pink hippo

Hippos usually avoid the sun, preferring to spend daylight hours submerged in a nearby lagoon.  I was surprised to see the images of a hippo on my camera trap, in broad daylight, 88 degrees F, sunny, 12:50 pm.

This hippo didn’t appear to be alarmed or disturbed.  I might have been alarmed or disturbed had I stumbled upon it while checking the camera.  The pink color is a mucous secretion to keep the skin from drying and burning.

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Lake Manyara, Tanzania

This gallery contains 18 photos.

  Below the rift valley escarpment in north-central Tanzania lies Lake Manyara, a lake with no outlet formed by stream runoff spilling down the escarpment.  It is constantly evaporating, accumulating salt and soda deposits in the process.  It covers on … Continue reading

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A little bull shark, or possibly silky shark, caught just off the beach at Colas breakthrough.

The rainy season with the hot, humid temperatures makes a perfect excuse for a bar-b-que at the beach.  Seems like most of the rain falls in the night, then turns to steam in the heat of the day.  We assembled some fish brochettes, and chicken brochettes, packed some drinks, fishing equipment, Elle and our hammock, and headed for Colas beach.   Angelique and Poppy joined Lisa and Elle and myself.  While waiting for the fire to reduce to coals, I fixed a piece of tilapia onto a bait-set and lobbed it seaward.

Not much fishing action until near the end of dinner when I hooked a small but feisty bull shark.  Different fish react differently when hooked, and I could tell by the vibrating run to deeper water that this was not a sand shark.  Real sharks seem to be common along the beach lately, and I have lost several larger sharks in the past few weeks when they mince the line or break the hook in their struggle to escape.

With a mouthful of teeth like razor blades, even little sharks need space to thrash.

They usually beeline for the deep sea, spinning off line like there is no drag before turning to fight back, tugging and shearing through the heavy monofilament of a bait set, but for some reason this shark was unable to cut the line.  Probably the line was wedged in the corner of its mouth and I was able to crank it to the beach before it could turn back to sever the line.  About three kilos of angry shark came thrashing and spinning out of the surf.  It did manage to cut my finger as I tried to remove the hook.  Lesson #1: Don’t try to remove a hook from a shark’s mouth with your fingers.

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nature morte

Drawn to roadside puddles, some butterfly lives are lost to passing cars.

Decades of sand and saltwater scrub away at beached logs along the coast of Gabon, revealing intricate patterns of growth.

A monkey, apparently beached on a high tide, its bones picked clean by crabs.

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elephants of N’Dogo Lagoon

The heat that accompanies the rainy season seems to have returned.  Between rains, the sun feels additionally hot as it cuts through the vapor in the atmosphere.  Perhaps the elephants notice the difference and find comfort in the waters of the lagoon.  They were abundant at the water’s edge on Sunday morning as we motored along the lagoon.

A pair of elephants splash about along the edge of N’Dogo Lagoon. apparently enjoying the cooling water.

A bull, reluctant to leave the water, stands his ground as we stop to observe.  Not knowing the water depth, we keep our distance to avoid an escalation of tension.

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a night visit by an elephant

We hear the ripping and crunching of vegetation coming out of the darkness somewhere beneath the breathing of the sea.  The opening in the coastal forest is hardly visible, a half-moon and handful of stars fading in and out among a scattering of wispy clouds.  Flashes of lightening from some far-off inland storm paint the night landscape with a faint spark of illuminance.

A solitary elephant feeds across a break in the coastal forest in Sette Cama. A spotlight in the distance adds an ethereal glow to the night scene.

Luanne was first to see the moving black shadow appear at the edge of the clearing, a sweeping trunk prodding like a blindman’s cane leading a set of tree-trunk legs.  We watched it for nearly an hour, enhanced by Andrew’s night-vision, infra-red binoculars, before we turn on an outdoor spotlight.  Turning in surprise, the elephant soon adjusts to the new illumination and resumes feeding on the palm leaves and grasses in the clearing.  Little insect-eating bats dart low between the few trees in pursuit of a meal while larger fruit bats sail through the glare of spotlight.  In the distance, a mangabey coughs a warning call, an occasional bird warbles out of a disturbed slumber, and crickets thick in the trees electrify the night air with a cacophony of rattle and buzz.

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grazing hippo

11pm finds this hippo feeding along a narrow strip of savanna bordered by forest and lagoon.  Rarely do hippos leave the water during daylight hours, for the heat and sun can lead to dehydration.

It must be difficult and tiring for them to carry their weight when they spend so much time wallowing nearly weightless in the lagoons and rivers.  This particular individual was more than 2.5 meters in length and 1.5 meters in height, weighing perhaps in the range of 1500 to 2000 kilograms.

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Gabon in the 21st Century

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its a circus out there

Wednesday I was fortunate to go for a walk with the visiting circus from Holland.  Giel, Piet and Jan Pier came into the forest with me to check my camera trap.  It had been raining heavily the previous day so all animal tracks were washed away, except those that were made earlier in the day.  We came across many tracks of sitatunga, monkeys, and a family of elephants seemed to be foraging in circles around us.

Giel takes a picture of a picture being taken, as Jan Pier and Piet look out for crocodiles.

We heard several birds we were able to identify:  the red-chested cuckoo, black-casqued hornbill, woodland kingfisher, and the bulbul.  Troops of monkeys scrambled through the trees as we approached.  The rumble of thunder brought suspense to our walk and by the time we returned to the car, rain had moved in to add yet another layer to the Gabon experience.

On a Thursday morning of the previous week, a large male sitatunga passed through the dappled morning shadows along a riverbank.

24 hours, 22 minutes and 27 seconds after we visit the camera trap, a mother elephant with two juveniles come to look at the river. The littlest elephant is lost in the shuffle.

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