life a little easier when you already have excited guests.

Check out my next adventure in Part 6.

If you have any questions or want to know more about Travelling in Gabon, please leave a comment below, thanks.

Warm regards,

Matt

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