Your mission is to be a part of the enchanting exploratory mission to Twin Falls- a natural treasure formed by the majestic Ivindo. All instructions are to be followed strictly to complete this assignment.
- Head to the debarquader at Ipassa and make arrangements with your pinacier (meaning boat driver)and boat aid for the three-hour pirogue ride along the Ivindo.
- Be mesmerized and truly enjoy the mysterious walls of green that border the wide and beautiful river. Witness elephants drinking water, white nosed guenons hopping along the trees and a variety of water snakes stealthily swimming by your side.
- Be wary of the rocky bed especially during the dry season. All hands on deck incase you need to jump off and help to move the pirogue across the river.
- On arrival at Camp Kongou, deposit all your belongings and start towards the helicopter clearing.
- Once at the clearing, take the pathway to the left and enter the inviting afrotropical forest. Get ready to be amazed by grand and rich trees that are a vital component of this rich ecosystem.
- Follow the awkwardly cleared path for the next half hour until you reach a second smaller clearing. The land is mildly undulating and involves crawling under broken trees, running across a swarm of driver ants and hurdling across some small sized poles and trees.
- You have almost made it halfway through the hike! If you begin to go down a slope rapidly, don’t be afraid- you are heading in the right direction. Watch out for ripe fruits of Pikranima Neetida that weigh about 2 kgs each, a favourite of elephants in the area.
- You have arrived at the banks of the Ivindo. Don’t mistake the rocky outcrops and clear white sands, you are still inside an afrotropical, pristine forest. Watch out for an upside down metal pirogue tied to up high on the rocks. Yes, you will have to untie and push that pirogue into the water to get to the other side.
- Row yourself across the river while marveling at the numerous tributaries of water that surround you. Yes, the pirogue will take in water, but don’t be alarmed. You will make it.
- Once across, make sure you tie the pirogue tightly to the rocky outcrop. Head up the sandy beach area towards the tree with tiny, yellow bobbles of lemons.
- Again, climb up the tiny trail while continuously hearing the roar of the water ruthlessly beating the rocks. You are almost there.
- A few more minutes and you should be able to see this window of white light in the distance. Guess what you have reached the edge of the falls! Cross the tiny, extremely slippery stones (be very, very careful here) and comfortably sit at the edge of the falls. This glorious force of milky water beating hard against anything that comes its way.
13. Make your way back down an alternate path to the bottom. Again, be very careful of the slippery stones, lianas and trees that form this path. Get ready to get your pants muddy descending down a steep rocky path. Cross over to the left and you should be at the base of the Twin Falls. Take some time to feel nature soaking every part your body- your eyes feasting on the loveliness of the milky white, your ears listening to the rush of fast flowing water, misty drops of water lightly drenching your skin.
- Make your way back to the sandy banks and don’t forget to collect those juicy lemons. Row back across the river and head back to Camp Kongou.
Monsieur Nicholas, (the oldest of our guides and the botanist I work with regularly) said that he first came to Twin Falls with a group of Japanese scientists who were collecting gorilla hairs in 1997. Since then he has been back about 2-3 times every year, more with tourists than with scientists.
I personally struggle with trying to understand the motive behind conservation- the age-old debate of respecting nature for its intrinsic wondrous qualities or the numerous services it provides mankind. I guess some part of me would be happy to initiate an ecotourism initiative around Twin Falls, thereby providing employment opportunities to many people and revenue for the forest department. But a part of me would also be saddened by the fact that this pristine natural wonder is being exploited for monetary purposes. There is a fine line between the two and I hope to learn to tread cautiously through the MEM program and my field experiences.