Loango National Park is possibly one of the most outstanding wildlife destinations in Africa. It conserves miles of unspoiled beaches fringed by freshwater lagoons and dense equatorial forest. But what really make Loango’s beaches unique are the animals that walk along the sand—hippos, forest elephants, buffalo, leopards, and gorillas.
Why does the beach attract those animals of the forest? Lining Loango’s white, sandy beaches are pastures where hippos and buffalo can graze. Rônier palm trees, which grow alongside the beach, produce abundant fruit that attracts forest elephants almost as much as ice cream attracts children. But most important of all is the solitude. The only footprints on the sand are those of animals.
The absence of human intrusion encourages the endangered leatherback turtles to choose these lonely beaches as a place to lay their eggs. Rosy bee-eaters have similar nesting tastes, and they excavate their colonial nests in the sand just a few yards above the high-water mark. During the summer months, over a thousand humpback whales congregate in Loango’s undisturbed waters to mate.
Two immense lagoons separate the beaches of Loango from the equatorial forest, and they provide an ideal habitat for crocodiles and hippos. Fish are plentiful in these inland seas, whose banks are lined with mangrove forests. African fish eagles and ospreys scour the open water of the lagoons, while several species of colorful kingfishers search for fish in the shallow waters. Elephants, who love water, happily swim across the lagoons to reach the beach and gorge on their favorite fruit.
Inside the equatorial forest, monkeys scamper along the upper branches of the canopy, while colorful butterflies glide around the sunny clearings. Fruit bats roost in their favorite trees during the day and then, during the night, go about their vital work of spreading seeds throughout the forest. At the forest edges, glittering sunbirds sip nectar from flowering trees and bushes. Understandably, Loango has aptly been described as “a place where you can experience the mood of equatorial Africa.”