Changing Planet

First Day on Heart of Africa Expedition without someone being sick

First day, maybe since the beginning, that somebody isn’t sick. That’s refreshing. Out of camp by five, and another 15-km leg to accomplish. We had our normal greeting of baboons, guinea fowl and warthogs in the morning. We picked up more presumed-giant-eland dung in about the same spot as last night, a bit further south. I collected a few samples just to make sure.

Tuft grass growing in savanna. Photograph by J. Michael Fay.
Tuft grass growing in savanna. Photograph by J. Michael Fay.
The guys were fascinated by this gall. Photograph by J. Michael Fay.
The guys were fascinated by this gall. Photograph by J. Michael Fay.

There is absolutely no recent cattle activity; everybody is well south of our location. We ran into two pretty big camps. Same old paraphernalia. A bit further on, in a smaller camp, Yaya found an abandoned seat of camouflage pants. He said that some of the Sudanese poachers they have been catching have been dressed in fatigues.

Remnants of camoflage pants used by poachers. Photograph by J. Michael Fay.
Remnants of camoflage pants used by poachers. Photograph by J. Michael Fay.
Termite mounds. Photograph by J. Michael Fay.
Termite mounds. Photograph by J. Michael Fay.
Felix steady as she goes. Photograph by J. Michael Fay.
Felix steady as she goes. Photograph by J. Michael Fay.

I watched all day, kind of estimating my sight distance. I would say the reality is about on average 50 m. So we have only actually seen some thousands of hectares out of the millions. It is, therefore, possible that the Eldorado of wildlife is in what we didn’t see, but the probability is extremely low. We did see a rabbit later in the morning.

Fresh track of waterbuck. Photograph by J. Michael Fay.
Fresh track of waterbuck. Photograph by J. Michael Fay.

We reached the river at our target around noon. The water has also come up here. Took an afternoon stroll and saw fresh waterbuck tracks.

Another fresh bee tree-cut. Photograph by J. Michael Fay.
Another fresh bee tree-cut. Photograph by J. Michael Fay.
Herve tends to bring up the rear. Photograph by J. Michael Fay.
Herve tends to bring up the rear. Photograph by J. Michael Fay.

In the evening, when the sun is going down and it starts to cool off, I am struck by four things: the beauty, the enormity, the thought of all this habitat that is intact (yet empty), and a mixed feeling of desperation and sadness that not more has been done to protect this gem on Earth.

Felix also took a walk, and found a saline spot upstream with fresh waterbuck tracks. We also had baboons visit camp, and black-and-white colobus monkeys calling along the Chinko. Still no hyena or lions calling in the night.

Tomorrow, we are going to push it a bit, so plan is to be out of camp by 03h40.

Africa explorer-conservationist J. Michael Fay is in the Central African Republic, completing an expedition he started in 2014, retracing as best he can the footsteps of the 19th Century American Game Hunter-Explorer William Stamps Cherry. Fay, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and recipient of numerous National Geographic Society grants, has also worked for decades for the Wildlife Conservation Society. His transects through some of Africa’s most remote and inaccessible wildernesses (among them the National Geographic-sponsored Megatransect and Meglaflyover) rank among the most significant in the history of exploration of the continent. You can read all his dispatches at Expedition Through the Heart of Africa.

March-26

Mike Fay has spent his life as a naturalist—from the Sierra Nevadas and the Maine woods as a boy, to Alaska and Central America in college, to North Africa and the depths of the central African forest and savannas for the last 25 years. He has worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Bronx since 1991. In 1996, Fay flew over the forests of Congo and Gabon and realized there was a vast, intact forest corridor spanning the two countries from the Oubangui to the Atlantic Ocean. In 1997, he walked the entire corridor, over 2,000 miles, surveying trees, wildlife, and human impacts on 12 uninhabited forest blocks. Called Megatransect, this work led to a historic initiative by the Gabonese government to create a system of 13 national parks, making up some 11,000 square miles (28,500 square kilometers). In 2004, he completed the Megaflyover, an eight-month aerial survey of the entire African continent. He logged 800 hours and took 116,000 vertical images of human impact and associated ecosystems, many of which are now visible on Google Earth. In 2008 Fay completed the Redwood Transect, a new project to learn more about the redwood forest. He walked the entire range of the redwood tree, over 700 miles. Since then he has participated in the 2011 BioBlitz at Saguaro National Park, and is a regular team member of fellow NG Explorer Enric Sala's Pristine Seas Expeditions, recording the life and land above the waves.

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

Social Media