A further miracle of Lango’s forest is the fact that you can walk through it for hours without any shoes required. Even townies don’t need any protection for their soft and sensitive feet, as the forest floor is a soft path of fallen leaves and other plant materials, an earthiness free of any harsh thorns, twigs and stones. It really is lovely to leave one’s shoes behind and connect with the earth in this way.
One souvenir that will stay with me for life is the smells of the forest. Adi took us to various places within the forest to appreciate the gentle perfumes engulfing the air. Instead of only observing the beauty around us, we learnt to experience it with all the senses: touch the incredible textures of the trees that have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years; listening out for bird calls, or for that quiet rustle that gives away the presence of an elephant close by or monkeys in the trees; taste new flavours of fruit and berries and plants – even mushrooms – and learning that the popcorn smell at the tree log that we just walked past comes from a leopard marking its territory. Or that the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil is called petrichor. From now on I will always observe, smell, hear, taste, and feel the forest, savannah, bushveld or desert. Live the experience holistically.
Lango forest is amazingly diverse, including patches of savannah as well as streams of clear water surrounded by palm trees, ferns and shrubs. The terra firme forest is not as thick as the marantaceae forest at Ngaga and makes for incredible bird-watching. Adi heard the call of a bare-cheeked trogon and spent about 15 minutes following the call and tracking down the bird. It was completely worth the effort! With its red chest and blue-green wings, the bird is absolutely magnificent. I could probably spend another month at Lango and still not have scratched the surface of the diversity of the birdlife. This is the territory of African grey parrots, green pigeons, hornbills, kingfishers, owls, and hundreds more. I will have to come back. And live in Lango. Forever.
Sadly, we only got to spend one night in Lango before having to move to the next camp. But the drive to Ngaga was fabulously entertaining and great fun. We spotted all sorts of animals along the way – including a quick glimpse of our first gorilla crossing the road ahead of us. Adi also didn’t mind stopping to humour my desire to take photos of butterflies along the route. I think it’s a budding passion… I just love taking photos of these gorgeously colourful creatures. Even the caterpillars are fascinating!
There is an institutional stop in the village of Mbomo en-route to Ngaga to have a beer at a local watering hole. We pulled in at Frank’s – who was only too happy to bring out five ice cold Ngoks – and proceeded to have a lekker solid kuier in the middle of the village, surrounded by chickens, goats and playing kids. It was a great vibe and I made use of the occasion to practice taking some portraits using my new 300mm lens. The joke was that if I could take photos of pilots in the smoke, it would be good practice for photographing gorillas in the mist. OK, it’s a bit of a location joke, but it was funny nonetheless. Especially given that we’d each thirstily consumed a quartz of beer by then… 🙂
The arrival at Ngaga camp was epic! Our welcoming committee had lit torches all around and it felt like we were part of a tribal ritual. A massive bonfire had also been lit on the deck that overlooks the forest canopy, with trees and trees and more trees, as far as the eye can see. It’s the most immersive forest experience I’ve ever had. The (now) habitual Botanical Bombs were expertly poured while we watched the colours of the sun disappearing on the horizon. Dinner was another highlight… the chefs at Mboko and Lango were fantastic, but Santos of Ngaga is in a league of his own. I would’ve thought myself in an upmarket restaurant in Cape Town with the beautifully presented and modern approach to interesting and delicious dishes. Odzala had us incredibly spoilt with copious breakfasts and 3-course lunches and dinners. Luckily there is always a lot of walking, paddling or swimming involved to burn off the calories and work up an appetite for the next fabulous meal.