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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Creating eco- and cultural toursim in Waka National Park, Gabon

Visitors imagination will be captured by staying in this proposed temporary fly camp with a traditional Itudi flair. On a spectacular location overlooking the river, the tented camps sit on stilts high above fourou, connected by liana bridges reinforced by steel cable below. To ensure a powerful natural experience for visitors, no more than seven camps are planned.

The following are excerpts from the Waka National Park Phase 3 Development plan which can be found at There are a lot of great pictures, design concepts and information about the planned tourism development in the pdf definitely worth a look! -MA
Animals and plants are integral to Babongo culture, as with other indiginous cultures in the region. The natural history of the Massif is well-known to local tribes but has yet to be intensively studied by the scientific community. Local expertise is important for informing science, as tribes’ knowledge can offer background on how the area has changed and which animals and plants are present. This knowledge is also important in the development of ecotourism, to create visitor experiences that are relevant to the area.

Waka National Park, with the wide Ikobé valley, was created in the most mountainous area of the Massif du Chaillu - a southern geologic extension of the Monts de Cristal’s rich biological refugium. Densities of large mammals are highest in the south of the park, although the forest hunters of the north have always practiced a degree of sustainable hunting.


The challenge is to develop the park such that tourism is brought to the area without disturbing local cultures and sacred sites, or inadvertently stimulating unfair competition between local villages. Part of the solution is to give cultural orientations, and another part is to offer equal opportunities for involvement to villages.

A visitor Welcome Center in the buffer zone near Ikobey would be part of the new park entrance complex where outsiders can receive a full orientation and meet their Babongo or Tsogho forest guide for an overnight excursion with nomadic tourist camps in the forest. Local ethnic groups, traditionally agriculturalists, would participate in the hospitality business as well.

A major lodge is proposed in the center of the park above the river, reached by boat. From here visitors would radiate into the park with guides - in pirogues and on foot through the forest to find mandrills, elephants, and other animals. The best wildlife viewing is the south of the park, where relatively little hunting has taken place. Restricted sustainable hunting for some species would be allowed in the buffer zone. Management of Waka’s buffer zone is essential, including management of logging in adjacent concessions to prevent erosion into clear rivers and ecosystems.

Infrastructure improvements include lengthening the airstrip at Ikobey. Also proposed are ridgetop skytowers to provide views of the spectacular landscape at Waka.

A small lodge can combine local architectural styles with modern “green” practices. To enhance the tourist experience, local traditions in design and materials (such as basketweaving and liana bridges) should be woven into new architecture. An existing hotel near Koula-Moutou sucessfully uses traditional liana bridges for modern architecture. Details that highlight local culture will make a tourist’s trip to Waka extraordinary.

Deep in the park, a hotel has no good place for trash and therefore must develop ways to reduce and remove all waste, and recycle and reuse materials. All incoming refuse must be reduced and all garbage must leave the park. Staff and guests at the lodge should be well equipt to separate trash for for recycling, composting, and incineration. It is proposed that recylcing and composting take place in nearby Ikobey; Ikobey will benefit by using the compost to grow crops that are sold to tourist concessions. The park lodge should reduce use of water and power as well, with practices like washing guest linens weekly rather than daily - but always
washing before the arrival of new guests. Ecotourists will appreciate the integrity of good waste management practices.

To read more go to

Thanks to Boo M for the link!

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