Expedition to Central Africa
African jewels, the Ivindo and Ogooue Rivers - by Deb Pinniger
I first heard about Gabon in 2002 after Wildlife Conservation Societies conservationist Mike Fay shared Gabon?s beauty with the rest of the world in his National Geographic feature. Following his grueling eighteen month mega traverse of the country, Fay proposed to Gabon?s President Bongo to found thirteen new national parks, which would cover and conserve eleven percent of the country. A country rich in biodiversity and amazingly different eco systems, the images of Fay?s trip left a deep impression with me.
In December 2006 Nico Chassing started talking about possibly paddling in Gabon, a friend of his had flown over the Ogooue River and suggested that it would be worth checking out. Nico got in touch with Lee White from the Wildlife Conservation Society in Gabon, who suggested the Ivindo River, believing that the Ogooue would be a little flat and boring for us. Dozens of e-mails went back and forth, and hours were spent sitting at the computer researching and reading through information on Gabon and the Ivindo River. Eventually we decided that the Ivindo looked good to go. We had planned to paddle the river in early September. This would give us low water, allowing us to approach and portage the waterfalls safely, as well as having a small dry window just before the main rainy season which begins around the middle of September.
The Ivindo River flows from northeast Gabon to the southwest, where it eventually empties into Africa?s second largest watershed the Ogooue River. Flowing through the newly found Ivindo national park the Ivindo passes through some of the most attractive and wildest rainforest in Africa. Shortly after the town of Makokou the Invindo River drops off a plateau, cascading in to a series of four spectacular waterfalls, some of the most impressive falls in all of Equatorial Africa.
The objective of our trip was to paddle from the small town of Makokou on to Booue, a distance of about 180km. Once in Booue we would check out the options of going a further 150km on the Ogooue to Ndjole and possibly on through the delta to Pont Gentil by boat.