weekend at Sette Cama

February 24     It is Friday afternoon, Lisa and I have arranged to spend the weekend with friends Emily, the SI intern,  and Catherine, Jennifer and Erin, US expats working in Libreville.  They have arrived in Gamba this morning and after a short tour of Gamba, we are loading the Shell boat on the lagoon, preparing for a 3:30 departure to Sette Cama.  Kassa, our guide for hiking in Loango, meets us at the jetty, and we are on our way.  A beautiful afternoon on the lagoon makes the two-hour trek easy and we arrive at the Shell hut after a stop in the village of Sette Cama to drop off Kassa for the night,  pick up our groundskeeper Sylvan, and register for Saturday’s hike.

Mangebeys scatter into the trees as we arrive at the hut, disrupting a flock of African grey parrots feeding on palm fruits.  Sylvan shows us the forest-side door of the hut, temporarily nailed back in place after being torn off by a curious elephant earlier in the week, tusk marks along the edge and adjacent window.  We have planned a bar-b-que dinner of steak, potatoes and stir-fry vegetables, and are joined by Yenzi friends Phillip, Andrew, Dave, and Joe, whose wives are temporarily back on the European continent.  They arrive by car, with roof-tents and tent for accommodation, and the evening social begins.  It is well after dark when dinner is ready and we fill the ocean-side patio with a tasty dinner, wine and conversation late into the night.

Phil, Dave and Andrew assist with the bar-b-que Friday night

Saturday morning arrives too quickly, but we manage to organize our day of hiking, boating in to the village to retrieve Kassa, and setting off for La Boucle trail.  Nearing the end of N’Dogo Lagoon, we notice a small furry head bobbing in the water and slow to investigate.  A mongoose has taken to the water and is apparently attempting to cross the lagoon.  About the size of an otter, it is dog-paddling when we approach and decides to turn back, perhaps a bit miffed with our curiosity.

We continue on to the end of the lagoon, past a flock of white pelicans fishing near the confluence with the sea and enter a small river.  A troop of mangebeys is foraging in open forest at the river’s edge hardly noticing our presence, and we see egrets, herons, a woolly-necked stork and palm-nut vultures lining the banks of the river.  Grey parrots circle above the trees, their whistles and croaks echoing along the riverbank.  A hippopotamus eases into the river channel as we approach, eyeing us suspiciously before disappearing under a boil of water.  A few kilometres of river travel lands us at the head of La Boucle trail, and we climb across a tangle of mangroves to the bank.

Catherine, Kassa, Emily, Erin, Jennifer and Lisa among the fins of a giant Ceiba tree

The forest trail climbs a few modest hills before dropping into a landscape of lowland forest habitat.  The trees tower overhead, some with spreading fins and buttresses 10 metres across. Lianas writhe along the ground before snaking into the treetops, some so massive and heavy they pull enormous branches from the canopy high above. Our trail reveals elephant tracks, gorilla tracks, and we are lucky to find the print of a leopard.  Winding some six or seven kilometres through the forest the trail connects the inland river where we moored the boat to the savanna fronting the sea.  A light rain whispers through the leaves when we are deep in the forest, and in the hushed silence we see an elephant along the trail before us, unaware of our presence.

the hush of light rain settles down on the lowland forest trail

We hold our position for a few minutes while it slowly feeds off out of view.  Early in the afternoon we step out into the savanna overlooking the coast, lush grasslands grazed by buffalo, traversed by elephants, and work our way down to the beach for a lunch break and rest before returning by way of sand beachfront.  Some of the women go for a swim, I take a siesta, and as Jennifer cools off at the water’s edge, a sea turtle pops its head out of the surf to have a closer look.  By mid-afternoon we begin our trek back to the boat, passing two elephants browsing in the thick forest growth along the savanna edge, and a herd of buffalo stop their grazing to watch us pass.

where rainforest meets the sea

Our trek along the beach is approximately four kilometres and we arrive at the lagoon breakthrough at 5pm.  Kassa and I ride with another guide back upriver to retrieve the Shell boat, then return for the rest of the group.  Motoring back down the lagoon to Sette Cama, we gather a dinner prepared for us by local families, a meal of fish, rice, a tomato-based sauce and eggplant stew.  Our guests from the previous evening were kind enough to stock the refrigerator with beer and we settle down to another delicious meal.  A game of dominoes and dessert of chocolate completes the evening and we are asleep by midnight.  Sometime during the night I am startled awake by moving shadows cast on the wall of the bedroom.  An elephant is walking between the security light on the jetty and the hut, and the shadows projected through the bedroom window are animated, looking like some animal about to crawl in our window.  I awaken with a start, jumping up, shouting, clapping my hands as if an animal were climbing in the window.  Once I realize the shadow-play, I settle back down as the elephant wanders back into the forest.  It is in the morning that we discover that this elephant has left footprints up to all the windows around the hut, smelling through the open windows for leftover food and has torn through the screen to the kitchen window to poke around by trunk, looking for anything tasty.

Once we determine the coast is clear, we put together a breakfast before boating back over to another trailhead for a short morning hike, finishing with a trip to the treehouse and lunch back at the hut before packing up for the boatride back to Gamba.

Sunday morning in a forest-savanna mosaic adjacent to N'Dogo lagoon with our guide Kassa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Powered by WordPress.com.