In January, I (Cormac) had an opportunity to visit the southern end of Bioko island. I packed my bags and headed out to camp for two and half weeks in the jungle and on the beaches of Bioko.
The southern beaches are absolutely beautiful! Miles and miles of black sand beaches broken up by craggy outcroppings that jut out into the sea. The rainforest pushing out onto the beach, as if it was a peacock that you just have to let fly! Fly away little rainforest!
It is pretty interesting how the forest floor is sooo rocky. Once you get up in elevation, a little, the sand just gives way to rocks. Not very easy to hike through. Especially, if you’re looking for monkeys. You have to walk as silently as you can, and as slowly as you can while keeping your eyes peeled for movement. Which is pretty hard, cause branches are moving all over from the warm breeze coming off the ocean, pushing moisture inland. Not to mention, monkey treks are typically 3 hours long, which is a long time to concentrate on all those things. You start seeing things. Whoa, is that a monkey. Oh, there’s one. Nope, that’s a shadow and that other thing is nothing, absolutely nothing.
On the contrary, the locals are amazingly good at spotting ‘los monos,’ and for that matter pretty much anything. One time I was walking through the forest with a guide and friend when they came upon a red-eared guenon making a racket. One visual sweep of the surrounding trees and the guide spotted a python nearby. It took me maybe 10 minutes to find it, with binoculars and him pointing it out several times. It was super cool to see though, and a little bit freaky that it took so long to spot. I’m sure I walked past many creepy-crawlies and didn’t even know.
That being said, the rainforest on Bioko is low in overall animal diversity. The rainforest is pretty empty, except for primates and a few other small mammals: rats, animalures (picture a porcupine without quills that makes these ridiculously eerie call that starts out low in pitch and progressively gets higher pitch and louder, and by the end of the call sounds like a banshee), squirrels, and duikers (‘dye-ker’; interestingly, duiker is Dutch for ‘diver’, as in these small antelopes dive into the underbrush when approached and are never seen again!). I’m not sure about reptile and amphibian diversity, but I sure didn’t see a lot of them. Bioko actually has one of the highest primate diversities in Africa. However, there are no orangutans. Apparently, Bioko isn’t big enough to maintain a minimal viable population.
The umbrella species, if you will, on the island is the drill, which to the untrained eye resembles a baboon. It’s even got a blue butt, or at least the males do. And I really wanted to get a picture of one! Actually, I just wanted to take pictures of monkeys. I didn’t care what type, or that drills aren’t technically monkeys (they’re primates). So we’ve come to the question you probably had when you read the title of the post. Not a… Not a what? Not a professional quality picture. Of course I didn’t have a license for professional photography, so my intent was not to try to sell any photographs. But I do really try to take the best pictures I can, if not just for practice, just for my self-confidence.
At night, I walked the shores with a group of researchers who live on Bioko’s southern beaches for five to size months out of the year, collecting data on the nesting habits of sea turtles. The most common turtle to come ashore is the green turtle, followed by the olive ridley, and then the great leatherbacks. If you’re willing to wake up at dawn, you can catch a glimpse of the last group of turtles heading out to sea in the day light. Pretty amazing experience!
I stayed at one camp with it’s very own private bathing lagoon. I’m not sure why everyone called this place a ‘lagoon’, because to me it just looked like a stream. Anyhow, we brought our snorkeling masks and spotted these HUGE fish, they must have been 2.5-3 feet long and blue in color, with silver on their sides and there was a whole school of them. They were feeding on the thousands of tadpoles that were clinging to the rocky shore. A few of said tadpoles survived to become as big as eggs. They looked really funny, almost comical, and were very easy to catch. After, the dip it was time for dinner and hanging out. A tough hike in, and the roar of the ocean are things that make for a sound night’s sleep. However, they can’t over come stifling heat and humidity which made it nearly impossible to sleep soundly through the whole night.
After breakfast and touring the jugles, we would sometimes to take a jaunt down one of the creeks to the spot known as the Lion King Bridge, and have a few jumps of the log into the stream.
The best time of year to visit Bioko Sur is the dry season. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t rain. At least three of the days I was there, we had hours of torrential rains. We haven’t lived in Equatorial Guinea during the heart of the rainy season, but I’m not beginning to understand what we’re in for!
That is all.
All images (c) 2014