My friend and colleague at the National Geographic Society, Mike Fay, and I had been talking for many years about combining our twin interests – conservation and exploration – to see a part of Gabon he did not yet know. While he had walked the breadth of the Congo – famously, during his 1999-2000 Megatransect, over one and a half years and 2,000 miles of the densest jungles – there were still parts of the country accessible only by water, which we went to investigate.
Accompanied by photographer Peter McBride and two Gabonese eco-guides, we made an exhausting and exhilarating circumnavigation of Gabon’s jewel of a national park, Loango. Bordered by the Atlantic
Ocean and stretching 40 miles into the jungled interior, we kayaked and portaged more than 200 miles around the park’s perimeter, seeing this wild country from a new and different perspective. Along the way we encountered river-swimming elephants, manatees, tarpon, surfing hippos, gorillas and more. By trip’s end it was hard to decide which were the most beautiful, and the most difficult, parts of the expedition, but it was eye opening, for us all.