After a gap of 26 years I paid a return visit to The Gambia earlier this year. It’s not often that you return to a place that holds fond memories without an occasional pang of disappointment. But this time the opposite turned out to be true: 21st Century Gambia is even more ‘birdy’ than I remember, cleaner, and more organised in terms of infrastructure, information and guides.
For those who have not visited The Gambia it is a tiny West African country that straddles the eponymous river and is embraced by its much larger neighbour Senegal. It represents a benign introduction to African birdlife with the added benefit that a surprising number of the species are tame or at least indifferent to people. For such a small country, a wide range of habitats are represented from coastal mangroves and open sea, to freshwater wetlands, arid sahel scrubland, savannah grassland reminiscent of East Africa and lush tropical forests. Extensive agricultural land adds variety to the mix.
Like most visitors I spent time on the coast and visited most of the usual sites frequented by birding visitors. Guided and assisted by the very capable Karanta Camara (President of the Bird Watcher’s Association of The Gambia) I also spent time ‘up-country’ on the north side of the River Gambia at Morgan Kunda Lodge. Set in the heart of a rural community, this is a splendid place to be based and has the potential to become the ‘go-to’ location for serious and casual photographers alike seeking a taste of rural Africa.