Loango National Park Gabon – Let the Real Work Begin

My Gabon Experience – Part 4

Continuing with my tales of life in West Africa and now specifically within The Loango National Park in Gabon and even more specifically at Loango lodge and it’s satellite camps, there was one task that needed seeing to urgently, and that was to go fishing.

Matthieu needed a day off at Louri camp (our satellite camp to Loango Lodge inside the National Park) with his family and so Jannie and I decided we should tag along as there was a tent that needed repairs there and some zips on the tents needed fixing too. I’m now a semi-expert (AKA Fundi) in zip alignment.

This also gave me an opportunity to train a local couple, who we’d decided, should be our permanent camp staff at Akaka Camp in the dry season and Louri Camp in the rainy season.

They no parler Anglais and me no parler Francais! Thank the F-Bomb for Google Translate and some vigorous pointing, sign language and facial contortions, oh and also Matthieu and Jannie who can translate for me anyway.

Sylvie and Rogairre (the spelling is definitely incorrect but “Roger” doesn’t have quite the same French flair) are an awesome hard working couple. Maybe a little (OK a lot) rough around the edges, but In Sylvie a harder worker I have never seen. Rogairre is a happy guy and eager to work where ever needed.

If you mess with Sylvie she will break you, and probably do it while carrying a bed on her back – she’s a powerhouse. Truth be told we’re all a little bit scared of her – especially her husband, I’m sure.

Anyway we set to work organising water into the tank in order to pump to the tower, got the generator working and put the beers in the freezer. We had previously managed to organise some bait for our surf fishing expedition.  A short little boat trip across the Louri lagoon past some inquisitive hippos took us to a small patch of dune forest we had to walk through before arriving at a dot on the 80km long stretch of beach front.

Fish
More bait than we needed – acquired from the local fishermen

We were, in all likelihood, the only people on this whole length of beach at this specific moment in time. Quite a surreal experience! I can only imagine walking there from the lagoon through that forest during the rainy season past a gauntlet of generally aggressive forest elephants will not be for the faint hearted. But, I’m told that the fishing at that time is worth the risk. Hopefully I will soon live to tell that tale.

Loango Beach
North View of the 80km stretch of beach
Loango Beach
South View of the 80km stretch of beach
Kob
Not exactly the biggest Kob ever caught

We fished for about 1,5hrs in which only 2 kob were caught, mine being the smallest and released. Back at Louri Camp I went about with my translating team, training Sylvie on dinner table setup and serving techniques and Rogairre on making sure the aesthetics in the camp were good, like for example, a  panga/machete and a bucket  leaning against the deck’s railing is not that pleasing  to one’s eye.

Next day Matthieu left with his family back to Loango, while Jannie and I stayed to fix the tents. Well what should have been a 1hr job, ended up taking all day, due to transport logistics and needing to eventually replace one whole tent. At the end of it all, Louri looks and is amazing.

Zip Fundi
Zip Specialist
Hanging a new tent
Hanging a new tent
Louri Camp at Sunset
Louri Camp at Sunset

Back at Loango main Lodge I started to clean up the bar, restaurant area and library. I made some changes to the layout without spending any money and I personally think the whole area looks neat and organised. Long may it last!

Bar Area – Before
Bar Area – Before
Bar Area – After
Bar Area – After
Coffee Station – Before
Coffee Station – Before
Coffee Station – After
Coffee Station – After

I created an actual reception area with desk and even a chair – because I’m that good ;-). We are expecting a new assistant manager soon to help Matthieu out with the day-to-day to running of Loango, so I wanted to make a comfortable little nook for her from where she can operate.

Library – Before
Library – Before
Library – After
Library – After
Reception - Before
Reception – Before
Reception - After
Reception – After

I was thinking possibly of taking up a new career in interior design, but that was short lived when Mathieu looked at what  I’d changed and just commented with a “Hmmph, yeah looks ok, not too bad”. My dreams were immediately shattered and I haven’t been the same since. Ok so that’s an exaggeration. 5 minutes later I was onto the next project.

I also went about training the stewardesses after monitoring their performance and work ethic over the last few days. I trained the ladies on meal serving and clearing, table setup and even how to offer drinks, as well as how not to use their phones during service. One major issue – they only speak French, so once again my extreme communication skills were called into action. We all came through it alive and they’ve since improved from where they started.

Ladies in training
Ladies in training
Ladies in training
I think they learned a few things

My other tasks, which are boring to most I’m sure –  included: -creating daysheets for Matthieu to easily communicate guest details and logistics to all the staff, and with the help of Matthieu, stock control sheets for all the stores, par stocks, minimum quantities and ordering capacities for food, drinks and cleaning materials.

I personally even translated every store item from French to English, which was really only for my benefit, but I enjoyed the learning experience. I really do love a spreadsheet as I find Excel remarkably therapeutic – I should probably see a therapist about that.

I created feedback forms that I’ve started emailing to guests once they are back home, in order to get an audit on how were are doing here at Loango Lodge regarding service, hospitality, food, housekeeping,  the guides and the different activities we offer. I have since received 4 and I can proudly say that the team here at Loango has excelled to date. I know there will inevitably be some bad ones in the future, but both good and bad remarks are good learning material for us all.

I’ve added some recipes, but they’re not yet on the menu as they need to be tested. I’ve created a new routine of breakfast specials, so guests can eat more than just the delicious continental breakfast.

Breakfast a’la Continental
Breakfast a’la Continental
Breakfast with a view
Breakfast with a view

My first Breakfast Special was a complete flop – pancakes – with a few different ingredients, but the chef’s recipe is absolutely hideous. So I will need to intervene there. I’ve “invented” a very stylish menu board, so guests cans see what they’re eating, including the type of fish.

Menu Board
Hey at least it’s something

I still have much work to do regarding standards of service and stock controls as well as ensuring our guides can offer the most diverse experiences possible to our guests, ensuring a level of professionalism is at all times adhered to.

Look out for Part 5 in my Gabon Experience series

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

Warm regards,

Matt

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