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A Report from

The Gambia 06 – 20th January 2005,

Robin Hadley

Abyssinian Roller
Great Heron
Abyssinian Roller
Great Heron

My wife and I spent a wonderfully relaxing fortnight in the Gambia last January, so good we’re going back again.

As per normal the bird watching was great and the weather and accommodation excellent. We saw so many birds (at least 150) and other people are so good at making useful lists, I’m not even attempting a list.

We booked independently of any operators and found a very good base at Footsteps Ecolodge near Ganjur ( about 50 minutes drive from Banjul.

I found this site through

The cost was £35 per hut per night (B & B) and if you (as we did) eat there at lunch and evenings then I’d budget on an extra £10 a day (depending how much you eat and drink).

We would recommend this lodge without hesitation, the family who own and run it live on site, the staff are very friendly and the food is wonderful. Nothing seems too much trouble for them.

We spent a good deal of our time in their nature garden/walk (usually first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening) and saw something different in there every day. I think we were the first people to stay with them that were birders and they were very interested to find out more – a possible conversion?

As promised we were picked up from Banjul airport and driven down good roads to the lodge, where there was a lovely birthday reception laid on for me. Pulling up to the lodge to be greeted by drums and singing made me feel like a king and will stay with me for a long time.

The huts have en-suite facilities and are very comfortable – especially the beds. The restaurant has a bar and you can choose to sit outside, upstairs or downstairs. All the food is freshly cooked (homegrown produce used as much as possible) and the chefs are only to willing to adapt a dish to your preferences – there’s plenty of options on the menu for vegetarians etc.

The lodge is well away from the hustle and bustle of Banjul/Serekunda (no bumsters) and if you want a quiet retreat then this is the place. Ganjur village is about a twenty-minute walk away and you get to experience the real Gambia. The lodge provided us with a guide (Sarine – apologies for any miss-spelling) who took us for a really interesting local walk, introducing us to local people and although having never bird watched before, certainly spotted quite a few birds for us and became adept at helping us identify them in the field book. So the first few days were spent pottering around and acclimatising to all day sunshine and midday temperatures of 30+ degrees C.

We contacted our previous guide Ebrima “Sheriff” Jallow (PMB 733 Serekunda, Banjul, tel 0220 981130) who was already booked but sent his business partner Yayah to arrange a trip to Tendaba Camp.

Yayah turned out to be an excellent guide (WABSA) with much patience and good humour.

So on Tuesday 11th we drove along initially good roads before hitting (quite literally) the more common rough roads, stopping often to “bird” and stretch our legs, it took at least 5 hours to get to Tendaba Camp.

On arrival, we found we had two punctures – not bad going considering the trip. Tendaba is quite a large camp and is fairly basic. The menu is limited but the food is good. We did the usual Tendaba things: the airport, Kiang West national park (where we saw a troop of baboons cross the plain) and a mangrove trip. We saw some birds we hadn’t seen before and it was good to see another aspect of the Gambia. I think next time we’ll try a boat trip up to Tendaba and after a couple of days go on to Bird Island Camp.

It was a relief to get back to the luxury of Footsteps. The last few days were again spent pottering about; shamefully we never made it to Tanji Park even though it’s not far down the road. We did make it to the beach, which is about a fifteen-minute walk away and very quiet - just the Ospreys, waders and sand crabs for company and the occasional fisherman cycling by. We also booked a Dolphin watch tour through Tilly’s Tours (based in Serekunda near the well-known hotels tel: 7707356) and that was relaxing – mainly because the other people, who had booked and paid, didn’t turn up so we had the boat to ourselves. We didn’t see any dolphins but were able to spend more time in the mangroves bird watching. Tilly’s had organised the cab to and from footsteps and I think the fare cost fifteen pounds in total. Whist in Serekunda we paid a visit to the StopStep pharmacy on Kariba Avenue – a useful place to know about regarding purchasing any medical supplies you may need. We enjoyed the trip but the noise and intensity of Serekunda had us desperate to get back to Footsteps.

I took my Canon 720i camcorder and though impressed with the video, I was not impressed with the stills facility. I set it to maximum quality and as you can see from the photographs included, the quality isn’t that good. Looks like the purchase of a digital stills camera…

Holidays to The Gambia
[Birdtours recommend the Gambia Experience]


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