You are spoilt with choices for nature destinations in Gabon, especially since the president decided that shrinking oil profits need to be offset by new sources of income and has declared around ten percent of the country as national parks. But not all destinations are easy to reach, and some are very pricey as they involve flights and boat rides. Moreover, we were tangled up in the hunt for a visa for Equatorial Guinea, which made us lose precious time. Fortunately, there is a place not too far from Libreville where we headed on one morning - a 2 hour boat transfer brings you to the end of an estuary, from where a 45 minute drive in a 4WD takes you across the equator on bumpy roads. Here, we found endless white sand beaches, and for once, had all the food arranged. But the biggest draw are the safari opportunities: there is a ride in the afternoon, and a walk in the early morning. It felt great to be on an open 4WD again, scanning the scenery for animals. We drove through dense forests for a while until we reached the first patch of savannah landscape, and quickly fell in love with the latter.
Shiny green grass covers gentle hills, bordered by the tropical forest; even without seeing animals, the scenery is grand in itself. It was overcast on our first drive, and we ended up spotting three small groups of forest elephants. They turned out to be timid: they hurried back into the forest when we approached them. It was quite amazing: we could not even see where they had entered the forest, even though we knew where to look. We must have passed many elephants who were safely hiding inside the forest while we drove by: the protection of the vegetation is perfect. The second day was a bright one, and we only saw elephants when the sun was already down and it was almost night; instead, we saw two buffaloes, and were able to get quite close to them. The views were fantastic, especially at the falaise with views towards the Atlantic, and so was the sunset, and even more, the rise of the full moon over the savannah landscape. We hardly needed lights to drive back to camp at night.
The morning walks were, of course, the best chance to spot elephants, as they are much better at hearing than seeing. At the break of day, we walked out of camp, and were very quiet on most of the way. We came across countless elephant dumps, most covered with fancy, slender mushrooms, meaning that they had passed a while ago. The closest we came to an elephant, were seeing the remains of one, its impressive thigh bones and what was left of its skull. The walk back to camp over the beach at low tide was great. The second day, I was the only one at early breakfast, and my guide took me on a different road than the day before, and we moved even more silently than the day before. At one point, we heard the crashing sound of branches, and it was clear: there were two elephants very close to us. But no matter how hard we tried, we just could not spot them, and their sound moved away, and died. At the same time, high above us, we heard monkeys, but they, too, were invisible to us. The only easy animals to spot are the many birds. We walked the beach again, and crossed a savannah close to the sea - there were plenty of elephant marks, and even panther, but neither could be spotted. And always, I had this nagging feeling that they would be just inside the forest, looking at me while I could not see them. Or perhaps it is true, that the number of animals in this reserve has dwindled because of hunting?
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Nyonié Wonga Wongué Reserve (Gabon). 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 Nyonié Wonga Wongué Reserve. Read more about this site.