Odzala’s Lango bai and Bongo Saline

On our second morning at Lango we set off early into the bai. It was very misty which gave the place a mysterious feel. Everything around Lango is accessed by walking through the bai.

“The answer is simple. If we lose the world’s forests, we lose the fight against climate change. Rainforests are our Earth’s greatest utility – our planet’s lungs, thermostat and air-conditioning system.” ~ Michael Somare

This particular morning we set off towards Bongo saline in the hopes of seeing one or more Bongos and Red river hogs. Sadly our hopes were not fulfilled as we saw neither. The particular area of the bai we walked in was to find a rare antelope called Bongo. I am not sure why it was called a saline but I presume it had a geomorphological origin and was probably the more saline section of the bai.

The Bongo is an antelope of the genus Tragelaphus which are spiral horned antelopes. They are in the same family as the Greater Kudu, Mountain Nyala and Sitatunga. The Bongo is a large solidly built antelope not too much smaller than an Eland. The Bongo is a nocturnal ungulate and browses on leaves, bushes, bark, pith of rotting trees, grasses, roots, and fruits. Bongos require salt in their diet so come into the salines to eat the mineral rich soil for the same reason the green pigeons and parrots.

Our walk to the Bongo saline was along the waterways in the bai which the wildlife use. These underwater paths are firm underfoot from years of wildlife traffic. Although misty, it was warm and so humid. When we went for our walks around the Lango bai area we were accompanied by a Congo Conservation eco guide, Mathieu.

The mist was thick and only lifted quite late in the morning. It gave an altogether more mysterious sense to the place.

As you can see moving away from the game trails involved getting through thick mud, the kind of depth mud that wants to suck your shoes off your feet.

Ann got well and truly stuck on occasions and lost her shoes deep in the mud which Mathieu managed to find each time. Just as well because there were thickets of thorn bushes at the edge of some of these muddy patches. Getting stuck led to all sorts of comments and great humour.

“Bais are an inbetween place in the forest. Not forest, not savanna but rather swamp lands. This inbetween place reveals some of the forests secrets. It is a feeding and gathering place for many creatures in the forest community. It displays a blaze of greens, spiced with swirls of multi-coloured wings. You can wander through these bais along elephant boulevards. Here you are a visitor.”~ Mike Haworth

Once we got onto an “elephant boulevard” it was easy walking. Although you walked through the water it was firm underfoot. The “elephant boulevards” have been formed over hundreds of years of elephants walking in and out of the bai.

A bush lily on the verge of the elephant boulevard.

The “elephant boulevard” can be quite wide in places but sticks to the central sand paths. If you stray to the edges you are likely to sink calf or knee deep in mud. One of the things I love about the bush is that the locals come up with romantic expressions to describe some of the features of the area such as “elephant boulevards”, it is highly evocative.

The elephants seem to play a similar role in the Odzala rainforest that the hippos do in the Okavango delta. They create waterways and game trails which other wildlife follow. These game trails also seem to function like streams and help drain areas of the forest. These “elephant boulevards” also attract plant life which seek the sun such as the plant below which I think looks like an ipomoea or morning glory creeper.

“The more we urbanise, the more we grow out of touch with the natural systems and rhythms. The more we leave libraries of natural intelligence undiscovered. It is only in adventures back into the wilds we reignite our senses and become spellbound by the wonder and beauty of mother nature’s community.” ~ Mike Haworth

As you walk along these “elephant boulevards” you expect to see a forest elephant or forest buffalo or one of the antelopes any moment step out from around the corner. Like all game trails they do not follow a straight line but meander through the forest.

These Swamp lilies made a colourful display along the “elephant boulevard”, nature’s natural colourful garden.

For part of the walk we wandered through the close canopy forest. This was one of the immense African Greenheart trees which reach heights of 40 to 50 metres and have their characteristic large buttresses at their base. These buttresses can extend out over four metres. It is a sight to behold to look up into such a large old member of the forest community.

After walking through the dry closed canopy forest for a while we came to this waterway. This was the way back to Lango camp.

Later in the morning the mist cleared and the sun came out. The air was still and the reflection in the water was perfect.

“I see the day in our own lifetime that reverence for the natural systems, the oceans, the rainforests, the soil, the grasslands, and all other living things will be so strong that no narrow ideology based upon politics or economics will overcome it.” ~ Jerry Brown

We walked waist deep along this water way for about a hundred or so metres. It was exquisitely beautiful.

At the end of the waterway walk we disturbed a forest buffalo bull who was munching on some succulent vegetation below the water surface.

He stood and looked at us for a few seconds wondering what to do then bolted for the water’s edge at which point he stopped to turn around and have one last look at us.

Our morning walk did not serve up Bongos or Red river hogs but it was a fascinating and a beautiful, mysterious walk through the elephant boulevards, closed canopy forest, waterways and the thick mist and sunshine.

After exiting the waist deep waterway and short walk through the forest the path opened out onto the bai giving us a wonderful view of Lango camp and its surrounds. Lango and Ngaga camps could not have been more different and the experiences and walks could also not have been more different. The bais provide a very different view of the forest.

“The world’s forests need to be seen for what they are – giant global utilities, providing essential public services to humanity on a vast scale. They store carbon, which is lost to the atmosphere when they burn, increasing global warming. The life they support cleans the atmosphere of pollutants and feeds it with moisture. They act as a natural thermostat, helping to regulate our climate and sustain the lives of 1.4 billion of the poorest people on this Earth.” ~ Prince Charles

Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its inter-connectedness and let it be.

Have fun, Mike

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