by sheilanewton on 07/04/12 at 12:45 pm
A Tourist’s Guide to the Wildlife of Gambia and Senegal.
Gambia is a country I’d thought about visiting ever since I’d heard about it from a fellow traveller in Egypt way back in in 1993. But somehow, I’d never got around to actually doing anything about it. But this year, we DID! And it was one of the best experiences of my travelling life!
FINDING OUR GUIDE
Our hotel was situated just over the wall from Kotu Creek. Palm Beach Hotel was oh-so-friendly and that’s where we met our bird guide, Abdou Aziz. Aziz is a true expert on Gambian birds – and that’s why we chose him from the other bird guides working from the green hut at Kotu Bridge. And I’m so glad we toured with Aziz. On our first ever Gambian visit, on only three trips with Aziz (Abuko Nature Reserve; Fatalah Wildlife Park, Senegal; Brufut Wood), plus walks around Kotu Creek, we identified over sixty different types of bird.
KOTU BEACH AND KOTU CREEK
Right on our doorstep, just over the wall of our hotel, was Kotu Creek, the estuary that gurgled into the sea. Here, we saw a family of pied kingfishers dive, hovering over the rippling river to catch fish. We saw grey herons and curlews stalk the water’s edge, looking for sandcrabs and fish. We saw one of them paddling at the seafront, jumping the waves, unconcerned about nearby bathers. We went to see the vultures being fed in the early evening, black kites swooping down among them to steal the raw meat!
Behind the Kunta Kinteh restaurant, just a few yards along the sands from our hotel, we saw red-billed firefinches, cisticolas and long-tailed swallows.
ABUKO NATURE RESERVE
Aziz took us to beautiful Abuko Nature Reserve, where, among the wonders we saw, were night herons, palm nut vultures (the bird of prey that’s not. It’s vegetarian!), pied crows, bul-buls, red-eyed doves, firefinches, the African Pied Hornbill and the African Grey Hornbill.
At the water hole, from the hide, we spied an antelope lapping the water and a gang of cheeky weavers chattering in the low branches at the water’s edge.
FATALAH WILDLIFE PARK, SENEGAL
This, my first ever wildlife safari, was sheer heaven. Our guide, Aziz, had arranged for a driver with a four-wheel drive to meet us from the ferry at Barra to take us over the border into Senegal to Fatalah Wildlife Park.
It was magic! We saw ostrich, antelope, giraffe, rhinoceros, tortoise, zebra, buffalo and warthogs. Some of the animals were were in the paddock, but most of what we saw were living in the wild. Aziz pointed out a beautiful spotted woodpecker as we were exiting the park. Oh, my! And I was even allowed to sit on the spare wheel at the back of the vehicle on the way back to the ferry port.
We spent a great morning on the penultimate day of our trip, at Brufut Wood with Aziz, on the trail of owls and night jars. We saw both – but we also saw the beautiful sunbird, fire finch, weavers, bul-bul bee-eaters, hoopoes and canaries. We didn’t get photos of them all – but we got some super shots nevertheless.
If you have enjoyed this article, watch out for part two – COMING SOON – where we take a cruise up the River Gambia and visit Bijilo Forest Trail.
Perhaps you’d like to visit my blog and my website too. The links are below.
Writing for my Life