Fynn clicked his tongue again; this familiar noise reassuring the silverback, Kamaya, our presence was non-threatening. The western gorilla, Kamaya, was first identified by the research team in 2009. He is recognisable not only by his size and colouring, but by the large scar on the right side of his face which we caught a glimpse of as he did a mock charge, beating his chest to remind us to keep our distance.
Kamaya has a big job. He’s the chief of a large family of 10, made up of 3 adult females and 6 youngsters ranging from an infant born in 2016 to the young male, Moutchi – meaning intelligent – born in 2008-2009. During our hour with the troop, we saw 5 members of the family as well as Kamaya. They were feeding contentedly, moving gently from bush to bush to find the juiciest leaves, snoozing and digesting. Unlike chimpanzee who can be highly strung and aggressive, gorilla are gentle vegetarians not prone to emotional outbursts. Still, merely being in their presence is overwhelmingly impressive and being eyeballed by one is almost heart stopping!
Gorillas are found in the rainforest across Gabon but Loango National Park has the only habituated troop, meaning they tolerate human presence without changing their behaviour. The troop are monitored daily by a dedicated team of researchers who record their location and behaviour, including who is interreacting with who, every few minutes.
Allowing tourists to spend time with the troop channels vital funds to the Gabonese National Parks Agency who manage and protect Loango, as well as Gabon’s 12 other national Parks. Tourist numbers are low in Gabon and group visits to the gorilla are small (there were only 3 of us), not daily and limited to an hour, with the troop receiving a maximum of 2 groups on any day.
Spending time with the troop in Gabon was the most incredible privilege, and experience of a lifetime for lucky Emma and Susanne from Archipelago Choice.
If this sounds like something you’d love to do, take a look at our carefully crafted holidays to Gabon and give Emma or Susanne a ring on 017687 721040.