Tag Archives: Life in Gabon

Sea Turtles in Gamba, Gabon

Four species of sea turtles occur in Gabon: leatherbacks, green turtles, olive ridleys and hawksbills.  All of these species are in danger of extinction worldwide, with their numbers are declining sharply.

IMGP9082Every year between October and January female sea turtles make their way to their birth place on the beaches of Gabon to lay their eggs. ¬†Gamba is one of their prime nesting sites and we have the opportunity to join local researchers on their nightly walks to monitor the beaches for nesting turtles. IMGP0213As the turtles only lay their eggs at night the walk along the beach (that is home to a variety of other nocturnal animals including elephants and hippos) doesn’t begin before 9pm. And because the bright white light of a flashlight may confuse the turtles this is done
IMGP9129mostly with just the light of the moon and the stars. It’s actually very fun, if you don’t mind walking up to 12 kilometers in sand, and you actually get to see a turtle (mother nature doesn’t always/usually cooperate ūüėČ ).

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my first turtle sighting…a green turtle

IMGP0219Females lay around 50-100 eggs in each nest. ¬†During oviposition (the name for the process of laying the eggs), the turtle enters a kind of trance and is insensitive to disturbance.¬† During¬†this time it is safe to approach a nesting turtle to observe her quietly and take some pictures. This is also when the researchers measure the length of the turtles and put a tag on them (if they don’t already have one) for identification and tracking.

DSC06446Gabon has the largest population of nesting Leatherbacks in the world! These turtles are the largest of the sea turtle species and also the most unique-looking.  They have a soft leathery shell with longitudinal ridges and white spots.  A  full grown adult can measure over 180 cm in length! Last year during a turtle walk with friends I saw one and as you can see from the photos, it was massive!

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newly hatched leatherback

_IMG1496After the female lays the eggs and returns to the sea, the¬†nest incubates for approximately two months, buried in the sand.¬†Due to the fact that the sea turtles are endangered the researchers in Gamba have set up a turtle nursery where they _IMG1591move nests to if they feel that the nest was laid in an area that endangers the eggs (such as in tracks cars drive on). When these eggs hatch sometimes local residents¬†are lucky enough to be invited to see the baby turtles and carry them down to the water to be released in the ocean. It’s an incredible experiance to see and touch these tiny, beautiful babies.

itty bitty olive ridley
itty bitty olive ridley
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Yenzi residents bidding the babies farewell
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going…

 

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going…
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gone…to its home in the sea

It’s Always Exciting in Gabon….Elephants Around Yenzi

20151027-IMGP7609This post isn’t that exciting, just elephants….we obviously live in their habitat and during the year they will occasionally¬†pay us a visit. However, from October toDecember the fruit ripens on the mango trees and 20151120-IMGP8608elephants come with it…The elephants love the mangos and en masse come into camp¬†after sunset during the mango season. They are way more silent than you would expect so there are multiple 20151102-IMGP8039occasions where you, and others, have bumped into them. Often they are equally scared and run away, but some times¬†they are surprised and startled and start chasing you…mostly a bluff charge but it is always a good idea to show respect and run….

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Camping in Vera Plains, near Gamba, Gabon

20150926-IMGP7293Not far from us, hidden between the beaches and the large Ndogo lagoon, is the a beautiful place called Vera Plains. It consists of large¬†sprawling open meadows, dotted with patches of¬†dense forest. 20150926-IMGP7310One weekend¬†we went with a group of friends to camp in one of the prettiest spots in the area, a hilltop that offers panoramic views over the plains, forests and nearby lagoon. It’s about an hour drive from our house through rough dirt paths winding through the forests and hills of the plains.

It’s not the easiest spot to get to, often areas of the road are blocked by fallen20150926-IMGP7311 trees or debris from a newly build plantation. Usually nothing a little muscle and machete work can’t fix, though.

 

20150926-IMGP7315¬†But one you get to the view point it makes all your effort worth it…

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The boys worked on cooking dinner while the girls enjoyed the view and sipped on some cocktails….

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20150926-IMGP7337Soon the darkness came and we all huddled around the campfire, or rather very large, bright¬†citronella candles in this case. You would have though they would have protected us from all insects, but in a strange twist of fate we were actually invaded by a large swarm of tiny beetles. At first was funny, as all the bugs seemed be attracted to our one friend, but as more and more came we decided to take¬†shelter in the car. After 15 minutes or so the coast was clear and we returned to our “camp fire” for a bit before heading to our tents for the night.

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Evading the swarm of beetles in the car
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Tiny beetles everywhere

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We woke up to a beautiful misty morning and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Vera Plains as we made our way back home.

 

 

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The BBC Treehouse in Sette Cama, Gabon

20151011-IMGP7546With Ariana coming we decided to do some maintenance on the BBC treehouse. Floorboards were bad, the ladder was missing some steps so it was becoming quite an adventure just to go to the top. 20151011-IMGP7548Not to mention the safety hazards while climbing up…At the top there is a bridge, a big rope with some side netting, leading to the other side where another platform is. All providing a great view over the jungle. Just as it was designed by the BBC. 20151011-IMG_5536The hut was build some 8 years ago by the BBC and featured in their tv show. The goal was to provide a place for researchers to study the red capped mangabeys, which apparently are a rare species if you consider the world. To us they are quite normal as they roam the trees around our house quite frequently….anyways Ariana was coming and the hut needed some repairs, after years in the jungle 20151011-IMGP7568being exposed to the elements this was needed very much….we wanted to show her the hut so some upkeep was required. We went up there for the day, brought some wood, nails and elbow sweat…all worked out well and¬†the hut was safe again to climb up…at least for a couple of weeks…20151011-IMGP7573

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Whale Watching off the Southern coast of Gabon

The sea is teeming with life off the coast of Gabon. Dolphins frolic close to shore, sea turtles lay their eggs on the beaches from December to March, and humpback whales give birth and mate off the coast from June to September. The last weekend in August we had the immense pleasure to be invited to be go whale watching with Daniel on his boat.

Teun left on Saturday morning with Daniel and few others to try their luck at fishing and then camping on the beach. Unsure of how my body was going to take to the potentially very choppy water, I decided to not go for the full two days on the boat, but instead left on Sunday morning with a few other to meet them.

Apparently Teun and the rest of the first group spent the whole afternoon on Saturday trolling to no avail (saw loads of whales though, from what I heard it was actually pretty comical how many whales there were, like oh look another whale…), so unfortunately after landing on the beach they set up camp and went to bed without a fish feast that evening. 20150830-IMGP6652whales However, the next morning on their way back to pick us up Teun and¬†Angus both got bites on their lines in quick succession. And after the battle to end all battles (I believe there was blood, sweat and tears shed) Teun pulled in a massive rouge! (African red snapper I believe). As you can imagine, when Teun¬†came onto shore to meet us he was beaming with pride as he displayed his mighty catch.

 

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After a change of crew we set off for the open seas. We had a nice ride down the river for about 15 minutes as Daniel joyfully explained the dangers of exiting the river mouth and how¬†to navigate through the breaking surf to get out to the ocean without capsizing the boat and potentially drowning us all. As we neared the breaking waves we were instructed to hold on and we all braced ourselves for some serious rocking, but hopefully not rolling. 20150830-IMGP6683whalesHe navigated out into the calmer waters with ease and we began our search for whales.It didn’t take too long before a splash in the water was spotted and soon we were within meters of a small pod of humpback whales! It was really amazing being so close to such huge and majestic animals. 20150830-IMGP6665whalesOne was¬†particularly¬†curious about us and popped up what seemed like right next to the boat and twisted its massive body around on the surface to get a good look at us.¬†20150830-IMGP6671whales

For the next couple of hours we enjoyed the peaceful surrounding of the sea and the gentle lull of the waves as we searched and found several more whales. We were also joined by a group of dolphins for a bit, they had fun swimming in our wake and we clicked away trying to get decent photos of them.

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For the most part the whales were pretty lazy, just popping up to get some air, with a little bit of tail action here and there, but then we came across one that treated us to a little acrobatics leaping out of the water and landing with a huge splash. It. Was. Awesome!20150830-IMGP6778whales 20150830-IMGP6792whales

But all good things must come to an end. We said our good byes and headed back to shore. 20150830-IMGP6773whales

 

Monkeying Around in Yenzi – Gamba, Gabon

One of the best parts¬†about living here is all of the wildlife we get to see on a regular basis. As you’ve noticed from all of our¬†previous posts, we see A LOT of elephants (most likely we see a few elephants over and over again…), but monkeys are also abundant around Yenzi (and Gabon in general). The most common type we see are red capped¬†mangabeys. They’re pretty funny and really curious, sometimes they’ll even come sit on the tree branches closest to where I am and watch me watching them. Here are some of the pictures I’ve managed to take of the red capped mangabeys¬†around camp.

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Roof Tent Camping near Gamba, Gabon

One of the things we were excited¬†to do in Gabon is camping, that’s why we bought a rooftent! A rooftent is a fairly unknown concept for most¬†Americans/Europeans but in Africa is a fairly common sight. Just a big pack on top of the car that folds open into a nice spacious tent! One of the biggest advantages is that you sleep off the ground. So less likely for nightly visitors to surprise you: snakes, or other critters. But also being off the ground gives some safety for wandering elephants or hippos.

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Teun posing with the car and rooftent on top (unfolded)

Once the roofrack was assembled and mounted and the rooftent fixed on, it was time to give it a try. Helped by a long weekend off we headed to the beach. First night was spent at Ponte Dick (Dick’s bridge) and a second night¬†at Jardin d’elephants (elephant garden).

Driving onto the beach of Ponte Dick we were welcomed by a group of 4 elephants! One ¬†was a bit more daring than the rest so we kept hoping they would go into the ocean. Unfortunately no surfing¬†elephants…

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Welcome committee at Ponte Dick
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One brave elephant
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Keep the fire going!

An important part of camping is collecting wood. Not only nice and fun to have a fire going for marshmallows, but also a necessity in order to keep the wild animals away; elephants, hippo’s, monkeys and big cats… so as soon as you arrive you start collecting wood…..the resulting flames provide a night of entertainment;¬†¬†sit around it, stare at the flames, or look at the starry nights which is amazing due to the lack of light pollution all accompanied by the soothing sound of ¬†waves crashing on the beach.

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Rooftent unfolded at Jardin d’elephants

As mentioned, the second night was spend at Jardin d’elephants, elephant garden. This raises the expectations to see some more of these magnificent creatures. Once we arrived we looked for a nice spot to set up our camp and started to look for wood. the view onto the beach was amazing and we had it all to ourselves. Having this to yourselves is fairly common in this very low densely populated area.

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Beach front property

You already feel bummed and the place overcrowded if you show up and there are 2 other people there….guess Scheveningen beach will be a different experience from now on…

During the night we heard a thunderstorm and the flashes were amazing, slowly but surely it moved towards us and eventually stopped. At 4AM we noticed a light drizzle but expected some heavier rain later, as it was rainy season. When we set up our tent earlier that day, we decided not to put on the rain sheet…..so that was something we did…. at 4AM……a light drizzle, worry for elephants/wildlife (fire died because of the rain) dark and ow…because it was our first time out we did not have experience with this….luckily we managed within 10 minutes and enjoyed our dry tent while at 6AM the rain came!

The next morning we woke up and enjoyed our stroll around the beach. A bit disappointed, it was elephants garden and our campsite was surrounded by elephant dung but we didn’t see any,¬†but happy with our rooftent we left for a new adventure!

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Bee eater

 

 

 

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Our new house and a nosey neighbor

After spending a few weeks in the original house we moved¬†into here in Gabon, we realized that although it had some positives (it was recently built so had nice, modern features, and it was huge with 3 massive bedrooms and 2 bathrooms that you could fit a pool inside) it also had some problems… the master bathroom was constantly flooded with water coming from under the bathtub, the walls were paper thin (and we shared our¬†bedroom wall¬†with our neighbors), and it had a very small yard around it which was overlooked by 4 other houses. So after a lot of discussion we decided to see if we could move to another house, which meant down grading to an older (built in the 60’s or 70’s) and smaller (2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, all about half the size of those in the first house) house. Luckily (and by luck I mean hounding the housing people daily for several weeks) we were allowed to move houses. Unfortunately they gave us this news a few hours after unloading our shipping container into our then current house…

Our new house is in a beautiful location, tucked into the corner of the forest with a large, more private feeling yard. The interior is a tad more dated, to say the least, but we feel much more at home here.

Here’s a little tour though our new house, but be warned it’s still a work in progress, and the 2nd bedroom has become a dumping ground for items we don’t know what do with yet… Oh, and the bathroom is pretty spectacular… ūüėČ

 

We’ve also noticed that we have a very nosy neighbor here…his name is Rabi…he gave me a bit of a startle a few weeks ago…we enjoy him more from a distance…

Personally, I think it was his way of trying to make a friend…a friend that rides on his back… Next time Rabi, next time…

Weavers and Parrots in Gamba, Gabon

One of the many amazing things about living here is the beautiful birds that we get to see (and hear) on a daily basis.

Outside of the first house we were living in there was a tree a large group of village weaver birds called home. I loved watching them build their intricate nests.

Some of the most wonderful and noticeable are the flocks of african grey parrots that live around Yenzi. I was finally able to get some decent photos of both of them so I hope you enjoy!

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Easter Weekend, Gabon Style

Sorry, this is a long over due post, but better late than never ūüôā

IMGP2069-140Over Easter Weekend we were invited by our new friends to go camping with them at the Ngodo river mouth on the IMGP2074-142southern edge of the Loango national park. We happily accepted, they even¬†provided us with everything we would need for camping! Teun and I had just started our training to be boat captains the weekend before, and because we were taking Daniel’s boat up to the camp site and I got to get¬†a bit more practice.

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IMGP2078-143 IMGP2083-144 IMGP2087-145IMGP2089-146Daniel brought the boat into the shallows so we couldoffload all of our stuff, and lets just say nobody packed light…¬†IMGP2090-147 IMGP2096-148

IMGP2099-149 But after several trips up and down the beach carrying all of the “necessities” we were able to set up camp

 

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And the boys went in search of firewood…

 

 

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Then it was time to relax, which meant fishing…

 

 

 

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It was absolutely beautiful at the beach; warm, but with enough of a breeze not to make it miserable for sleeping

 

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There was quite a feast for dinner! This weekend was the start of the celebrations for Daniel’s 40th birthday, so there were beautiful speeches and champagne to celebrate! It was a very memorable evening.

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After “a little hiccup” (the boat ended up getting flooded with water when the tide went out¬†and it tipped over and then the tide came back in…) we loaded up the boat and set out on the slow ride (only 1 of the 2 engines was working now) back home.

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The somber mood turned more jovial again when we spotted a small group of hippos! After weeks of wishing and hoping to see them, I was over the moon to finally get the chance.

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