Gabon is a wildlife Eden in West Africa, teeming with animals such as gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants, and hippos, most of which have never encountered human beings. Thanks to NG explorer Mike Fay‘s Megatransect project which revealed this lost world to the rest of the world and to the government of Gabon, national parks now cover 11 percent of its landmass. (Take a virtual tour of Gabon’s National Parks.)
Gabon also has hundreds of kilometers of pristine beaches and coastal lagoons, with healthy populations of humpback whales and sea turtles. However, very little is known about the area’s underwater life, and there is no marine equivalent to the land park system. (Learn more about President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s “Gabon Green” Project [in French].)
But that could be about to change.
A New Expedition
Mike Fay and fellow NG Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala are partnering with the Waitt Institute, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and Gabon’s Agence Nationale de Parcs Nationaux (ANPN) on an expedition this month to explore and survey the marine ecosystems of Gabon from the shallows to the deep sea, using scuba diving and a remote operated vehicle.
Mike will lead the expedition and conduct terrestrial surveys. As leader of the National Geographic Pristine Seas project, Enric will lead the marine research and co-lead the expedition.
Accompanying Enric in the research will be two veteran Pristine Seas team members: Alan Friedlander of the University of Hawaii will join as the fish specialist, and Kike Ballesteros of the Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes will join from Spain as the benthos (ocean floor) specialist. (See a gallery of Kike’s “Strange and Beautiful Algae Photos.”)
What’s to Come
The hope is that this exploration will shed light on an underwater paradise along Gabon’s shores, and that the country will protect the creatures there, just as they have done for those on land.
In the meantime, you can follow the adventures of the team as Enric Sala and Mike Fay report back from the field on this blog over the next few weeks. They have been traveling for days and the work begins for real Tuesday, October 9. Be a part of it!