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Preparing for Cameroon – Lobéké National Park II

Lobéké National Park is managed by WWF. I was lucky and got actual information about park from their local office at Yaounde.

Jengi Ecotourism: pearls in the forest

Major Attractions

1 Forest clearings (bais)

The large forest clearings widely known by the Baka pygmy name of bais offer huge opportunities for are highly visited by foraging large mammals such as elephants, gorillas, bongo antelopes and host of many other forest species. Some of the bais are larger than football pitches with soils that are rich in various minerals thus attracting mega fauna of the forest. Observation towers (miradors) have been constructed in certain bais in Lobeke and Boumba Bek to support both ecological monitoring work and accommodate tourists. Miradors are wooden structures standing some 5metres above ground level that can accommodate about 5 persons for over nights in the bais. These miradors have been constructed in bais where all season accessed is guaranteed.

2 Bird watching

More than 330 bird species have so far been recorded in the region . Bird watching tours inside the forest could be done using the numerous existing nature trails or guided trips along the major rivers of Sangha and Ngoko which also serve as international boundaries.

3 Sport fishing

The various rivers in the region are quite rich in aquatic fauna with more than 183 different fish species already recorded. At least two species are new to science and probably more. The area of the Nki between the Nki-falls and the Chollet Falls, as well as the Yombi-river. Guided fishing tours can be organized on the Sangha and Ngoko rivers not withstanding the very attractive and scenic beauty that offers with numerous fishing islands.

Other interesting aspects of sport fishing are the use of traditional fishing methods of fencing mostly done by the Baka pygmies during the dry season period. Shrimp fishing is another exciting activity especially group shrimp fishing with over nights in the forest.

4 Organized traditional hunting

Traditional hunting using poisoned bows-and-arrows remains a remarkable domain of Baka pygmies especially in terms of marks-man-ship. It is one of the most exciting and adventurous hunting methods combined with in forest expeditions that it characterizes. This particular hunting method is widely carried out by medium aged and young people mostly in small-organized social groups. It targets usually medium and small sized duikers but notably diurnal primates. Besides using bow-and-arrow methods during such hunting expeditions, Baka pygmy also indulge in mimicking distress calls of various animal species that in the process are hunted.

5 Expeditions to Nki falls

The Nki falls represent a very attractive tourist site in the region given its natural scenic beauty and relatively untouched nature of its forest. Nki falls could be easily reached by waters on River Ngoko from Moloundou. It takes about 5hours of jolly boat ride that could be combined with bird watching and interesting animal observations along the way. Nki falls is also known for its endemic and rich fish fauna with some of the latest discoveries new to science.

It is one of the rare sites in Central African sub region where the forest still remains relatively untouched. The numerous bais of the area with abundant wildlife makes it a very fascinating site for eco-tourism development.

6 Sports hunting

The sport hunting industry is one of the most developed industries and economically viable commercial activity in southeast Cameroon. Sport hunting by mostly North Americans and Europeans has been going on in the region for more than two decades. Sports hunting outfits that are mostly owned by Europeans (Spanish, Italian, Danish etc) fly in clients every 6months to hunt various forest wildlife species. Besides hunting, most of the clients also participate in photographic tourism given the exciting and adventurous nature of sport hunting particularly in the forest areas.

Ethno-tourism

Tourists can pay to experience the everyday life and activities of the indigenous population, Baka pygmy and Bagando.

Some of the activities include, forest expeditions with Baka pygmies for bush mangoes harvesting, hunting and fishing. Experiencing aspects like tapping of raffia palm wine notably by Bagando could also be very interesting.

Other aspects would include participation in renowned cultural festivals as Jengi that is organised every year to introduce new members into this highly spiritual society. Other folkloric dances include the famous Baka pygmies Tortoise dance that greatly portrays some of the strong affiliations of these people to their environment.

Handicrafts and artefacts

Although traditionally hunters and gatherers, the indigenous population in the region also produce some good quality crafts basically from wood carvings using very durable and high quality wood as Ebony and Sapelli. These carvings sometimes portray the history of the people and also important aspects of their cultures.

In Molundou is found one of the oldest German cemeteries constructed at the end of the First World War marking colonial epoch of the region. There are also so many artefacts on the life of the people, European colonialisation and early settlers in the region scattered all over in region.

Camp Kombo

The Lobeke National Park base known as Camp Kombo is a natural camping place for those who visit the abundantly rich South East Forest region of Cameroon. People who come here include students, researchers, scientists and tourists from all over the world. It is here that HRH Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh and President emeritus of WWF visited and spent a night after attending the famous Yaounde Forest Summit in 1999. Animals too have become guests at the camp. This is understandable when one considers that the camp is planted in the wild at the edge of the Lobeke Park.

Managed for the time being by WWF, it is a temporal base to assist the many visitors to the rich Lobeke Forest. The base is situated near the small village of Mambele in the Moloundou sub-division and about 160 Km away from Yokadouma, the Divisional headquarter of Boumba-et-Ngoko.

Apart from the ten tents set up under thatched roofs, a storehouse and a kitchen, there is nothing artificial about the camp. The few available structures are delicately sandwiched between tree species and wild shrubs leaving the camp trapped in the humidity and darkness that characterises forests of the Congo basin. Perhaps the most exciting attraction at the camp is the fact that from time to time animals migrate to the area from the depths of the forest. Most animals especially monkeys and birds just wander around and leave. The camp charges a token fee of between 10-20 U.S dollars per visitor for maintenance.

Trans-boundary trips

Lobeke National Park is part of a trans-boundary regional protected area network that includes two other national parks, Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, NNNP (Congo-Brazzaville) and Dzanga-Ndoki (CAR). These parks are internationally known for their varied and rich fauna notably in the numerous bais that characterise the vegetation of the region. The various parks could be accessed by air and more easily by land from Lobeke via the River Sangha. It takes about 30minutes of boat ride to reach Bomassa Park HQ of NNNP from Djembe in Lobeke. It will take about 3hours boat ride from Libongo in Lobeke to reach Bayanga the Park HQ of Dzanga-Ndoki, DN, national park. These parks notably DN do have very good and basic infrastructure to accommodate tourist. The famous bai of DN has received wide international attention for its elephants and other wildlife that could be observed everyday throughout the year.

Access and transportation

By Air

The southeast forest region of Cameroon can be accessed easily by air given the numerous air trips constructed by logging companies that can accommodate small planes and 20 sitter carriers as Beech crafts. Lobeke could be assessed from various directions using airstrips of Kika, Libongo and Moloundou that are bordering logging towns. WWF has a contract arrangement with international linguistic centre, SIL that has about three small aircrafts that fly into the region when arranged.

By Land

Most area is land logged making access by land very difficult. The roads are mostly dusty and bumpy with very little maintenance. Not withstanding, most regions including the project area could be accessed using the major trans-Atlantic highways that runs from the capital city into the hinterlands and across the frontiers into CAR and Republic of Congo-Brazzaville. The main highway road is quite seasonal given poor maintenance but all season access can only be ensured using 4WD vehicles. Most of the road networks are maintained by logging companies.

Great information in my opinion. Thanks WWF!

Car from travel agencies?

It looks like that transportation to the park is difficult by public transport. The best option is to rent a 4x4 car. That is why I have tried to contact few travel agencies based at Douala or Yaounde and find some car. Result is not so good as I expected. Two agencies offered car for this kind of trip for high price (in my opinion). In more details: www.equatorialtours.com from Douala wants about 800 EUR/person for 6 days trip (3 days at Lobeke) (and for group of 4 people); www.intertropictravel.com from Yaounde wants 850 EUR/person for 7 days trip (and for group of 4 people).



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