Maneuvering through the Mangroves

We had an opportunity to visit the African mangroves in Cameroon - up front and personal.   We started our day by meeting our canoe and guide at a local market located right by the shore.    

After walking across the mud to the boat, we boarded with a little bit of help from the locals.  :)    

Our group consisted of 7 adults, three children and two guides 
which was perfect - and probably over the maximum number for the boat!    

The 'canoe' was comfortable overall, but there were a few spots where the seawater seeped through the rustic boards at the floor.    Occasionally our captain would use a bucket to remove the 'excess liquid",  but it didn't seem to slow us down.   :)  

The view on the water is always interesting with lots of boats, which have seen better days.   

These men were collecting sand from the bottom of the river.   
You can see how heavy the sand is as it weighs the boat deeper into the water.   
They will sell the sand locally in order for concrete blocks to be produced.  

We turned the corner into the small tributaries and we were impressed 
with the peacefulness of the water and the serene views.  

The reflection on the water was mesmerizing 
and it was a wonderful break from the hustle of Douala.  

Entering the mangrove swamps are only possible in the mornings, when the tide is low.    
The tide varies as much as 6 feet as it ebbs and flows.  

Mangroves are small trees or shrubs which grow in salt water within coastal areas.  
These swamps are found worldwide, primarily in tropical and subtropical climates.  
Most mangroves are congregated within 15 degrees north and 15 degrees south of the equator.  

Mangroves have adapted to harsh coastal conditions
 due to their complex salt filtration system and an elaborate root system.  

High tide brings salt water from the sea into the swamps. 
 (The dark line shows the high tide levels).    When the tide recedes, solar evaporation of the seawater in the soil leads to further increases in salinity.  The return of the tide flushes out the soil, bringing the saline level back equal with seawater.    At low tide, the plants are exposed to increased temperature and dryness, then are cooled and flooded again by the tide.  

For plants to thrive in this difficult environment, they must be able to tolerate wide ranges of temperatures, moisture levels and salinity as well as other environmental factors.  
Because of this challenging and constantly changing surrounding, only a few species
 flourish in a mangrove community.  

Since saltwater can kill plants, the mangroves extract freshwater from the seawater which surrounds them.  Many species filter out as much as 90% of the salt as it enters their roots.  Other trees and bushes excrete salt through glands found in their leaves.  
These leaves, especially those found in the red mangrove family,  are covered with 
dried salt crystals.   Some species store salt in their bark.  

Mangroves also store fresh water in their leaves.  A waxy type coating on some species of mangroves minimize evaporation and then help seal in the water.   Small hairs on the leaves deflect sunlight and wind, which reduces water loss.  

Some mangroves grow thin roots that stick out of the wet ground like snorkels.  These roots, called pneumatophores, allow mangroves to 'breathe' and cope with daily flooding by the tides.  The roots take in oxygen from the air.  

Once mangroves are well established, the roots provide a good environment for heavy sediment.  The swamps protect coastal areas from erosion and can dissipate wave energy,  helping with storm surges.  They also slow down tidal water and help protect the land around them.  Mangroves have a unique ecosystem and are often the object of conservation programs.  

Joanne, Wyatt and Janet are enjoying the peaceful journey.   
The hats were much needed as the sun was very HOT! 

Laura, Adrianne and Charles enjoy the relaxing ride, 
while someone else does the paddling of the canoe. :) 

Ferns grow massively in this region.   This is the largest one I have ever seen! 

We were able to stop midway to visit a Nigerian village (yes, in Cameroon).  
The chief bale was out today, but we came prepared with small gifts for the village
 and lollipops for the children. 

This was our greeting party. The children seem to enjoy visitors.  

As we pulled up in our canoe, the children came running to watch.  

 Getting out of our canoe was an experience and we had an audience.  We climbed from our canoe, across the top of a second canoe, then jumped down on the mud.    The men put sticks into the ground, so that we would have a place to hold on.  It was obvious that we didn't have the same balance as the locals!   The boat 'captain" came into the water to get the youngest child and carried him onto shore.  

The children immediately gathered around us, 
exhibiting both friendliness and curiosity.  

We showed them the pictures from our camera, 
and they would laugh and ask to pose for more. 

Then the children were anxious to lead us into the center of the village.  

The raised wood planks took us along the shoreline.  
We really had to watch where we walked! 

We were invited into one of the houses to greet some of the residents.  

This lady was all smiles and was happy to show us her work.  
Her job was to untangle fishing line so the lines and hooks were ready to use again.   Their diet mainly consists of fish and plants - so this is an important part of life for them.  

I wonder how long the same line and hooks have been used?  

Floats and nets for fishing were scattered all along the shore.   
There are a few shoes mixed in this bunch.  

 The children were happy to get lollipops! 

Every village seems to have a central gathering point, and the church most often is the main building.  The loud speakers let the community know when something is happening.  

The church has no windows or doors, but it appears to be a more solid structure 
than the rest of the buildings we saw.  

The main stage/altar contains some gourds and other flowered items.  

This is inside of the church hall.  The space down the middle is often used for dancing and for ceremonies.  The benches are along the side of the room to conserve space.  I liked the Happy New Year sign still UP too!  (Bonne Annee) 

We were impressed with the portable drum with the map of Cameroon on it.   
Note the linoleum floor used for the aisle. 

Every village needs rules.  I enjoyed seeing the rules posted here - 'approved' by the General Commander of the SalvEtion Army.    It says, "Please follow the Rules and Regulation.  No stilling, Fighting, smoking, Disterbance.  Order by The Most Senior Kelubu Akeme.    

For translation purposes, "stilling" is stealing and "Disturbance" is typically yelling.  The Most Senior Kelubu Akeme is the head chief of the village.  Apparently this chief has many many wives.  Most of the children are his - or related to him.  

This is one of the chief's wives.  She just had a baby a week ago and they invited us in to greet her.  Her bedding was beautiful and the baby was precious.

There's only one place in the village where reception is found.  Cell phones can be used RIGHT here only.  Most of the residents will hang their cell phones by a string and leave them here.  THIS is a modern day "phone booth".  :) 

The children ran out to tell us goodbye.   This was the wood that we walked around the village on, many held up by a few wobbly boards.  

As we were leaving the fisherman cast his net.  I am amazed every time I see this! 

Father and son are pulling in the nets.  

Joanne and John enjoy the ride back. 

As we got closer to Douala, we enjoyed the sights of homemade sail boats.  

I am always impressed with the ingenuity in the region. 

We passed some Tidewater vessels docked close by too. 

The locals grabbed the rope to help pull us into shore.  
They didn't want us to walk in the water, so we teetered along the side of the boat rail, 
across a thin piece of wood and jumped to dry ground.  

What a fun, fun day!  


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