"It was a wonderful trip which we both thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you for organising it so well."...... Mrs M, Marlborough.
"I would just like to say how much I enjoyed the Gambia holiday. You were an excellent leader both in terms of bird/wildlife identification and organisational skills. Your friendly and approachable style was a treat. I can honestly say I enjoyed every second of the trip."...... Mr B, Bristol.
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Just six hours away from the UK is one of the best birding spots in the world. Hundreds of species can be seen, both on the coast and inland. Our itinerary lends itself to the possibility of joining the group for one week on the coast or the full two weeks, including the up river experience.
The first seven nights are spent at the Karaiba Hotel. It has excellent facilities, a very good restaurant, swimming pool and superb gardens that run down to the sea. Moreover, more than one hundred species of bird have been recorded in the area! Short drives from here will take us to a range of habitats including marshes, mangrove forest, pools, rivers, tropical forest, coastal lagoons, beaches, farmland and savannah woodland. Those staying for the second week will travel up river in search of one of the most exquisite birds in the world, the Egyptian Plover. Few holiday-makers venture here and you will experience a quite different Gambia; this is true sub-Saharan Africa.
The weather in the Gambia is very different to the weather back in the UK at this time of year. It is sure to be hot and rain is almost unknown in November. The country is well accustomed to tourism, especially along the coast where there is a good infrastructure. Besides the relatively short flight, there is no change in time zone. This adds to the ease of the trip as there is no adjustment to be made by your body-clock.
Being the start of the dry season, this is an excellent time for watching wildlife. Birds will be very active and vocal with many migrants passing through. Western Red Colobus and Callithrix Monkeys are common. There is a good chance of other mammals such as Hippopotamus, Gambian Epauletted Fruit Bat, Harnessed Antelope, Maxwellís Duiker, Sun Squirrel and Scrub Hare. We should see several species of reptile including Nile Crocodile and Monitor Lizard. As well as many different butterflies, there are such fascinating creatures as Mudskippers, Praying Mantises, Giant Millipedes and Fiddler Crabs.
We will spend the first seven nights at our hotel by the coast where there is plenty to keep us occupied.
We should arrive by early afternoon and for those who wish there will be some birdwatching in the hotel grounds where we can expect to find a wide range of species. It is the kind of tropical garden where new birds can be added to our list every day and where the regulars include Hooded Vulture, the characterful Bearded Barbet and the amazingly colourful Yellow-crowned Gonolek.
We will take it easy on the first full day and visit some sites that are all within a short distance of the hotel. The nearby creeks and saltmarshes have a good range of waders such as Whimbrel, and Marsh, Green and Wood Sandpipers. At some nearby ponds we can expect White-faced Whistling Duck and perhaps a Greater Painted-snipe.
The next day will see us at Abuko. This famous nature reserve is less than half an hourís drive from our hotel and is one of those exciting places where many rarities are possible and many common birds are easily seen. It is also a good place for seeing monkeys. The pools hold some very large Nile Crocodiles. Birds here include Green Hylia, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Western Bluebill, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher and Giant and Woodland Kingfishers. In the heat of the day we will retire to Lamin Lodge, a pleasant restaurant and wildlife centre where we can have a late lunch and then bird the surrounding rice fields in the latter part of the afternoon.
On another day we will visit Pirang fish ponds. The pools attract a mass of birds and are one of our favourite sites. Besides many ducks and waders it is a great place for hirundines, raptors, White and Pink-backed Pelicans, Purple Herons and the very attractive African Quailfinch. Pirang is most famous for its Black Crowned Cranes and though not guaranteed we stand a good chance of seeing them here. A newly developed reserve nearby has many excellent species such as White-spotted Flufftail, African Yellow White-eye, Green Crombec, Grey-headed Bristlebill and Blue Malkoha. On the same day we will do a safari drive at Faraba Banta; a great way of seeing raptors and many other species. The recently split Greyish Eagle Owl is likely here too.
One day we will visit Brufut Woods in the morning followed by lunch at a very pleasant nearby lodge. We can expect Pin-tailed Whydah, Red-cheeked Cordonbleu and African Golden Oriole. In the afternoon we will visit Tanji Beach. This should yield many terns; Common, Sandwich, Royal and Caspian all by the hundreds, and smaller numbers of Lesser Crested.
If anybody wants time out to relax by the pool or visit the very inexpensive shops and markets they are welcome to do so.
On day eight we will say goodbye to those on the one week trip and then drive to Tendaba. We will stay two nights here on the bank of the river and take a boat trip through the mangroves. We shall also visit nearby Bateling Woods. We have had fantastic views of Four-banded Sandgrouse here, almost within touching distance. On day ten we will take a leisurely drive to Georgetown with several stops for birding. This may be the day when we get our first sighting of Egyptian Plover. Georgetown is on an island in the river and we will spend three nights here at Baobolon Camp.
On the first full day here we will drive up to Basse, the most easterly town of any size in The Gambia. This is our best spot for Egyptian Plover. Not only are they highly likely here but they can also be very confiding and several can be seen at the river edge alongside women washing clothes. Near Basse there is also some excellent habitat comprising scrub, ricefields and small ponds. We should be able to find Black Crake and Red-throated and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters along with several raptors, including Black-shouldered Kite, Ruppellís Griffon Vulture, Brown Snake Eagle, Western Banded Snake Eagle and Gabar Goshawk.
The next morning we will take a boat ride round the island. This is a great way to birdwatch and we have an excellent chance to see African Finfoot close to the boat. We also have a good chance of seeing Hippopotamus. Later in the day we will visit local wetlands that are excellent for herons, wildfowl and waders. Highlights may include African Pygmy-goose, Greater Painted-snipe and Quailfinch. We will also take a night-time walk to try and see owls by torchlight.
The following day we will drive back to Tendaba for one night. On the last full day we will take a leisurely drive back to the coast, perhaps calling at Kiang West National Park. We will spend the last night on the coast, back at the Kairaba Hotel. We can visit Tanji Beach and woods in the morning for some final birdwatching. We will then go back to the hotel for lunch, allowing plenty of time to pack before our flight home.
Breakfast will be taken at about 7.30am. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field and short walks on the flat will be undertaken regularly.
Full-board accommodation is provided with seven nights at the Karaiba Hotel at Kololi, two nights at Tendaba Camp, three nights at Baobolon Camp, Georgetown, one night back at Tendaba and the last night back at Karaiba Hotel. Packed lunches will be taken some days, but on most days we will eat at a restaurant.
Please note: Away from the coast the accommodation comprises chalets/huts with en suite facilities. Though basic, they are clean and fairly spacious and are the best available. For those preferring more comfort and wishing to avoid the long drives on rough roads, we recommend the one week option.
PRICE INCLUDES Ö..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide, boat trips, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 6th, ending with lunch on 13th/20th), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-coach, reserve entrance fees, international flights and airport taxes.
Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.
Return flight from London Gatwick and Birmingham to Banjul using the charter services of a major carrier. Flight times vary depending on the departure airport.
Maximum group size:
Cost with discount
(if you book before
24th August 2012):
6th to 13th November 2012
6th to 20th November 2012
13 clients with one leader
and a local guide
£1990 per person sharing (7)
£2540 per person sharing (14)
£2140 per person sharing (7)
£2690 per person sharing (14)
A ground only price is available. Please contact our office
£150 (7 nights)
£250 (14 nights)
Photos taken by leaders Paul Willoughby, Phil Palmer & Andrew Woodall
Giant Kingfisher can be seen at Abuko
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