After we had finished our would-be whale-watching excursion, I ran two miles along the beach in fourteen minutes and five seconds. Daniel accompanied me on the way out, but he got tuckered out and had to walk back. Then, after a refreshing dip in the Gulf of Guinea to cool off, we were on our way. Solomon unexpectedly had to go back to Accra to attend to some business, so it was just the three of us.
I was anxious to see if I could get a look at these Aboatia our guide had told us about. They sounded suspiciously like Homo floresiensis, the three-foot-high miniature humans whose remains were found a few years ago on the island of Flores in the Indonesian archipelago. Even today, the locals there tell stories of the Ebu Gogo, or the Grandmother Who Eats Everything, a three-foot-high miniature human said still to lurk in the deep forest.
Cast of the skull of Homo floresiensis at the American Museum of Natural History
We drove back to Ankasa, staying at “Frenchman’s Farm” just outside the local village.
Frenchman, aka Paul Kojo, turned out to be a Ghanaian national who had spent thirty years living and working in Paris before returning to his homeland. He greeted us warmly. After he showed us to our room, I lay down on the bed and closed my eyes, just for a moment, or so I thought. When I opened them again, almost three hours had passed. I had just enough time to take an hour’s stroll through the nearby village before darkness set in. That night his cook served us a feast which included the spiny lobsters we had hauled in earlier that day.
We were up bright and early the next morning and drove over to Ankasa, where our old friend Appiah was awaiting us.
At the outset of our journey, we blundered into a wasp’s nest, but I managed to escape with only two stings.
We spent the whole morning hiking along the Ankasa River.
The air was alive with the sounds of birds calling and monkeys gibbering, but aside from the birds flitting about the treetops amidst foliage so dense it made it impossible to identify them, the largest animal we saw that morning was this one:
The next day we were up before the crack of dawn. This would be our last chance to make contact with Aboatia.
It had rained the night before, turning into mud the little road that had been bulldozed through the jungle. We drove as far as we could, until the road become impassable, and then we got out and began walking. A pair of royal antelope, so tiny at first I thought they might be cats, crossed the road in front of us, but they were too far away to snap a good picture.
Appiah showed us the tracks of a baby elephant and his mother on the side of the road, as well as the entrance to a path commonly used by elephants.
He explained that the elephants here were a special race of dwarf elephants, who foraged by night and during the day secreted themselves in the deepest recesses of the forest, almost never seen by human eyes. If a race of dwarf elephants can hide themselves here, why not a race of dwarf humans?
We passed a pond by the side of the muddy road.
Appiah told us that Nile monitor lizards and dwarf crocodiles were often seen here, but not that day. We did see several ducks, colored a handsome reddish-brown with wings tipped in blue, but they flew away before we could snap a picture.
After about ninety minutes, we stopped to rest briefly before beginning our return trip. On the way back we took a detour down a path that led us to a grove called the Bamboo Cathedral.
After resting for a few minutes, we resumed our journey. Appiah told us that as a boy growing up in Kumasi he used to see the footprints of Aboatia in the dust left over from gold mining in the hills surrounding the city, but he reiterated that he had never actually seen Aboatia himself.
At last we made it back to the car and dropped Appiah off at the ranger station, thanking him for his assistance. We drove back to Frenchman’s Farm where the cook had prepared for us a late lunch of delicious garden egg stew served over a bed of tiny grains of rice shaped like pearls.
Afterwards my wife and I went for a stroll through the village, and just as we were least expecting it, we were ambushed by a gang of Aboatia who demanded to have their picture taken with the big hairy obruni.
Homo floresiensis skull photo via Wikimedia Commons
All other photos by author
UPDATE 21 FEBRUARY 2012: Via email, Doctor John Wenzel, Director of the Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystems at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, has kindly identified the wasp species depicted above as Polybioides tabida. John explained the evolution of social behavior in wasps to me in a drunken conversation at the ESA National Meeting many years ago. Thanks, John.