Gola Forest National Park, Liberia

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A foggy sunrise in Gola Forest, Liberia. Transpiration of plants cools the forest environment in the night and pumps moisture into the atmosphere.

Most of the remaining Upper Guinean Rainforest is found in Liberia. Two protected forest tracts, Sapo National Park in the Southeast and Gola Forest National Park in the Northwest, have been set aside to protect flora and fauna in Liberia.

Getting to Gola National Park necessitates 4-wheel driving and reconfiguring many of the small bridges in the region. The numerous streams that feed the Mano and Lofa Rivers are crossed on old log and plank bridges.

Getting to Gola Forest National Park necessitates 4-wheel driving, high clearance, and reconfiguring several of the small bridges in the region. The numerous streams that feed the Mano and Lofa Rivers are crossed on old, deteriorating log and plank bridges.

88,000 hectares of forest were set aside in 2016 to create Gola Forest National Park, in Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu Counties. The process of demarcating boundaries has begun this year, creating controversy with mining, lumbering and bush-meat hunting operations in and around the park. Gola Forest National Park will be linked to the Gola Rainforest National Park in Sierra Leone, creating a unique transboundary Peace Park covering over 2,000 km².

The heat, high humidity, and hills bounded by slow-moving streams make for a strenuous hike. Dry season is the best time to visit. Rainy season would present many logistical challenges.

The heat, high humidity, and hills bounded by slow-moving streams make for a strenuous hike. Dry season is the best time to visit. Rainy season would present many logistical challenges.

According to Joel Cholo Brooks, Liberian journalist (October 3, 2016 Global News Network: Liberia), the forests in Liberia contain over 2,900 different vascular plants, including 225 tree species. Also on the list, 600 species of birds, [500?] mammal [is probably closer to 50 mammal species] and 75 reptile species. Many are currently endangered, including the Pygmy hippopotamus, forest elephant, chimpanzee, zebra duiker, bongo forest antelope, and all crocodile species.

Crossing a shallow stream in Gola Forest.

Crossing a shallow stream in Gola Forest.

Some of the forest remains virgin, and some has been previously logged. Gola Forest is a region of rock-studded hills and valleys, crossed with streams and rivers that flow even in the dry season.

A strangler fig entwines its host to reach sunlight above the forest canopy. Eventually, it will kill the host tree to become self-supporting as the tree decomposes.

A strangler fig entwines its host to reach sunlight above the forest canopy. Eventually the host tree will die, leaving the fig to become self-supporting as the tree decomposes.

A park fee of $30US per person will allow entrance into the park. A guide is also necessary,  and usually at least two are arranged, for approximately $10US per guide, per day. Camping facilities are rustic. Tent-camping at the edge of the park is available. Food, water, charcoal, and sleeping arrangements are the visitor’s responsibility. Finding someone to cook meals for you (and your guides) can usually be arranged at the nearest village.

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The drive from Monrovia becomes challenging once you leave the coal-tar road. It is approximately eight hours on dry season roads to get to Gola Forest National Park. Past Tubmanburg, the road turns to gravel with some of the hills covered in rocks. Crossing Lofa Bridge is not for the faint of heart, as are the numerous (and in varying states of decay) stream crossings of log and plank design. In a few cases, the bridges have collapsed altogether, requiring a deviation through the stream bed. A full tank of fuel, a sat-phone, and provisions of food and water will ease the stress of backcountry travel.

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3 Responses to Gola Forest National Park, Liberia

  1. Jody says:

    Gorgeous photos as always, David!

  2. Laurie Beeson says:

    great photos and was a great trip

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