mardi 23 février 2016
A late flight home meant we arrived at Gatwick in the early hours and after the drive back to Devon it was nearly 5am before we got our heads down, barely worth going to sleep! It was an amazing holiday and full of memories and experience that will stay with us for a very long time.
the fish smoking sheds at Tanji
African wattled lapwings
broad billed roller
small shell collection
fish porter asleep in his wheel barrow
We left Mandina at the crack of dawn and after 40 minutes arrived at the ferry which crosses the river Gambia. We just missed one so had to wait for an hour for the next one. When it arrived it was packed with brightly dressed people, animals and vehicles ranging from bicycles to articulated lorries.
The crossing took 40 minutes and after another short drive we arrived at the Senegal border. The Gambian president had imposed a tax on Senegalese lorries entering the country, so in retaliation our Gambian vehicle was refused entry. We had to wait for a Senegalese car to come from our next destination 'Fathala' to collect us. Fortunately this only took 10 minutes. Fathala is a nature reserve and we'd booked some more excursions. Our accommodation was in an amazing "tent" complete with bath, four poster bed and air conditioning!
Our first trip was walking with lions - a rare opportunity to be with a couple of hand reared lions (their mother had had an litter of 5!). The lions were nearly 4 years old and in another year they will be too unpredictable to carry on this type of proximity to humans.
Next came a trip by boat to a nearby village school and hospital, then onward to an island where we had a fish BBQ, did some swimming and sunbathing, before a return by boat during which we spotted a small crocodile.
We were up at dawn for the next trip, a walk through the bush spotting warthogs, zebra, monkies and many, many, more birds.
The final trip was an evening game drive. From the open topped vehicle we saw at close quarters, a lot of bigger game including a white rhino, giraffes, derby elan, waterbuck, roan, warthogs, zebra, green vervet monkies, red colobus monkies, ground squirrels, baboons and many birds.
the very rare derby elan
giraffes (we saw 6)
red billed hornbill
That evening we heard heavy footprints outside the tent and were amazed to see the rhino going for a stroll in the moonlight!
Next morning it was back into Gambia, across the River Gambia once more to our final destination on the beach at Bijoli. This part of Gambia has a lot of tourists arriving for winter sun and empty beaches. We were 30 mins walk from the main area of hotels in a hotel with lovely gardens, once again full of birds and other exotic animals.
lizard lounging around
deserted beach near the hotel
market at Serekunda
long tailed glossy starling
harrier hawk eagle
lappet faced vulture
pelicans (note the huge fish in bill pouch of bird on right)
One night a local african drum and dance group played at the hotel. They picked some women from the audience to try and dance with them. Of course when Susie stepped up and started to dance the dancers were gobsmacked! The Gambians kept coming up to me and asking how she knew their dances? Each time there was a dance the dancers kept grabbing Susie from the audience and pulling her onto the stage to dance with them - it was lovely and probably the best birthday present!
On her actual birthday we went to walk along the coast to Tanji to visit the birds reserve and the fishing village with market and huge number of fishing boats. Before returning to the hotel for some relaxation and dinner with champagne which I managed to buy from another guest staying at the hotel.
fishermen at Tanji
only scraps for the vultures
For Susie's half century I organised a holiday of a lifetime (shoe horned into half term) to Gambia and Senegal. It would be Susie's first visit to Africa and only my second. The first part of our stay was in Gambia with 3 nights at the amazing Mandina Lodges situated on a mangrove lined creek. The birdlife in Gambia is amazing and this is one of the best places to see them. On the whole 9 day trip we saw and identified over 50 species.
At Mandina as well as lazing around by the pool, we did a open canoe trip through the mangroves to a nearby village and a walk through the jungle during which we saw a huge monitor lizard.
A huge tree
female beautiful sunbird
white crowned robin chat
male beautiful sunbird
children of the smiling coast
unknown fruit bats hanging over the tables of the alfresco dining area
Western grey plantain eater
White throated bee-eater
unwanted bathroom guest
In the mangrove jungles around the lodges were two troops of baboons each about 200 strong. Occasionally they would try to storm the property only to be chased away by the dogs. It was amazing to witness their social structure and behaviour when we stumbled across them on walks.
baboon - adult
baboon - child
yellow crowned gonolek
Susie soaking up the equatorial heat