Gambia is a bird watcher paradise with around 540 bird species having been logged. Although Gambia doesn’t have the large mammal populations of East Africa day trips can be arranged to Senegal to visit some wildlife parks which have some larger mammals.
In the Makasutu Forest, which I visited, it is the bird and baboons that are centre stage. Birders from all over the world come here and the Mandina Lodges are a great base for these trips.
UK readers will be interested that TV presenter and keen birdwatcher Chris Packham has lead groups here for The Gambia Experience.
The guides at Mandina Lodges assure me they taught Chris everything he knows about the Gambian bird species… and I believe them.
My guide could spot a bird, identify it and tell me where to look before I’d even looked up!
Professional bird photographers look away now…. These are the best I could do with my gear and ability. The best photographs I have are of the large, slow birds. All I have of the small fast ones is a blurry tail feather in the edge of the picture as they dashed out of frame!
African Harrier Hawk
a raptor that can only be found south of the Sagara, the African Harrier Hawk was a delight to see. They like to build their nests in the crowns of palm trees.
They also have the unusual feature of having long double jointed knees. This helps it to raid in cavities that other birds of prey cannot get into.
A Violet Turaco
A beautifully coloured bird that should be showing off, but they are very shy. I was glad to see one even though they are more often really hiding.
Gambia is a haven for Guinea Baboons. In fact you see plenty simply walking around as you walk through the forests etc.
It says a lot for the work that has been done here that they have returned to Makasutu Forest after decades away due to habitat loss and humans.
These are Old World Monkeys that do not use their tail to grasp as New World Monkeys do. It is wonderful to see them thriving amongst the forest with plenty of females carrying babies too.
Here in Britain our Kingfisher is known as bright blue in colour 9common Kingfisher). These Pied Kingfishers are black and white and native to Africa and Asia, as far as China.
As with all kingfishers their habitat is by the rivers diving for fish as their main source of food.
This is only a small selection of what I saw and photographed in just a couple of days. Absolutely remarkable. An amazing place to discover wildlife of all shapes and sizes.