Moukalaba–Doudau is Gabon’s third largest national park and receives far less visitors compared to its more famous counterparts. Located about 700 kilometers (435 miles) south of the country’s capital city Libreville, this area is a paradise for anyone wishing to experience an authentic feel of the African wilderness. Moukalaba–Doudau covers an area of 4,500 square kilometers (1,700 square miles) and its diverse habitats range from tropical rainforest and grassy savannahs to papyrus swamps. The park, which also covers some coastal areas, includes the Moukalaba River and the Ndogo Lagoon, while the Doudau Monitains are the largest mountain range in southwestern Gabon, reaching an altitude of 800 meters (2,625 feet).
The Moukalaba area was gazetted as a forest reserve in 1962 and was given the status of a national park in 2002. In 2005, the site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as a place of outstanding universal value.
Thirty years ago, the Doudau Mountains were extensively logged. Now, the area is completely uninhabited and Marantaceae plants grow on the former logging sites. These leafy plants provide an important source of food for western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees and forest elephants, and contribute to their presence in the region.
Moukalaba-Doudau has an estimated population of about 5,000 chimpanzees and gorillas - which is one of the highest densities of primates in Gabon - and grants tourist with a unique opportunity to observe our closest animal relatives in the wild. Kyoto University is conducting a long-term survey of gorillas and chimpanzees in the park and simultaneously contributes to conservation awareness amongst the local people.
The park’s savannahs are the only place in Gabon where you can find waterbuck and reedbuck, and the hippos enjoy wallowing in the rivers of the Nyanga River.
Birdwatchers will be delighted with Moukalaba – Doudau, too. The park provides a habitat for over 380 species of birds, some of them unique. Vermiculated fishing owl, black-backed barbet, black-headed batis, fiery-breasted bush shrike, brown twinspot and some rare swallows, were all spotted within the boundaries of the park.
Community-based eco-tourism initiatives exist within the park. Gorilla trekking is organized around the village of Doussala. Experienced guides take visitors deep into the rainforest. Good physical fitness, as well as the ability to appreciate basic living conditions, is required to undertake this amazing safari adventure.
The best time to see primates is during the dry season, which stretches from May to September. The rainy season runs from October to April and is the preferred time for bird watching.