Into the Jungle: Part Two

Our days spent in Lobéké had a very similar rhythm to them. We would wake up around 5am, and cook and eat breakfast before heading out to an observation tower to do some animal scouting. Around mid-morning we would pack up camp and head on to the next observation point/campsite. From there, we would set up camp and head back out to the observation tower to look for animals till dusk. When we returned to camp we’d shower in the river to wash off the day’s sweat and grime and eat dinner and head to bed. While each day definitely had their own experiences and stories to tell, the trip fell into its own rythym.

The forest was a lot more dense, lush, and thicker than we had expected. Naively, I thought we would be able to look out and maybe see animals in the distance. This was definitely not the case as there were way more trees, vines, and bushes all over. As we hiked the three hours from our first campsite to the next observation point on the first day, we passed a gorilla that was probably 10m away from us. Even though he was hidden in the jungle we definitely heard him. There was a loud, almost barking-like, sound followed by thrashing of bushes and branches as he ran away. We all just stopped and stared at each other, not really sure if we should be the ones who should run away! Even though we didn’t get to see the gorilla, we were far closer to one than would be considered safe at any zoo.

To get to the observation tower and camping area, we had to cross our first, of a few, small rivers. With our shoes strapped to our backpacks, we slopped through the mud to the bank. The mud was like quick sand- squishing and sucking you down as you tried to step up. With mud up to our knees, we crossed through the river and snuck around a group of buffalo grazing. There were buffalo at most locations where were animal spotting, with lots of antelope and deer to keep them company.

As we continued onto the third, and final, campsite the monkeys leaped and jumped in the canopy above our heads. With their calls to warn of our arrival, the noise of their jumps and calls amplified. It was always fun to stop and watch the various kinds of monkeys in the trees above — it is amazing how far they could jump with their eyes closed and a baby hanging onto one of the monkey’s belly.

The third morning we headed to the observation tower to watch the sunrise. With a pink sky behind the trees, it seemed that the skyline was the sight to see for the day. In the distance, an elephant made its appearance out of the tree line. While he was further away than the elephants you see at the zoo, he made a quick appearance walking along the tree line. It’s official, there are still jungle elephants in Cameroon!

That night our campsite was along the Lobéké river. Even though we couldn’t shower in the river for fear of crocodiles eating us, we were able to fish. To shower, one person stood on a downed log with their headlamp to spot crocs while another rinsed and splashed on the shoreline trying to get all the soap off. We opted in filling up water bottles and showering with those on the shower. We set a new record for only using 3 liters of water — how’s a 3L shower for water conservation?!

To celebrate seeing an elephant, our porters, guide and eco-guard went fishing for dinner. It was a nice change from our usual spaghetti and sardine or rice and sardine dinners and breakfasts. After spending a few afternoon hours at the lookout tower we returned to camp to a fresh dinner of grilled fish and rice! No complaints there! We all hung out around the campfire and shared a few sachets of Cameroonian liquor.

The next day we stayed put in hopes to see the elephant again. We hiked around the clearing overlooked by the observation tower, which took about 3 hours. As we gained a greater understanding of where the term ‘jungle gym’ comes from, we were right on the gorilla’s trail. Our guide attempted to call the gorilla, which in turn only attracted a pack of buffaloes. We held still until they charged away from us across the river. En route back to the campsite, our guide snatched the walking stick out of Ben’s hand and used it to kill a green mamba snake; green mambas are incredibly poisonous. We weren’t quite sure what he was doing until he flung the snake corpse up into the trees to clear the path for us to walk on.

From there, we returned on the same route to arrive back at the first campsite for our last night in the park. We crossed the rivers again, saw lots more monkeys, antelope and buffalo, and birds. Stay tuned tomorrow our adventure of getting out of the jungle!

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