After 7 months of planning and 33 hours of travel, I arrived in Libreville, Gabon (the capital) about a week ago. On the way I had a 10 hour layover in Casablanca, Morocco and was able to see a bit of the city including a breath-taking mosque.
The second largest mosque in the world.
I spent 2 days in Libreville and then flew down the coast to Mayumba to meet up with my colleague Tim Collins, who heads up a humpback whale research team there. Mayumba is the southernmost national park in Gabon, with the country's only marine protected area off the coast.
My first day here I went out with Tim's team to see the humpbacks, since it's getting near the end of the whale season here. We had an incredible day and saw whales everywhere!
(Above) A biopsy dart hits it's mark.
The whale team: Simon (boat driver and whale researcher, from South Africa), Nick (grad student who will do manatee genetics, from Gabon), Tim (humpback field biologist extraordinaire) and Jackie (grad student working on humpback genetics, from Peru). This day Tim got his highest number of biopsy samples in one day of the whole season. For you non-biologists, the biopsy dart is shot from a bow, it hits the whale taking a small cylindrical plug of tissue, then bounces off into the water where it is collected.
We are all staying in a house that combines office and living quarters near the beach. Yesterday I did a survey tour of Banio lagoon (which is about 75km long, but only ~1km wide) and interviewed a former manatee hunter who is now working for the national park here as an EcoGuide (ranger). There are many rivers off the lagoon that seem to be good manatee habitat, I could spend 6 months just here.
I'll write more soon.... since I don't spend much time at the computer I'll likely post more pictures than text in the coming weeks. But I'll try to include most of the great stories!