Before heading off to Cameroon from Calabar Liza and Peter insisted that we visit the main Drill Ranch next to Afi Mountain about 4 hours north of Calabar and on the road to Cameroon, they said we wouldn’t have drunk the full kool aid until we’d visited their main ranch and seen the wildlife conservation work that they are doing there.
So for the last few days we have been staying in a lovely chalet up in the rainforest with a stunning view of Afi Mountain, going to sleep and waking up with nature all around us and enjoying the company of Peter and Ainare (a volunteer vet from the Basque region of Spain who has been here for 2 years).
Life on the mountain is pretty basic with power coming purely from solar panels, which actually works out to be more reliable than the Nigerian power company! No Internet and no mobile phone signals this far out in the bush. We are over 10 km of deep muddy road from tarmac and a good hours drive from the nearest phone signal!
However despite the apparent simplicity of life here it is really quite comfortable. And the setting is stunning and therapeutic, with the forest canopy towering above and the sounds of the jungle surrounding you.
The Drills are fascinating to watch in their family groups and they also have nearly 30 rescued chimps. Watching the chimps in action is quite amazing, though they are incredibly intelligent and love to throw whatever they can at you to try and get a reaction. They are surprisingly accurate at throwing stones, coconuts, avocado seeds and, as Keith unluckily found out, even their own shit!
Pandrillus are currently working on releasing their first group of rescued and captivity bred Drill monkeys back into the wild, which will be a momentous occasion for the species and for wildlife conservation in Nigeria and Africa.
In addition they are currently working on a new much larger chimp enclosure which will make a vast difference in the quality of life of the rescued and orphaned chimps that they are taking in.
Every day Peter has tried a different speech on us to try and convince us to stay longer and help out with their work for a few months. His arguments have ranged from avoiding the rainy season, which has started early this year, to working on our Karma and a few more long shots in between!
Rather surprisingly his arguments have worked! So Keith and I (Jeremy) have decided to stay down here at the Drill Ranch on Afi mountain for a couple months to help out supervising project work and also hopefully helping out with their IT needs as well.
So I guess you can say that we have been the victims of a Nigerian kidnapping!!! At the moment the plan is that Keith will head back the UK for a month in July and I will come back to Europe for a month in August before we resume our journey southwards.
Don’t think that this is the end of this blog though, as Nigeria is a pretty interesting place and there is plenty to stay tunned for, including the meaning of this picture!