Report 1
September 28, 1999


“The forest is keeping us very busy,” reports Mike Fay, eight days into his year-long walk through the tropical forests of central Africa.
Photograph by Michael Nichols

(Note: nationalgeographic.com does not research or edit dispatches.)

We’re having a great time. Been out on the trail for eight days now—walking through the mud, chopping our way through the rough patches. The forest is keeping us very busy with elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys, monitor lizards, aardvarks, hinge tortoises, and tons of other wildlife.

We’ve arrived in a place called the Goualougo, which is one of the deeper parts of the Ndoki forest. We’ve dubbed it before the Last Place on Earth because that’s what we really think it is. The animals here treat humans like in no other place—we’re strange things, completely unknown to them. They don’t flee. They come to inspect you, in fact, because we are a species they have never seen before.

We were making our way toward the Goualougo River for a swamp crossing at about 3 p.m. yesterday, when our Pygmy guide stopped and looked at what we thought might have been a great termite mound or possibly an elephant. It didn’t take long before it moved. We approached this elephant. Normally, when elephants get your scent, as an alert, they flee. To our great surprise, this elephant acted as if he was completely habituated. He didn’t run.

Suddenly, behind us, we heard the telltale whimpering of a chimpanzee. We turned around and within about 25 feet [7.6 meters] there was a large male chimpanzee just peering through the bush looking at us from the ground.

Here we are. We’re looking at an elephant on one side and a chimpanzee on another, 25 feet [7.6 meters] away on the ground.

This morning we got up and saw that the chimpanzees slept very close to our camp. Dave Morgan went to go follow him and located him in a tree, happily feeding away with a female and two young.

Hopefully the Goualougo does have a future. We’re working with logging interests in the area. The better part of the Goualougo is actually in a logging concession. We’re working hard to try and make the world at large realize that the Goualougo is in fact the Last Place on Earth.

We need to save it. I think we can. We certainly should. So hopefully this dispatch will reach many people that will start thinking about the Goualougo and ways that we might be able to save it. We’ll be in contact in the next few days. We have a few swamp crossings to make today. The going is pretty rough, but in another few days there’ll be clear sailing up to Makao. So, we’ll be in touch. Thanks for standing by. See ya.

    — Mike Fay


Polygon Profile: Nouabale-Ndoki

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Elephant Charge,
with Chimps


Listen to Mike Fay’s welcome in RealPlayer or Media Player format.


Report 2 - October 11, 1999