Tag Archives: lagoon

Pink Hippo Sighting

First of all I have to start this blog post with a very random side note. I can not think about the pink hippopotamus I saw without my Dad’s most infamous joke popping into my head. It’s one of those jokes that he loves to tell, but nobody wants to listen to more than once, so if you ever see my Dad be sure to ask him about it, he’ll be over the moon to have a captive ear ūüėČ

Anyways, now onto the actual blog post…the other day (hahaha, actually a couple of months ago, I’m just so terrible at updating this blog that I didn’t get around to posting this yet…whoops) I was at Colas beach to go 20150626-IMGP5784for a walk (as I do quite often) and I wandered down to the lagoon. I started taking some pictures of the beautiful lagoon separated from the ocean by only 10s of feet when I heard a noise. It’s an unmistakable noise if you’ve ever heard it before, the sound of hippos talking (if you’ve never heard it please do yourself a favor and have a listen here, it makes me crack up every time I hear it). I immediately swing back around towards the main lagoon and in the distance in the middle of it I can see them! The ears and nostrils of a few hippopotami are visible just above the water.

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I move around the side of the lagoon and crouch down near some bushes. Slowly I see hippo heads popping in and out of the water. And then I realize that one of the hippos, the largest one that I can see, appears to be pink! Now I’m really fascinated. I sat down and for the next 20 or 30 minutes I just watched the hippos hanging out in the lagoon, moving around a bit and talking to each other. It was really amazing to just sit and watch and listen to them.

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After getting my fill I stood up and started to wander back to the car, but not before spotting a bee-eater watching me from a tree branch over the lagoon. Somebody’s always watching you around here it seems ūüôā

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And for any curious minds out there, I did a little research into my pink hippo (why he’s pink) and found out that most likely it’s leucistic. Leucism is a condition where an animal has total or partial loss of pigmentation in the pigment cells (for hard core science nerds, it’s due to a defect during differentiation of the pigment cells or problems during migration from the neural crest to skin, hair, or feathers during development). The difference between leucism and albinism is that albinism only affects the melanin producing cells where leucism can affect all types of pigment producing cells. Leucistic animals don’t have red eyes.

Gabon Road Trip and Volunteering: Fernan Vaz Gorilla Project

From¬†May 21st to May 25th Teun and I (and a group of other volunteers from Yenzi) volunteered our time to help out the¬†Fernan Vaz Gorilla Project¬†(or Le Projet Gorille Fernan-Vaz in French). It was an amazing experience and I’m so happy we were able to be involved!

The Fernan Vaz Gorilla Project is an educational and rehabilitation center for western lowland gorillas in Gabon. You can learn more about them on their website: http://gorillasgabon.org/. They have 2 islands in the Fernan-Vaz lagoon that they work from, 1 if for orphaned gorillas (usually because of the illegal bushmeat trade in Gabon) that they aim to release back in the wild once they are healthy and old enough, the 2nd is an educational center that is home to 4 adult gorillas that can not be released into the wild because they are too dependent on humans for food (these gorillas came in 2001 from living in a research facility in Gabon) and the aim is that these gorillas will help promote great ape conservation through education and eco-tourism. We went to help make improvements (building a jetty for boats to dock on and repair to the gorillas enclosures) on the 2nd island to make it more feasible to bring tourists to view these magnificent animals which will raise the funds needed for the rehabilitation center.

But to get to the Fernan-Vaz was an IMGP2724-203adventure in and of itself. It started with a ferry ride through the Ndogo lagoon, which is simple enough except that the cars had to go on a separate ferry than all of us, one which took much longer than ours. IMGP2829-208So the day before we actually left Gamba, we sent our cars out on the ferry. One of the volunteers and his son went on the fast ferry the same day and then camped overnight with the cars. The rest of us left in the wee hours of the morning of the 21st and took the fast ferry (1 hour versus 5 hours) and met them on the other side of the lagoon. Now the real fun began.

We spent the next 6 hours driving through beautiful forest towards the Fernan-Vaz lagoon. IMGP2843-209The roads started out pretty good, well maintained laterite that we could keep up a good pace on. But after a couple of hours and turning off of the main route, the road got IMGP2857-210quite a bit worse and in some areas our pace slowed to a crawl. I loved every second of it!

 

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Stopping at a check point before entering the Rabi Complex. Luckily we didn’t have to wait too IMGP2899-213long, some of the volunteers that were driving up later in the day had to wait a couple of hours before being let through

 

IMGP2906-214Still not too bad, but to pace was pretty slow through this area

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived around 4pm and began setting up camp in a field IMGP3053-227 near where the boats would pick us up from to get to the island with the gorillas.

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We had a nice, short hike through the woods down to the boat the next morning and even found some new friends

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We divided into 2 groups, one that would make the repairs on the gorilla enclosures and the other that would build the jetty. It was really hard work, and for the most part I’m not sure how helpful I was being that I’m almost the least handy person there is (but I learned how to mix cement several different ways and I’m a pro a carrying around pieces of wood LOL), but together we really accomplished a lot and made some huge improvements to the island.

Team Jetty hard at work:
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Our well deserved lunch break

 

 

 

Team Gorilla Enclosures just monkeying around:
IMGP3103-234 IMGP3105-235¬†So the young male gorilla wasn’t really happy the team was working on his transfer cage and showed his frustration by IMGP3106-236continually running up the door (the only thing keeping him away from the team) and slamming tree branches or his body up against it. His care taker protected them by standing inside the cage and banging a stick back at him. IMGP3144-240All in all I think they had a pretty relaxing time…until he actually broke the door. Don’t worry…no gorillas were injured¬†in the process… ūüėČIMGP3242-246

Heading back to camp on Day 1:

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I don’t think the gorillas were very impressed by our effort

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IMGP3043-224After we got cleaned up a bit (as best you can with camping shower bags and face wipes…) we went out to dinner the nearby town of¬†Omboue. It was in a beautiful restaurant above the water.

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Our beautiful finished jetty.

 

 

 

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It even functioned properly!

 

 

 

 

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On day 2 the children of some of the volunteers came for a visit

 

 

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On day 3 we came back to make some final adjustments to the jetty and walkway


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And say goodbye to our new friends  IMGP3224-245IMGP3459-274 IMGP3478-275

 

Again, he just doesn’t seem impressed by the quality of work… He was actually scraping the paint off with his fingernail, it was pretty unrealIMGP3485-276 IMGP3501-277

After leaving the gorillas we got to do a little sight seeing nearby and were put up by the owners of Loango Lodge in thanks for our volunteer efforts, but you can read all about that in the next blog post!

 

For now, bye, bye from Kolo and the gangIMGP3518-279

Camping in Gabon

One of the, many, things we wanted to do while here in Gabon was to go camping. And we just did our first trip! We went with a group of 9 people (6 adults and 3 children) to Pointe Pedras. A scenic beach right next to the jungle. The ladies went earlier during the day and set up the campsite, the men joined after work. The drive to the campsite is a bit different, first so20140313-IMGP0899me tarmac, then laterite and finally sand. Going from a plain landscape through dense bushes which try to hide the path going to the beach. Soon after our arrival and some walks on the beach the prep work for dinner started which actually means gathering wood to build¬†a fire for¬†BBQing (and keeping the elephants away). Everyone brought some delicious items which were BBQ’d and accompanied by various salads etc.¬†¬†Then the night falls and a beautiful sky full of stars appeared. Also making it pitch black dark and very difficult to see your surroundings. This is not a bad thing if there weren’t any elephant tracks and manure around us….they are 20140313-IMGP0909around us and are very difficult to spot but before you know they are right in front of you! Before bedtime we did a little walk on the beach and found fresh hippo tracks but didn’t hear anything. Unfortunately the¬†hippo had set off, probably annoyed about the people sitting around in his spot….. Before we all gracefully retired we put some extra wood on the fire, just to make sure we wouldn’t be surprised by a nightly visit of an elephant which will start shaking the tent, or trampling us. That is the reason we bought¬†a roof tent….20140313-IMGP0927

After a hot and some¬†what humid night, resulting in a sweaty night of some sleeping and mostly¬†avoiding touching each other. We don’t need more body heat! The true beauty is when the sun rises and you can hear the monkeys in the trees jumping around with some parrot noises here and there.

We decided to get up early and 20140313-IMGP0912walk to the lagoon and hope to see a surfing hippo or maybe an elephant. They tend to go out early to avoid the direct sunlight, or for that matter the people trying to spot them…. unfortunately no signs of wildlife at this lagoon.20140313-IMGP0919 After a delicious breakfast containing fresh coffee, cinnamon rolls and scrambled eggs and some monkey entertainment we decided to walk over to the other side. There was a breakthrough where the river flows into the ocean this provides an interesting interaction between the salt and freshwater and brings in nutrients for the saltwater species. 20140313-IMGP0921Usually a good fishing spot or an easy way for wildlife to hop between the two. We spotted elephant and hippo tracks, but again the animals were probably hiding in the woods.¬†Unfortunately no wildlife, most likely because of the sun starting to burn quite hot, it is the equator after all. We knew they were around, fresh tracks gave away their presence but didn’t reveal them as the tracks ended in the water where they wandered off…

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After the walk we sat down and watched the children play. The little girl in the photo, Liefie started to practice her surfing skills and balance. She must have some Australian bloodlines.

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There will always be an end, also for this trip. We packed up the stuff and only needed to take down the swing, which was knotted up to the tree….

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