The Gambia is the smallest country on Africa’s mainland. Size, however, should never be a determinant when it comes to biodiversity as the country boasts of having 117 species of mammals, 30 species of amphibians, 47 reptile species and over 560 bird species. This diversity has put some emphasis on the importance of securing homes for these animals and thus, almost 4% of the country’s area has been set aside as national parks and reserves. There is a need to do more to accommodate the increasing number of wildlife and that’s why the government has come up with measures to increase it to 5% total coverage.
The Gambia’s weather is characterized by a rainy and a dry seasons which occur from June to November and November to May respectively. The rainy seasons leads to impassable roads at times but it brings about green lush vegetation that makes the country a site for a sore eye. The dry season is usually the favorite for tourists looking to enjoy the warmth as they explore this fascinating country. With the diverse bird species present throughout the country, The Gambia has become an intensely sought-after destination for ornithologists.
Size notwithstanding, this country has savanna, wetlands, mangrove swamps, and palm groves. For example, with the use of a traditional canoe and a skilled guide, one can peacefully tour the Makasutu culture forest to see all these plus animals such as the monitor lizards, baboons, and a variety of bird species. Other places to visit include national parks and reserves, tours to Senegal, and a chance to engage in offshore fishing.
To get the most out of your trip to The Gambia, it makes sense to get in touch with a local tour operator such as Black & White Safari. They offer a wide range of activities across the country, which include both wildlife and nature experiences as well as cultural tours. It would be difficult to find an outside operator that would be more knowledgeable about the country, and even more difficult to arrange all the activities by yourself. In addition to wildlife tours, Black & White Safaris can even organize things fishing trips, visits to neighbouring Senegal and even a food preparation and cooking session with the locals – one of the most intimate experiences you could hope for in any country.
Let’s now have a look at some of the wonderful things The Gambia can offer to the nature and wildlife enthusiast.
National park and reserves
Abuko Nature Reserve
This was the first park to receive protection status back in 1916 and is the most visited park in The Gambia. It is home to over 50 types of trees and 290 bird species which include the pied kingfishers, western bluebill, doves, black herons, and Yellow-breasted Apalis. Some of the animals you are bound to encounter are the velvet monkey, bush babies, savanna antelopes, the ground squirrel, crocodiles, and snakes. Take a walk around the reserve and visit the animal orphanage that cares for parrots, hyenas, and chimpanzees.
Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve
Designated as a site of national importance, this reserve was established in 1996 and is the largest protected reserve in The Gambia. There are over 20,000 waterbirds that reside here between August and December. Migratory birds like the black-tailed and black-winged stilt use the area as a passage site. There are also 32 species of mammals including the West African Manatee, leopards and warthogs; 6 fish species like bobo croaker and the giant African threadfin; and reptiles like crocodiles, lizards, and snakes.
Kiang West National Park
This park is known to contain all the major wild animals that are known to be permanent residents of The Gambia. It has over 250 species of birds and animals like the African Clawless Otter, mongoose, sitatunga, Nile & dwarf crocodiles, and the West African manatee.
Niumi National Park
Confirmed to be one of the most ideal locations for birdwatchers, this park is home to more than 200 species of birds. During the rainy season, thousands of resident and migratory birds can be spotted which include the pygmy sunbird, slender-billed gull, the royal tern, and the yellow wagtail. Other animals are the bottlenose dolphin, hyenas, leopards, the endangered green turtle, lizards, and the hump-backed dolphin.
River Gambia National Park
Also referred to as the Baboon Island, it is made up of 5 individual islands with a total of 50 chimpanzees that are under the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project. The endangered hippopotamus also reside here along with animals like antelopes, Nile crocodiles, warthogs, aardvark, and the Guinea baboons.
The Gambia presents a great opportunity for anyone looking for a fishing holiday destination. In fact, it is one of the most sought-after areas due to its beautiful waters and variety of fish available. The activity is so popular that they have an annual competition known as the Masterline International Beach Fishing Festival held between October and May where big fish like the guitarfish, stingrays, and groupers are caught.
The local operators rent out their boats which are fully equipped and also provide guides for the visitors. Near the West African coast of the Gambia, there are freshwater regions that are home to fish such as the tiger fish, salmons, characins, zambizi pike and many more. For bottom fishing, live baits include mullet and sardines while dead baits are shrimp and Bonga. You can indulge in beach fishing, blue water fishing, creek fishing or reef fishing depending on your preference and need for exploration.
How great would it be to kill two birds with one stone? In a metaphorical sense that is. Getting a chance to visit two countries in one holiday is an amazing opportunity that is hard to pass by. One of the reasons why The Gambia is such an attractive holiday destination is because it is almost entirely surrounded by Senegal. The best way to see the nature and wildlife of Senegal is by visiting the Fathala Wildlife Reserve.
Many of the tour companies offer trips to the destinations but you could also arrange it as a group and have a tour guide to help with the trip. The Banjul ferry is the primary means of transport into the south part of northern Senegal. At the reserve, you will get to see animals like the rhinoceros, zebra, and giraffes. For the thrill seekers, a chance to walk with the lions is provided. There are only 5 places in the entire world where this is possible.
Beautiful, diverse, and awesome are some of the words we can use to describe The Gambia. Its ability to provide nature lovers with a chance to see a myriad of wildlife has enabled it to be recognized far beyond the size aspect. Small, but will make for a holiday of a lifetime!