The irony, and perhaps tragedy, of Ivory Coast is that its name implies a huge presence of elephants, while in reality there are very few tuskers left in this West African country. In fact, it is nowadays used as a port where ivory harvested in Central Africa is being smuggled out of the continent. Supposedly, one of the few areas in the country where we could spot the forest elephant, should have been in Azagny National Park. So, when we arrive in Grand Lahou, we directly contact a local guide involved with the park, and the next morning, we are up before sunrise for a short ride to the Bandama river where a motorboat takes us across the river to the park. A dilapidated sign confirms that we have just entered Azagny park, a speck of protected rainforest wedged between the Gulf of Guinea to the south, the Bandama river to the west, and the Ebrié Lagoon to the east.
Our good-humoured and patient guide asks us to be silent, and we walk in line behind him, on a path meandering through the thick forest, under gigantic trees whose foliage protects us against the sunshine. As is so often the case in this kind of environment, the thick vegetation around us also makes it very difficult to spot any animals. Yes, we hear birds, but we hardly see them. We hear animals moving around us, breaking branches and shuffling leaves on the ground, but they never come into our eyesight. Our guide explains about the trees we walk by: especially the related fromager (ceiba) and kapok trees are immense and fascinating. Then, suddenly, light filters through the trees, and when we step over the huge roots of yet another fromager tree, we reach a big open space.
Before continuing our exploration, we climb the wooden stairs to a viewing platform with lovely views. It is clear that the herds of antilopes, buffaloes and elephants are hiding somewhere else. We walk a trail through very high and very green grass. Somewhere in the middle of the open space, we walk through a cluster of trees. Our guide tells us how in the rainy season crocodiles would hide here, waiting for bait, and we see dozens of abandoned nests of birds, made in such a way that the rain cannot enter them (the opening is on the lower side). We do see the footprints of a herd of buffaloes, under the trees on the other side of the field. Back on our boat, we follow the Bandama river, enter the canal that provides a connection with the Ebrié lagoon to the east, and eventually make it to the narrow strip of sand that separates the Bamdama river from the Gulf of Guinea. Here, we find ruins of holiday houses, abandoned, even though on a prime spot. After passing a small fishing village, we stop at surprisingly named Singapur beach. Low-flying dark clouds make for a threatening sky over the wild surf breaking on the golden and empty sands of the beach here. We spend several hours winding down, and relaxing, before we board the boat again and head upstream on the Bandama river, back towards Grand Lahou.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Azagny National Park (Ivory Coast). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Azagny National Park.
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