Walking in the Tracks of Elephants

In the morning, we jumped in the car and met up with our two ecoguards and two porters who helped carry all of the camping equipment for staying in the national park. Our driver noticed that his rear passenger side tire was going flat from the off-roading we had to do to get past the trucks the day before. When we were talking with the WWF rangers preparing to set off he attempted to change the tire. As he turned the lug nut the whole bolt snapped off nut and all, then the same thing happened to a second one. One lug nut isn’t good but two! We limped along to the drop off point where we arranged to be picked up three days later and he set off to repair the tire properly.

Lobeke hike

Off we went into the jungles of Lobeke. Not twenty feet had passed when we came to the first of many streams. This one had a decent sized log across it and we traversed it easily. The forest was full of sounds. The ground almost moved under your feet as the many insects went on with their business of collecting food below. As we got deeper in the light became dim and only sparse narrow beams made it to the forest floor. Every so often we would stop as monkey flew over our heads jumping from tree to tree. The first stop was 6.5 kilometers in to the hike, it was called petite savanna. At this point our feet were still dry but the last 30 feet were deep swamp ant the makeshift bridge of logs was lacking. Let’s just say that was the last of the dry feet for a while. The savanna was surrounded in pandanus and clumping phoenix palms. Two plants that do not make it easy to penetrate. In one location there was a clear patch of mud that the gorilla uses to get minerals from the earth. We waited for a little while and had lunch hoping to see some activity but only saw some birds.

After lunch we started the second part of our hike. It was about 9 kilometers and we needed to make it there before dark so we picked up the pace. Here the ceiba trees were massive and numerous.

Ben big tree

Elephant tracks

We saw numerous tracks the whole hike, elephants, chimpanzee, buffalo, ground foul, wild goat and of course gorillas. About an hour into this leg of the journey we came upon a pack of gorillas. They were no further than 30 meters through the jungle. We were not able to see them but we certainly heard the large warning roar from the male leader, cautioning us not to come any closer. The scream was unexplainable, but we knew we didn’t want to upset them. We tried to see them but by the time we made it around the thick bush in front of us they were long gone. We had very little energy by the time we made it to the second observation tower of Djangui Bai (a bai is a forest clearing that is very swamp-like). Here the opening in front of us was very large. Almost immediately our energy level was lifted as two elephants came into the clearing. A mother and her calf were splashing around in the mud which was a welcome site. Then further off in the distance a large male made his way through the tall grass. Evan as it grew dark the elephants continued to splash in the mud possibly looking for food or just playing. To prepare dinner our guide had to go a long ways away to make a fire. Starting a fire so close to the observation tower would drive the animals away. We then tried our best to set up our tents in the tower even though we were still exhausted from the hike. After we waited for what seemed like forever our guide brought us back a pasta dinner with some sardines and spices, super salty but exactly what we needed after such an exhausting day.

Elephants Djangui Bai

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