The Road Chose Me – Loango National Park
Wild, wild life
Loango Lodge and National Park sit on the coast of Gabon and are home to the world-famous surfing hippos which made international headlines when they were first spotted by scientists. It’s also common to see elephants on the beach, and with any luck actually in the ocean.
From the second I drive into the Loango Lodge I am blown away. The five-star lodge is tucked in the jungle right on the water and is simply stunning. The manager is probably the friendliest person on the planet, and so I am soon enjoying everything the lodge has to offer.
The following day I catch a boat across the small tidal river, and within five minutes spot forest elephants, and then more and more. After roaming around all afternoon among the majestic elephants, we make our way down to the sandy beach, where we spot many more. None are walking in the water, though they are within 30 yards and undoubtedly will be spending the night near the beach.
In the evening we take a boat tour in the pitch black, where one of the local guides is going to show us some baby crocs. We move deep into the mangroves, and I am stunned when the guide jumps into the waist-deep water and snatches up a baby with his bare hands. When the baby starts crying for its mother, I get downright uncomfortable. The guide assures me no local has ever been attacked by a crocodile here, though I am sure he is pushing his luck!
The rain starts to fall one afternoon and does not stop for many, many hours. The manager explains this should have come at least a month ago, and everyone in Gabon has been desperately waiting for the rains to begin.
One morning the manager and I venture deep into the national park to check on a wilderness camp, which is a supremely beautiful collection of huts where visitors can stay a few nights deep in the wilderness. Over the course of the day, we spot many more elephants, buffalo, red wild boars, leopard tracks and magically even see a couple of wild gorillas watching us from a clump of trees. The curiosity on their faces is apparent and we watch them with just as much interest!
I am grinning from ear to ear to be in the middle of this enormous Eden, surrounded by so much wildlife.
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