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January 11, 2013

Ah, there you are! I’ve been waiting on this plane to arrive for over an hour now. I trust your travels weren’t too exhausting? Once again you have my deepest apologies in advance that I was not able to meet you in Amsterdam as promised, but I had much preparation to do for our expedition ahead. After all, as your guide it takes a lot of time to plan these excursions that I put on for you. Well, now that you’re finally here I think we should get started right away. Oh, you have a question? Where are you? My! How silly of me? I never thought to tell you that you would be coming to Cameroon, did I? Welcome to the majestic land of Africa, my friend!

There will be no time for sightseeing today, my young entrepreneur. You’ll be getting plenty of that from the old Mercedes SUV that will be your home for the next couple of weeks. I’ve already had the gentlemen with the airline place your bags in the vehicle, so if you’ll follow me this way our driver should be ready by now. We are in the city of Douala, the country’s largest city. As you might have guessed we are not here for the Doual'art, but rather to the fact that this city is located at the mouth of the Wouri River drainage. This is the perfect place to begin our expedition because there happens to be my favorite dwarf cichlid living among this river. So what are we waiting for? Let’s go collect some fish!

It has taken us some time to get out of the city, but we are finally a few kilometers up the river. I think once we find a nice opening through this dense forest we should get into the water. We’ll be looking to collect Pelvicachromis taeniatus “Wouri” in its natural habitat. The males of these West African dwarf cichlids only grow to around 3”, and the females get about 2.5”. I’ve already owned and spawned a pair before myself at home, but I’ve always wanted to see them how they should be - right here in the river. Look! There they are. A pair is courting their fry along the shoreline. I don’t know if you know this, but taeniatus are a pair bonding fish that mates for life. The parents will care for this brood until they’re about a ¼” of an inch. Then they’ll leave them to be on their own, and start a whole new family. Another really cool thing about taeniatus is the females are the more brightly colored specimens. Depending on the region they are from the females belly can be a blood red color to an agate blue. As you can see here, females of the Wouri form are wonderful magenta color. I think we should leave these parents alone for now. We can find some other younger fish to bring home with us a little further upstream.

Pelvicachromis taeniatus "Wouri"

From this part of the Wouri system we will be traveling southeast to the Dja River system. It’s in this area that we should be able to collect the elusive Synodontis pardalis. I’ve been told that the best place to look is in the Libi River. The first collections of this “leopard” spotted catfish were near a waterfall, just a few kilometers from here. My reports tell me that these catfish can grow up to 10” in nature. I don’t really know what to expect to find, but something in the 5” range should be ideal for collection. As they are rather rare we will not be collecting more a then a few of these. We don’t want to overfish them after all. It’s our job as hobbyists to preserve wild specimens. I want you to be very careful while we are here in this refugee. It’s bad enough that deforestation happens among one of Mother Nature’s most beautiful lands. We do not need to add to it by tromping through the woods and destroying it any further than it is. I’ve ranted long enough. Let us move on and begin the fun part of our quest. How is it the fun part, you ask? Now we get to go back the way came. Our time in Cameroon is ending, and we have another country to explore from here.

Synodontis pardalis

After a day or so of traveling through the mighty jungle we make our way over into the Munaya River system in western Cameroon. We’ll be traveling outside these borders to the Cross River to collect one of the most unique cichlids that occur in West Africa - Gobiocichla ethelwynnae “Cross River Goby". The Cross River Goby finds its home along the shoreline living among large flat rocks where the current is still swift. The body is extremely elongated, and the head of the fish is rather rounded. The body is clearly designed to thrive in these conditions. We observe several of these wonderful cichlids hanging out in the crevices of rocks at first. Slowly, as they become accustomed to us, they start to make their way out. It’s such a sight to see them foraging for algae among the rocks. After a few attempts we collect enough to be able to bring home to our employer. I know he’ll be pleased with this fine.

Gobiocichla ethelwynnae

From there our driver brings us through a tour of the Cross River National Park over the border in Nigeria. The park itself has been poorly explored, and I feel that this needs to change. This will also give us a great chance to see things that many have never even seen before; including several hundred species of birds, and a remarkable record of over 600 species of butterflies. I guess the birds are here to enjoy a few snacks. Alright, I’ll quit while I’m ahead on the bad jokes. The path through the park was nothing less than miraculous, but it’s time to make our way to our lodge in Ugep. It’s a small town a few kilometers outside of the park. We’ll be staying the night here. I’ve already had our team send the fishes we collected back to the states, but you and I are far from done here in Africa. I’m going to prepare our itinerary for our next trip…

Anthony Perry
Sales Manager