It's been a busy week! On Sept. 21 Nic and I got a ride to a small town called Kango, about a 2 hour drive inland from the capital of Gabon, Libreville. Kango is located at the convergence of several rivers, and a couple years ago Nic and Tim photographed a manatee hunter there with a carcass. We were able to go back and interview the hunter, who of course claims all his catches are accidental. Manatee hunting is illegal here, but laws are rarely enforced. We hired a boat driver to take us out on the rivers. We went up several smaller rivers and after only about half an hour, as we came around a corner, the driver said he saw a manatee feeding. I didn't believe him because manatees are very shy here and are mostly only seen at night (because they are hunted), so I thought the guy was bluffing us because we were paying him to find us manatees. We stopped the motor and after about 5 minutes a big snout popped up about 10 feet from the boat! I couldn't believe it. Then a few minutes later a Mom and calf surfaced next to the other adult! Very exciting and surprising to see them during daylight in an area where they are hunted. So my fears of coming to Africa and not seeing any manatees are over! After the second time the manatees surfaced, they moved off down the river (saw bubble trail) but the water was so muddy we never saw them again. I did manage to get 1 picture of the tip of a nose, but people here are joking me that they've seen better pictures of the Loch Ness monster! So you'll just have to take my word for it until I get something better.
(Little nose sticking up on the right, tail swirl on the left)
That night we camped at our boat driver's family's fishing camp in the forest. They were Fang people, the largest tribe in Gabon. They had a few tin shacks on the river, some fishing nets and a couple pots and pans, yet they had a cell phone! It was quite an experience camping in the forest and hearing all the animal sounds. I found out later that they were formally cannibals, and I'm glad I didn't know that at the time!
The internet is painfully slow here, so I'm going to try to post more photos later!