My Gabon Experience – Part 2
In this second story of my Travel to Gabon Africa series. We discover Lope National Park and take a helicopter flip to the Kongou Falls in Ivindo National Park.
I forgot to mention in my previous post, that RV donned himself a cool pair of motor racing gloves and a kidney belt. The dude was prepared! That should’ve been fair warning to me that we were about to endure not the most comfortable 8hr drive.
Lope National park
Back to my story – we were expecting the first-ever group of guests to be hosted in Lope National Park by ourselves Gabon Wildlife Camps (GWC) and the Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux (ANPN). This really is pioneering stuff and one of the many reasons why I signed up for this challenge and adventure.
So, the next morning we set to work hiring some local village girls to assist us with setting tables, serving and clearing. I don’t think had ever worked before, and after their 2nd day it was clear that their confidence levels had grown exponentially. They thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and it was a pleasure having them help. Next time we get there with guests they will hopefully be available again to help us. My French just needs to improve, as does their English.
Our guests arrived around lunchtime in the Gabonese President’s personal helicopter, which had been leased to them during their entire trip through Gabon. Their time spent in Lope was a full schedule over 3 days and 3 nights. Activities included vehicle Safari’s, Mandrill trekking, a river picnic and swim, as well as an exhilarating helicopter flight to the Kongou Falls in Ivindo, including a very steep 4,5hr hike to the falls and back, which I have to say almost killed me considering I had bulked up to 115kg before coming to Gabon.
Flying around in the president’s personal Puma helicopter was quite lavish to say the least. A road trip to Ivindo would take days and probably have destroyed me in my seriously unfit state. I can’t really explain the feeling of flying over thousands of hectares of rainforest, mostly because I’m a very average vocabulary’ist – you see, is that even a word?
The forests in Gabon are mostly unspoiled, bar the few forestry concessions along the way. These rainforests are occasionally split by massive river systems that arrive spectacularly at the Atlantic Ocean in the form of enormous lagoons, the size of which I have never seen before.
A quick Daytrip to Ivindo’s Kongou Falls
‘We were lucky enough to fly over a sacred place called Langoue Bai, a small opening in the forest, which only houses a sleeping platform for tourists who come to see the large number of elephants that come there for their salt fixes and the freshwater stream. Tourists here get great sightings of forest elephants and western lowland gorillas mingling together in the clearing, along with forest buffalo, red river hogs and even the elusive sitatunga. We didn’t glimpse any animals from the air, but I know it is a place I have to go to for a night or two while I’m here.
We also flew over some beautiful waterfalls that seem to appear out of a forested mountainside, that drop exposed, in all their glory, for hundreds of meters into the pools below that quickly seem to be swallowed up once again by the surrounding jungle.
The Kongou falls which are made up of many waterfalls over about 3km 1,86 miles) at a maximum height of 56m (183ft) are extremely powerful and heavy with flow of pepsi-colored water. I found them to be very impressive and beautifully composed in the jungle’s bright green foliage.
I might have sweated like an underground miner on that walk to the falls and back, but it’s definitely something I would love to do again, maybe even to see a different part of the falls.
Walking through the jungle only focusing on one foot in front of the other knowing there are all sorts of animals watching you through the thick entanglement is really quite eerie. I would like to have had more time to just sit and listen without having to race in and out of the jungle with the time constraints we had, but hopefully next time. Ivindo National Park is wild and I would have loved to have stayed longer to explore it.
The flight back to Lope was pretty cool, even better in fact, because I took a window seat at the back of the chopper seated pensively on the mechanic’s toolbox. This after I realised our cooler box was not strong enough to hold my not so “Petit derriere”. That poor lid will never be the same again. The only problem is I ripped my pants a bit and I think I still have the deep padlock imprint on my left butt cheek from that toolbox.
Back to Lope, and I don’t like to brag, but I’m going to of course. We pulled out all the stops for our guests in our little house, in the middle of nowhere with some very fancy meals, delicious wines and expertly arranged picnics.
I haven’t been on my feet that many hours per day in a row since……well ever. The standing and running around all day cooking, cleaning, lifting, carrying, fetching, well you get the idea, hurt my back like hell and my feet swelled up so much I could possibly have been mistaken for wearing tan coloured ug boots.
Little did I know the pain was going to get even worse when I arrived at Loango Lodge to host a “run-your-bum-off-again” weekend full of film crew and the ever famous Samuel L. Jackson…….
Check out Part 3 for a very cool dude who visits us.
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