Originally Posted by LOE200
Amazing report, looking forward to seeing more
Can I ask what body/lens you are using?
We're using a 5dMKII + 24mm f/1.4L + 70-200mm f/2.8L. We sure miss a point&shoot which would have been easier to use in some cases.
An Enchanted Night In The Rainforest Changed Everything
On the 9th of October there were presidential elections scheduled in Cameroon. The dictator Paul Biya, in power for over 20 yrs, was the expected frontrunner for yet another 7 years term. On the 30th of September an opponent of the current regime fired a gun in Douala, and the police found an unexploded grenade in Limbe, at the Elecam hq. On the 13th of Octiber our Nigeria visa would expire, so on the 4th we were heading from Abuja to the Ikom border, with the intention to cross into Cameroon and avoid the capital during elections or to bushcamp next to the border.
There 3 ways into Cameroon: the good tar up in the north, through Maiduguri and the highly unstable Boko Haram territory. The overlanders' hell, the dreaded Ekok-Mamfe piste, marred by lorries and loggers' trucks and potentially hazardous during the last weeks of the rainy season. Or the ferry from Calabar to Limbe, that we could not afford.
The eastern Nigerian states are visibly more lively and prosperous. Small, colorful villages, mud brick houses with zinc roofs, fresh food markets, streetside restaurants with delicious food, plantations. People are friendly, food is cheap and we zoom by police checkpoints without being stopped.
The roads are bad though, so after Obudu we decide to crash overnight at Afi Drill Ranch. Emi and Oli, the Brits overloading in a Landie who we'd met in Lome and who are ahead of us in Gabon, told us to stop in Afi, if we had the time.
The air is moist, the forrest is soaking and we are rolling through dense high vegetation that hardly allow any sunlight in the undergrowth. The track is narrow and goes up and down for 15 km into the dark heart of the rainy forest. It rains every day, sometimes even more times a day. The tires slide easily or the sticky mushy clay, so a fall is imminent. We bite the mud two times, but we arrive in one piece, yet covered in dirt and with rivers of sweat flowing from the forehead to the boots.
We're in the deep bush. There is no GSM network, no electricity and no running water. Afi Drill Ranch is the research camp of Pandrillus, a conservation project dedicated to saving the primates and the forest of Cross River state from extinction. The camp is bordering the wildlife sanctuary established together with the state government. The project receives short teem visitors who can witness the daily work and learn about primates conservation. We are welcomed by 2 American long term volunteers, Amanda and Jens, who show us around.
Dimineata stim ce avem de facut, si dupa ce vizitam baza, plecam spre Calabar pentru a ne pune in aplicare planul.
We are completely exhausted. Soon we lay down in our tent, pitched in the bamboo shed.
The night is magical. The darkness burns the eyes and is hardly interrupted by myriad stars and immense fireflies. A choir of forrest sounds - amphibians, insects and nocturnal mammals - completely new to our ears. We let this new energy burn its imprint into our DNA.
We're having a scottish breakfast in the middle of the rainforrest
We are camping right by the main drill enclosure, next to the crocodiles and the duika, in the yard of Pandrillus HQ, which is also the home of Peter Jenkins, the founder of the project. Him and Lisa Gadsby arrive in Nigeria while overloading in Africa. They had a 10 days transit visa and a meeting with destiny. They discovered that the Cross River subspecies of drill monkey, assumed to be extinct, was still roaming the forests, and they embarked on a race to save them. More than 20 years later, Pandrillus has become one of the world's most successful conservation & captivity breeding of an endangered species projects. It is amazing that such a project exists in the impoverished West Africa and in Nigeria, of all the places. To us it was logical to volunteer our time and effort, and a privilege to be accepted. We sorted out our papers (visa and laissez passer extension) and went shopping for working gear (trousers, long sleeve shirt, shoes) from the second hand shacks in the market. By the end of the week we were already back in the midst of primary rain forest. We were not to exit this unique but dwindling wildlife sanctuary for the next four weeks.