Gabon’s Loango National Park is a mystical, unspoiled place where the deep, dark jungle meets the sparkling ocean. Part jungle, part swamp, and bordered by some 60 miles (100 kilometers) of Atlantic coastline, Loango is a place where hippos play in the surf, whales come to mate, giant sea turtles lay their eggs and elephants roam the beach. Every inch of the park throbs with life, from the smallest creatures to the biggest.
The 385,00-acre (1,550 square kilometers) Loango is part of an extensive national park system created by Gabon’s President Omar Bongo last year in response to lobbying from the Wildlife Conservation Society and a 2,000-mile trek from northern Congo to the coast of Gabon by Wildlife Conservation Society biologist and National Geographic Conservation Fellow J. Michael Fay to survey the land and find a way to protect its natural resources. Loango is a wildlife preserve unlike any other on the African continent, but poachers, illegal fishing boats and leaky oil rigs all threaten its pristine nature.
Now, Fay and National Geographic photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols are on a mission to safeguard the future of this modern-day Eden. National Geographic Ultimate Explorer ventures into the African wilderness to join Fay and Nichols as they work to ensure that this fragile, newly formed park will survive the test of time.
For Nichols, the trip holds a special significance. For the first time in his 25-year career, he has brought his wife and two sons along for the shoot. Together, they work for months to capture the magic of this wild place on film. Meanwhile, Fay takes on the difficult task of building an infrastructure for the park he helped create by working with a group of “ecoguides” — specially trained park rangers who will be on the frontlines in the battle to preserve Loango. As part of this amazing adventure, they head upriver together to explore a portion of the park rarely seen by the outside world.
Join National Geographic Ultimate Explorer for this exciting look at the beauty of a coastal paradise and those faced with the challenge of preserving it. For more on Fay and Nichols’ adventures in coastal Gabon, check out the August 2004 issue of National Geographic magazine.