My friend and colleague at the National Geographic Society, Mike Fay, and I had been talking for many years about combining our twin interests – conservation and exploration – to see a part of Gabon he did not yet know. While he had walked the breadth of the Congo – famously, during his 1999-2000 Megatransect, over one and a half years and 2,000 miles of the densest jungles – there were still parts of the country accessible only by water, which we went to investigate.
Accompanied by photographer Peter McBride and two Gabonese eco-guides, we made an exhausting and exhilarating circumnavigation of Gabon’s jewel of a national park, Loango. Bordered by the Atlantic
Ocean and stretching 40 miles into the jungled interior, we kayaked and portaged more than 200 miles around the park’s perimeter, seeing this wild country from a new and different perspective. Along the way we encountered river-swimming elephants, manatees, tarpon, surfing hippos, gorillas and more. By trip’s end it was hard to decide which were the most beautiful, and the most difficult, parts of the expedition, but it was eye opening, for us all.
This ongoing project from writer and adventurer Jon Bowermaster includes a series of expeditions to explore the world’s oceans from the seat of a sea kayak. Used as both transportation and as floating ambassadors, sea kayaks allow Jon and his teams – comprised of some of the world’s best photographers, filmmakers, scientists and navigators – to reach corners of the world rarely seen. The goal of each expedition is adventure and education through exploration of local cultures, histories, environmental issues and the future of these varied regions. Supported by the National Geographic Expeditions Council, the expeditions have taken Jon to the heart of the Aleutian Islands, through the Tuamotu Atolls in French Polynesia, across the high plains of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, up the wild coastline of Gabon in West Africa, along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, and around the rugged shores of the Australian island of Tasmania.