Jan 12th by neilgd under Travels, my Friends travels

Tags: Nae tags again!

PART 1 In 2010, to avoid the whole festive hype, we decided to spend Christmas in the sun in the west African country of The Gambia doing some birding and relaxing.¬† The Gambia is Africa‚Äôs smallest mainland nation with a population of approximately 1.5million and a land area about the same as Yorkshire.¬† The Gambia has a remarkable diversity of habitats making it an ideal birdwatching destination, with over 560 species having been recorded within its borders.¬† Being the first green area south of the Sahara on the west coast of Africa it is also an important area for wintering migrants from the north. Our ten day trip (organised by www.hiddengambia.co.uk ) started on the 19th December with a flight from Manchester to Banjul with Thomas Cook.¬† The flight was at 8am so we drove down to Manchester on the Saturday and stayed overnight nearby.¬† Snow had already been causing havoc across the country for a couple of weeks and as we drove south the weather reports on the radio were predicting further chaos at airports across the country. An early taxi to the airport allowed us to check in on time at 6am.¬† As we got closer to the check-in desk it was clear that all was not well and that some delay was likely.¬† As we checked our bags in, the lady in the desk informed us that our flight was going to be delayed until 2pm, and gave us some vouchers for a meal ‚Äď eight hours to kill in an already crowded airport. We found a quiet spot in the corner of a bar with a view of the aprons, taxiway and runway, watched the seemingly random movements of all sorts of airport traffic and snow moving equipment and awaited details of our flight.¬† Finally at about midday a time appeared on the departure board and true to their word the time was 2pm. We arrived in The Gambia 6 hours late, but were met as promised by our guide and transferred to our first nights accommodation at Farankunku Lodges, http://www.farakunku-lodges.com/ .¬† Although we were 6 hours late, the chef had stayed back and provided us with a first class meal. I had pre-booked a bird guide for the next day and as such we had a 7.30 start just as day was breaking.¬† We spent the day birding in Tujereng Woods, the beach nearby and Tanji Bird Reserve.¬† A total of approximately 90 species were observed with around 50 of these being new species, including Beautiful Sunbird, Fine Spotted Woodpecker, Violet Turaco, Pied Winged Swallow, Black Crowned Tcharga, Palm Nut Vulture, Blue Bellied Roller and Royal Tern. The next day another early start for our trip up river; a two hour minibus ride to Bintang followed by 3 hours on the Safari Queen upriver, another 4 hours overland¬† with the final leg upriver to Bird Safari Camp on the Lady Hippo taking a further 4.5 hours.¬† This final leg upriver provided an awesome sunset and moonrise of an almost full moon along with sightings of hundreds of river birds including numerous Black Crowned Night Herons, Various Egrets and Pied Kingfishers.

One Response to “Christmas Birding in The Gambia (1)”

  1. Ian January 13, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Hope part two is not next Christmas! the plantain eater reminds me when I was in Liberia and stopped to buy Bananas at these roadside shack type venues. Of course I choose the biggest bananas that were not bananas but plantains and needed cooking and a machete to get the skin off. The bird must eat ripe ones or have a large gizzard and a beak you would not put your finger in.

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