Lango Camp, Odzala-Kokoua National Park
Now that it’s the beginning of the long dry season, thrilling sounds have been heard day and night: from the big flocks of African green-pigeons and African grey parrots flying above our heads in the early hours of a misty morning, to the western guereza colobus fighting amongst themselves to reach the best spots in the strangler fig trees that are fruiting around Camp. As the sun sets we have heard the Latham’s forest francolin letting us know that it will soon get dark, the chorus of frogs from the marshy area in front of Lango, and the cicadas starting to sing. Once darkness settles in, the fig trees often have other occupants, such as African palm civets that sound just like cats when fighting. Meanwhile, water splashing at a distance in the bai, followed by random screams, signals that the forest elephants are gathering: trumpeting, rumbling, and blowing minerals to the surface of the water with their trunk. Finally, spotted hyaena were heard late at night on a few occasions. So much for the still of the night!
The most exciting sighting at camp was the water chevrotain that was spotted wandering beneath the walkway leading to the main area – surprisingly enough it has not been too shy! Most of the sightings were short and sweet, but long enough to have a good look at those stunning yet slightly bizarre mammals.
Around Lango Bai, we have been walking some of our “Exploration” trails that lead through the swamp forest, where we have stumbled a few times across some amazing sightings – elusive wild chimpanzees, secretive bongos, and very active red river hogs. Reptile-wise we have been very lucky to see an arboreal crocodile: these slender-snouted crocodiles often climb onto branches overhanging the Lekoli River in order to catch some sun and thermoregulate themselves. A three-metre-long python with a body as thick as a log making his way through the swamps was also an impressive sight!
The birding has been surprising this month, with sightings of a marabou stork and a Namaqua dove – birds that have been seen before but that do not naturally occur in Odzala. We’ve also seen African pygmy goose, yellow-lored bristlebill, red-chested goshawk, yellow-mantled weaver, rufous-beliied helmet shrike, blue-headed bee-eater, red-billed malimbe, and naked-faced barbet – all making birding exciting this month at Lango.
Ngaga Camp, Ndzehi Concession
Gorilla movements are interesting to observe during the dry seasons, as they are based on knowing the different fruiting trees that they favour. Round green fruits the size of a basketball and smelling just like breadfruit can be found on the ground or still attached to the main branches of the tree known locally as opoussa (Treculia africana); these seem to attract the gorillas and chimpanzees. Having some of those trees around camp facilitated our gorilla tracking experience on several occasions.
By the same token, delicious fruits that the local people also enjoy called the gambeya (Gambeya lacourtiana) can be found in the very north of our concession. These guava-scented mango-like fruits are quite a draw for the gorillas, but the distance of these trees from Ngaga has made some of our tracking more challenging as we sometimes had to make our way through two- to three-metre-tall vegetation.
Western lowland gorillas that live in a marantaceae habitat greatly enjoy feeding on tree roots. Favourite digging spots can become open spaces to which the gorillas will return to feed repeatedly. This distinctive behaviour is most common at this time of year and we have been lucky enough to see the primates excavating roots on several occasions.
Chimpanzees have been very difficult to try to observe although they have been heard may times while viewing the gorillas; fresh tracks and signs have however been found on our forest walks.
Night walks at Ngaga have been particularly exciting with sightings of central potto, elegant needle-clawed galago, Demidoff’s galago, African palm civet, and the amazing Lord Darby’s anomalure.
Birding at Ngaga Camp is especially good with almost daily sightings of African pied hornbill, blue-throated roller, speckled tinkerbird, velvet-mantled drongo, shining drongo, red-eyed puffback, spotted greenbul, banded prinia, yellow-crested woodpecker, Cassin’s spinetail, black saw-wing and many more.