Sunday, 19 June 2016

Gabon -- Tropical Forest Paradise Revealed

Let me start off by saying that "Gabon is rich in earth's rarest commodity -- Tropical Forests little touched by humans".

Gabon is an African Anomaly, a relatively prosperous and stable nation and the least densely populated country in Central Africa.

White Sand Beaches and Mangrove Swamps give way to a rugged densely forested interior -- some 70% of Gabon remains covered in forests which are among the richest and most diverse on Earth and an eastern fringe of grassy plain.

Up to 20% of Gabon's Plant Species are found nowhere else.

Gabon's Equatorial Forests and Wetlands are known to be teeming with life.

Mike Fay -- An American Ecologist who walked across the wildest places in Central Africa in 2000 had pledged in 2002 to save them and so he did.

In a meeting with the then President of Gabon -- Omar Bongo he described the extraordinary biological riches residing in the trackless rainforests, the remote mountains, and the inland and coastal waters of Gabon.

Mike Fay made a recommendation to the President of Gabon that the best way to protect these wilderness places in Gabon would be to create "13 New National Parks" that would encompass them.

Accordingly, 13 National Parks were created.

It must be said here that perched on the edge of the Congo River Basin, Gabon's Forests support some of the greatest numbers of species on the continent of Africa.

Ungulates like the Bongo, the Sitatunga -- a water loving antelope and the Forest Buffalo have declined in many areas but gather at Langoue Bai -- Centerpiece  of Ivindo National Park for its rich grasses and cooling mud.

Some mention must be made of the Rivers that drain into Gabon. Most notably, the little "Offoue River" a modest squiggle of brown near its confluence with the much larger Ogooue.

The Ogooue, one of Central Africa's great waterways shares a divide with the mighty Congo River and oozes seaward from the Gabonese interior like an enormous runnel of gravy.

The Little Offoue serves as the eastern boundary and the mighty Ogooue the northern boundary of what is now Lope National Park.

Mention has to be made of the mighty Ivindo River. It is a major Ogooue tributary. It is a big black water channel that pours in from the north -- dark with tannins leached from detrital mulch in the swamps and seasonally flooded forests that it drains.

Further on, staying with the Ogooue -- one comes across another black water river -- a smaller one this one is known as the "Djidji".

One can follow the river upstream along a serpentine course till one comes across a set of minor chutes -- a rocky cascade totalling 40 Feet of a vertical drop which passes by the invisible boundary of the newly created "Ivindo National Park".

The next set of chutes are major ones. Abruptly, from a lip of quiet water screened by trees, the Djidji River drops nearly 200 Feet -- its volume split into 5 Fingers that clench down over the rocky face like a grasping hand, each finger a frothy channel punctuated by ledge holes plummeting to an explosion of foam at the bottom.

These are the Beautiful and Awesome "Kongou and Mingouli Falls" respectively.

Continuing upstream, the river's surface is as sleek as an ebony table. The Chutes seem to mark an "Escarpment" of some sort above which the Djidji winds sedately across a flat thickly forested plateau.

All that one can see to the horizon in every direction is unbroken canopy in its thousand shades of green and through it a thin slash of black.

Credits and References :

Saving Africa's Eden
By David Quammen
Pages 56-68
National Geographic Magazine
Vol - 204, N0-3
September 2003