Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Beyond the Gorillas

In subsequent days we explored the region by boat, in Range Rovers, and through guided walking tours.  By now, anyone who has been reading this blog may have a good idea why a person comes to tour Gabon: mainly to see animals that are found nowhere else in the world.  Forest elephants, sitatunga (a rare antelope) red river hogs, mustached guenon (monkeys) forest buffalo, slender-snouted crocodiles and of course, western lowland gorillas all live only in the Congo Basin.  For our group, it is an opportunity to not only capture footage of these animals in one of the most unique African ecosystems, but to also add them to an ever-expanding personal species list.  On this trip, our last count was 96 types of animals spotted, including more than 70 different birds.

The black-headed bee-eater is on just about every serious birders top ten list, and again, can only be found in this part of the continent.  Our guide told us some people literally cry when they see this bird, especially if it is the last one on their world wish list.  I'm certain I did not get emotional when I saw it, but I do recall wondering what we were having for lunch.  I will sometimes cry if tater tots are on the menu and discover the person who ordered right before me got the last available dish.

We also saw evidence of the elusive chimpanzee, finding several nests and hearing distant vocalizations, but never actually getting a glimpse of our closest living relatives.  We visited a chimp research facility in Loango National Park, where staff have been working for years to habituate one large group.  Unfortunately, this program does not have a tourist component yet in place, so a guided visit to the chimps was not an option.