July 11, 2015: 10 Kilometers Over Central Africa — Benji showed me around the Limbe Botanical Gardens this morning for a couple of hours before we headed for Douala. It was fun to go birding with him on his home turf, so to speak. Most of the time, when not guiding visitors around Cameroon, Benji runs a small handicrafts shop at the gardens, so he knows the spot well. We found three new birds (a Giant Kingfisher, Reichenbach’s Sunbird, and Cassin’s Flycatcher) before, out of a leaden sky, a steady rain began to fall.
The weather somehow seemed appropriate. After two and a half dry weeks in Ghana and Cameroon during West Africa’s infamous wet season, and mere hours before I flew out, I opened my umbrella for the first time. The heavens dictated that my cosmic window had closed and it was time to move on.
These nine days in Cameroon, on a severe budget and during the off season, have been intense, rewarding, exasperating, awesome, foreign, and certainly memorable. I saw 201 species of birds here, a bit less than I’d hoped for, but found most of the important endemics and would not have been able to see any of them without Benji’s help. As far as I know, he is the only local bird guide in Cameroon; birdwatching is still regarded as a step away from insanity by most people in West Africa (possibly for good reason), and bird lovers are thin on the ground here. I was glad to be able to connect with Benji this week.
Getting out of Cameroon was chaotic. As we entered Douala, traffic stalled and rain slashed down. An hour before my flight time, we were still navigating clogged and flooded city streets. You know you’re late for a flight when the attendant greets you by name: “You must be Mr. Strycker!”
The plane took off late anyway after a thunderstorm pounded the area for more than an hour, and I would have missed the connection in Nairobi had the airline not fast-tracked several of us with our own private van across the airport in Kenya. As I write this, I’m roughly 10 kilometers high, winging through the night toward three weeks in South Africa.
New birds today: 3
Year list: 3453