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A Report from

Visiting Gambia, Nov 07,

Phil Stidwill

The holiday got off to a bad start as we nearly missed the check-in. With only minutes to spare we were running for the check-in then 'legging' it to the boarding gate.

The flight went without a hitch and as we stepped off the plane the heat hit us. We settled in our hotel, the Palm Grove, near Banjul.

We had arranged a guide from the Internet a Mustapha Kassama.

He was as good as his word and met us at reception 11:30 the next morning to arrange the itinerary for our trips. We had hired him for a full day, half day and a two day overnight stay at Tendaba Safari Camp.

We found Mustapha a most helpful and friendly guide and couldn't fault his knowledge of birds and bird calls.
Our first day included a visit to Tujerung and surrounding areas. Here we saw black-rumped waxbill, red-cheeked cordon bleu, black-shouldered kite, vitelline masked weaver, black-crowned tchagra, to name but a few.

By late afternoon the heat had taken its toll on my wife and we had to cut short the birding and return to the hotel. It had been a good introduction to the birds of Gambia.

Mustapha was prompt the next day 7:30am on the dot. He took us to Abuko Nature reserve. There was an entrance fee of just 35 Dalasi, a bargain! We saw giant kingfisher, hammerkop, African paradise flycatcher, snowy-crowned robin chat, violet turaco, swallow-tailed bee-eater, crocodiles and 3 species of monkey.
In the afternoon we relaxed by the pool in the hotel where sunbirds flitted through the palms, hooded vultures and black kites soared overhead and Caspian terns fed in the lagoon.

The trip to Tendaba was an experience in itself. We left early in the morning Mustapha was ready and waiting at the gate for us. It was relatively cool when we started out but soon warmed up. We made several stops on the way to view birds and refreshments Mustapha and Carl his driver packed cold drinks for us, a nice touch. We called in to Pirang Fish Ponds and saw mosque swallows, a marsh tern, black-winged stilts and palm nut vulture. We passed several checkpoints and at least once were asked for money to pass further.

The camp at Tendaba was definitely not five star but adequate for a nights stop. It did have a swimming pool which was very welcome. The shower was cold water and the room a little sparse but nevertheless it suited our purpose.

An late afternoon walk around the camp produced Abyssinian roller, several yellow-billed shrikes, black flycatcher, Senegal coucal, fruit doves and fork-tailed drongo.

The trip to Tendaba included a boat trip through the mangrove swamps on the north side of the river.
Here we had great views of pink-backed pelican, goliath heron, woolly-necked and yellow-billed stork and woodland kingfisher.
The return journey was quicker only stopping for refreshments and the odd bird we missed on the way up.

For the three days we had a total of over 150 birds.

Karl the driver and Mustapha our guide were absolutely brilliant the whole journey and made the trip. I would whole heartedly recommend anyone travelling to Gambia to get in touch with Mustapha ( if they require a guide a really lovely guy!


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