News: Gabon Caving Expedition Finds Underground Waterfalls, More


Text by expedition leader Trevor Frost, a National Geographic Young Explorer grantee

After two weeks in the field, the Gabon Cave Expedition team has learned to embrace the unpredictable.

Our first stop was in Lastourville, where we visited three caves. The first cave, Paouen 1, had a large entrance and a few thousand bats. It was also the cave where Dr. Richard Oslisly had previously found evidence of ancient weapon-making rituals. While the huge piles of bat guano didn’t stop the expedition from exploring further, the village chief did by not give us permission to access the large room holding Oslisly’s discoveries.

Luckily, the next day the team visited with a chief from a neighboring village. He granted us full access to the Lastourville Cave—and it turned out to be a wonderful find!

The half-mile-long cave had a small river with waterfalls, a 100-foot pit, a lot of interesting creatures (including a frog that is possibly new to science) and thousands of bats.

Our expedition team spent three days exploring, photographing, and filming inside Lastourville Cave and one other cave outside of Lastourville. With loads of photos and video footage in hand, we were ready to take on our next location. Reviewing topographic maps and previous cave reports helped us determine that there were likely few new caves to find in this area, so we turned our attention toward the Ndende and Tchibanga area (southwest of Gabon). After a tedious three-day drive (with broken four-wheel drive), the team arrived safely in Lebamba, about 19 miles outside of Ndende.

Now staged at the Bongolo Hospital in Lebamba (one of the best in all of Africa), we are preparing for three weeks of adventure and cave finding in some of Gabon’s most remote and pristine tropical forest. Speaking with locals we are hearing stories of kilometer long caves that no one has ever mapped, so we are all very excited! Please stay tuned at blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/gabon-caves.

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