Holly Morris travels to Gabon in West Africa, one of the best places in the world to go trekking as most of country is covered by rainforest. In 2002 a total of 13 national parks were created in Gabon protecting over 10% of the land mass - and on this trip Holly sets out to discover 2 of them: Lope and Ivindo.
From the capital Libreville on the Atlantic coast, the gateway to the country for most international travellers, Holly heads inland to Lope National Park, travelling upcountry on Gabon's one and only train line. En route, she crosses the Equator, marking the experience with a celebratory drink and - with no champagne on the train - she makes do with Gabonese beer!
At Lope, Holly goes trekking in search of the elusive mandrill, one of the world's rarest and most spectacular primates. Lope is the only place in the world where there is a realistic chance of seeing these brightly coloured animals in the wild. To help track them down, Holly is joinedby Dr. Lee White, Head of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Gabon, and an expert on mandrills.
Uniquely, some of the mandrills at Lope have been fitted with radio-collars. After trackingtheir general whereabouts with a radio antenna, Holly and Lee head into the denserainforest to try and get close enough to see them. However, the mandrills spot them coming, and vanish into the forest. After a lot of effort trying to track them down, Holly is finally rewarded with the remarkable experience of seeing 100s of mandrills at very close quarters.
From Lope, Holly heads deeper still into the rainforest, to Ivindo National Park, and the remote jungle clearing of Langoue Bai, discovered by a National Geographic funded expedition as recently as the year 2000. She is guided by Ruth Starkey, head of the Wildlife Conservation Society's project at Langoue Bai.
Langoue Bai is a haven for numerous rarely seen species and has been visited by less than 1,000 people since it was first discovered. Its elusive wildlife are safely hidden, living deep within the rainforest. For Holly, the climax of her trek is a dramatic encounter with a large herd of forest elephants which differ both in shape and behaviour from the much more commonly seen savannah elephants.
The rainforests of Gabon are a masterpiece in biodiversity, and for Holly the experience of encountering very rarely seen wildlife is totally exhilarating.