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Moukalaba-Doudou National Park - A view from our expert author
This national park has everything from tropical rainforests to bizarrely shaped limestone formations near Dighoudou © Annelies Hickendorff
Gabon’s third-largest national park, Moukalaba-Doudou, is a rugged area with a diverse range of habitats, from tropical rainforest and grassy savannahs to papyrus swamps. West of the Moukalaba River and east of the Ndogo Lagoon are the Doudou Mountains. This is the largest mountain range in southwestern Gabon, reaching an altitude of approximately 700m. While the Doudou Mountains were logged from the 1960s until the 1980s, the area is now completely uninhabited. With an estimated population of almost 5,000 chimpanzees and gorillas, Moukalaba-Doudou has some of the highest densities of primates in Gabon, making it one of the country’s most promising gorilla tourism sites.
Former logging sites are now abundant with succulent Marantaceae plants, a major food source for gorillas as well as forest elephants and other species. Furthermore, the savannahs near Doussala are the only place in Gabon where herds of common waterbuck (‘cobe’) are found. The park is also a remarkable area for birders. More than 380 species of birds (many of them unique) have been spotted here, including the vermiculated fishing owl, black-backed barbet, black-headed batis, fiery-breasted bush shrike, brown twinspot and some rare swallows.
With an estimated population of almost 5,000 chimpanzees and gorillas, Moukalaba-Doudou has some of the highest densities of primates in Gabon, making it one of the country’s most promising gorilla tourism sites.
The 4km2 of community-managed forest around the village of Doussala is home to some groups of gorillas. In collaboration with Kyoto University, IRET, WWF and the ANPN, the local NGO PROGRAM (see below) is in charge of the habituation of group 8 for tourism development. A visit is possible and while accessing the park is not exactly easy, it is well worth the effort.
A local NGO, PROGRAM (Quartier Administratif, next to l’Inspection Provinciale des Eaux et Forêts; mobile: 07 42 82 82; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.facebook.com/ong.program) fosters community-based ecotourism and organises gorilla trekking around Doussala and safaris to a camping site on the bank of the Mbani River, on the beautiful Mbani Plain. Experienced guides take visitors on walking tours deep in the forests.
This safari to Moukalaba-Doudou is one of most authentic rainforest experiences one could wish for – and therefore is unsuitable for people uncomfortable with very basic living conditions. Those who want to join a tour must be over 15 years old, and trekking through the park requires good physical condition. The best time of the year to see primates is during the dry season, between June and September.