The Loango Extension to our Gabon – Rainforest Birds & Mammals tour covers the very best birding and wildlife localities within the extensive Loango National Park. Birding highlights are plentiful and include some of Africa’s most seldom-seen and exotic species such as White-crested Tiger Heron, African River Martin, Congo Serpent Eagle, Long-tailed Hawk, Forbes’s Plover, White-bellied Kingfisher, Loango Weaver, Bare-cheeked Trogon, Vermiculated Fishing Owl, Bates’s Nightjar, Hartlaub’s Duck, African Finfoot and Black-headed Bee-eater. This fabulous reserve is also extremely scenic with large areas of pristine lowland forest, tranquil, forest-lined rivers, pans and open grasslands and mammal possibilities include Lowland Gorilla, Forest Elephant, Forest Buffalo, Red-River Hog and Hippopotamus and a range of tropical monkeys.
White-crested Tiger Heron, African River Martin, Congo Serpent Eagle, Long-tailed Hawk, Forbes’s Plover, White-bellied Kingfisher, Loango Weaver, Bare-cheeked Trogon, Vermiculated Fishing Owl, Bates’s Nightjar, Hartlaub’s Duck, African Finfoot, White-browed Forest Flycatcher and Black-headed Bee-eater
Chance of Lowland Gorilla, Chimpanzee, Forest Elephant, Forest Buffalo, Hippopotamus in the ocean, Red River Hog and a range of different monkeys
Tropical lowland forest, riverine forest, rivers, pans, grassland, estuaries, beaches
hot & humid
Moderate with fairly long days and some longer walks
Day 1: Libreville to Port Gentil, and transfer to Iguela (Loango National Park)
Getting to the great Loango National Park is an adventure in itself, with a charter flight over vast forests and lagoons, followed by a long boat ride! The park is situated along the coast of Gabon, south of Libreville, and protects expansive forests, grasslands and wetlands. Mike Fay, the famed American ecologist known for his epic 455-day trek across 2,000 km of the Congo Basin, coined Loango “Africa’s Last Eden”. In the northern sector of the park, an enterprising company has built top-class eco-lodges near some of Loango’s most beautiful and rewarding sites.
Our first port of call will be Iguela. After a five-hour boat trip across the great Fernan Vaz Lagoon, followed by a one-and-a-half-hour drive we will settle into our charming bungalows. During our debut tour, we were thrilled to find the rare Violet-tailed Sunbird during the boat trip and which we have managed on all subsequent trips. This impressive establishment is perched on the edge of the Petit Loango National Park and offers astounding luxuries, including gourmet meals and its own pastry chef.
Day 2: Iguela and boat ride to Ipivi Channel and afternoon game drive (Loango National Park)
We will depart very early this morning with a packed breakfast, headed for the Mpivie Channel. This forested, slow-flowing watercourse is one of the highlights of our Gabon birding tour. During a recent tour, we counted no less than 24 Hartlaub’s Duck, 6 White-crested Tiger Herons and over 20 African Finfoot on our morning boat ride! Other species occurring here include the vocal Congo Serpent Eagle, both fishing owls, Shining-blue, Malachite and the uncommon White-bellied Kingfisher, the glistening White-bibbed Swallow and White-browed Forest Flycatcher. We are also likely to observe the localized Slender-snouted Crocodile and families of diminutive Spot-necked Otter.
We will return to our fabulous lodge in the early afternoon and have the opportunity to do a game drive in the park during the late afternoon. Here we will keep a lookout for Forbes’s Plover, Quailfinch and Red-tailed Leaflove as well as Forest Buffalo, Forest Elephant and Red River Hog. We will return to our lodge in the early evening.
Day 3: Iguela and boat ride to Akaka (Loango National Park)
This morningon our Gabon birding tour, we will again board our boat for an exciting 66km transfer to another Operation Loango satellite camp, Akaka. This small and comfortable camp is set in some of the richest forest in the park and the boat ride to the camp takes us through much pristine habitat. Photographic opportunities are excellent!
Our first stop will be at a small island that is one of the few known breeding sites of the extremely localized Loango Weaver, and we will search through the nesting Slender-billed, Black-necked, Village and Vieillot’s Weavers for their elusive cousin. Thereafter our trip will take us through vast open-water lagoons, papyrus swamps, floodplains and various forest types. Birds we are likely to encounter here on our Gabon birding tour include Pink-backed Pelican, Goliath Heron, Intermediate Egret, Little Bittern, Hamerkop, Yellow-billed and Woolly-necked Storks, African Spoonbill and Allen’s Gallinule. We even have a chance for African River Martin! In addition, this boat trip will offer us excellent mammal-watching opportunities, with good chances of close encounters with Forest Elephant, as well as Red River Hog, Forest Buffalo and a range of monkeys, including the attractive Red-capped Mangabey, Grey-cheeked Mangabey and Moustached and Crowned Monkeys. Chances even exist for sightings of Chimpanzee, Gorilla, Hippopotamus, Leopard and, if we are extremely lucky, the endangered African Manatee. A nocturnal boat ride from our lodge will improve our chances for seeing some of these animals as well as nocturnal birds. A vast number of additional nocturnal mammals occur, including African Golden Cat, Potto, Golden Angwantibo, Western Tree Hyrax and Giant Pangolin, but we would be very fortunate to observe any of these elusive animals!
Day 4: Akaka area
We have a full day of our Gabon birding tour in this wonderful area. Some of the species we may see here include Hartlaub’s Duck, Plumed Guineafowl, Red-chested Goshawk, Bare-cheeked Trogon, Blue-headed Wood Dove, Woodhouse’s Antpecker, Fire-crested Alethe and, at night, we’ll search for Bates’s Nightjar and Vermiculated Fishing Owl. If fortunate we may also see Crowned Monkey.
Day 5: Akaka and boat trip to Iguela (Loango National Park)
After some early morning birding in the forests encircling our camp, we will transfer back to the grand Iguela Lodge. In the afternoon, we may take a short boat trip to the lagoon and beach where we should find Western Reef Heron, White-fronted Plover and other waders, the rare Damara Tern and also Black, Common and Caspian Terns, as well as African Skimmer roosting in large flocks on the sand banks. Forest Buffalo often forage on the beach itself and we may be very lucky and observe the famous surfing Hippos for which this area is known.
Day 6: Iguela to Libreville, via Omboue and Port Gentil
After final birding around our lodge, we will transfer by vehicle to Omboue. From here we will take a boat ride to Port Gentil and a flight back to Libreville, where our Gabon birding tour will conclude.