A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about butter fish

Sunset Cruise from Mandina Lodges

What an amazing amount of birds!


View Galavanting in The Gambia 2019 on Grete Howard's travel map.

This afternoon we are taking another boat trip, this one with two added bonuses: a bottle of wine and the sunset! Hopefully. The sunset, that is, the bottle is most definitely present!

large_495dd520-aec4-11e9-ba05-2377c29eee6f.jpg

large_b5bf31a0-aec4-11e9-ba05-2377c29eee6f.jpg

large_0efb7930-aec6-11e9-9468-af3c2e977f6c.jpg

My plan of action this evening is to take photos of birds just as they take off. I always like a challenge and to step outside my comfort zone. I start with this Long Tailed Cormorant.

large_0a232b40-aec8-11e9-abcb-27ebc93ed2a1.jpg

large_5cf52850-aecd-11e9-9844-73cae9928b86.jpg
Fishing centre

large_90993840-aecd-11e9-b106-75d2fa348bb2.jpg
I have a soft spot for baobab trees

large_214abc00-aecf-11e9-8c73-19c619678c9f.jpg
Whimbrel

large_6c0bcf00-aece-11e9-8c73-19c619678c9f.jpg
Wattled Plover

large_494c3600-aed1-11e9-a4f8-833a99faa165.jpg
Black Kite taking off

large_a30d6730-aee1-11e9-bca0-295e59c1731a.jpg
Palm Nut Vulture

large_39bc0d00-aee5-11e9-831b-6306d8171314.jpg
Great White Egret

large_a2f11350-aee6-11e9-adb5-bd39c8ff2012.jpg
Preening

I think she's going to fly...

large_2c237370-aee7-11e9-adb5-bd39c8ff2012.jpg

Here she goes!

large_94027c20-aee7-11e9-adb5-bd39c8ff2012.jpg

It looks like she is having a blast!

large_0a6b7150-aee8-11e9-adb5-bd39c8ff2012.jpg

We see a tree full of Pink Backed Pelicans.

large_4bfd9000-aef5-11e9-8b6f-692b6f608cab.jpg

large_597a5240-aef5-11e9-8b6f-692b6f608cab.jpg

large_63e567b0-aef5-11e9-8b6f-692b6f608cab.jpg

large_bc2c8af0-af24-11e9-a2e0-9144e19566f6.jpg

large_da63e0b0-aef5-11e9-8b6f-692b6f608cab.jpg
Yellow Billed Stork

large_ab696cc0-af23-11e9-a2e0-9144e19566f6.jpg
African Spoonbill

large_88e96900-b240-11e9-a16f-df722d255168.jpg
Goliath Heron

large_3794ea50-b553-11e9-b011-e16c85473ec2.jpg
Black Kite

large_dd22d3d0-b6af-11e9-90aa-e55591e14d66.jpg
Blue Cheeked Bee Eater

The sun is getting low now, and depending which direction I point my camera, the sky glows a warm yellow, glistening in the ripples on the water surface.

large_c2ce7380-b6b0-11e9-90aa-e55591e14d66.jpg

large_81c6b220-b6b1-11e9-90aa-e55591e14d66.jpg
Great White Egret

large_bcf668d0-b6b2-11e9-90aa-e55591e14d66.jpg
Common Sandpiper

large_9bb5e0a0-b6b3-11e9-90aa-e55591e14d66.jpg
Sacred Ibis

large_d8507fb0-b6b9-11e9-9fb6-c1626cfb739f.jpg
Sacred Ibis

large_47a99100-b6bd-11e9-9212-5bc3cb40e6cb.jpg
Whimbrels

large_69983e10-b6bd-11e9-ac8d-f1b40a4219f3.jpg
And they're gone

large_7c381610-b6bf-11e9-9ff2-4f73c5657d79.jpg
African Darter

large_ad65b250-b6c0-11e9-9ff2-4f73c5657d79.jpg
Cattle Egret

The sun is only just above the horizon now, as we have entered an area enclosed on three sides by mangroves and an island in the middle.

large_75650990-b6c1-11e9-9ff2-4f73c5657d79.jpg

Max, the captain, explains we will wait here for the sun to go down and the birds to come back to roost.

large_606de710-b85f-11e9-966b-4d2ca9a8fd2b.jpg

We see a few single birds flying around in the sunset, then coming in to the island to settle down for the night.

large_37a316a0-b6bd-11e9-9212-5bc3cb40e6cb.jpg
large_74f204e0-b860-11e9-966b-4d2ca9a8fd2b.jpg

large_ba96bc10-b861-11e9-966b-4d2ca9a8fd2b.jpg

large_9aff1700-b864-11e9-8a28-f1fdc4841ca7.jpg

The sun has painted the sky a deep orange now.

large_c89bcee0-b866-11e9-9835-6f8d3a03d1f8.jpg

large_d39a71c0-b866-11e9-9835-6f8d3a03d1f8.jpg
Beautiful reflections on the water

large_efcfed20-b870-11e9-9f73-c3059d9f662b.jpg

Where there were initially just one or two, they are now coming in thick and fast, it seems to be never ending, and they seem to appear from nowhere.

large_dd8da1a0-b872-11e9-9f73-c3059d9f662b.jpg

large_29e5b2e0-b873-11e9-9f73-c3059d9f662b.jpg

large_95595730-b877-11e9-ba7a-e335038ae3ff.jpg

large_a27a64e0-b877-11e9-ba7a-e335038ae3ff.jpg

large_e614e9a0-b877-11e9-ba7a-e335038ae3ff.jpg

large_a98d6470-b9d1-11e9-a759-d131d68c09f2.jpg

large_93743cd0-b9d2-11e9-a759-d131d68c09f2.jpg

More and more egrets are gathering in the trees, and when you think there is no room for any more birds, a whole lot of others arrive.

large_f3ee5940-b9d4-11e9-a99c-a577d66306f2.jpg

large_8fcc0310-b9d7-11e9-a727-a9240efb2c90.jpg

large_54af7ee0-b9d9-11e9-a727-a9240efb2c90.jpg

It is hard to know where to look, the birds are coming from three out of four directions, and seem to suddenly appear out of nowhere from behind us with a whoosh. It is an air traffic control nightmare!

large_e6afdbb0-b9d8-11e9-a727-a9240efb2c90.jpg

large_bb400d90-b9e4-11e9-a025-3ddb7d442764.jpg

When there is no more room at the inn and the light is fading rapidly, we start to make our way back to the lodge, stopping from time to time to take photos of the sunset. To say this evening's performance has been spectacular is an understatement!

large_cc503a50-b9e5-11e9-a025-3ddb7d442764.jpg

large_153f63c0-b9f6-11e9-9683-9f1c8878c4ae.jpg

large_6834abd0-b9f1-11e9-be68-5fce43d56dcb.jpg

large_336a9d00-b9f2-11e9-be68-5fce43d56dcb.jpg

large_b1607170-b9f3-11e9-9683-9f1c8878c4ae.jpg

By the time we reach the hotel, darkness has all but enveloped Makasutu Forest and the twinkling lights of Mandina Lodge welcome us back.

large_bce3a180-c0e1-11e9-986f-25d98c009784.jpg

large_7178eb90-c0e3-11e9-9419-07d3fe23298b.jpg

large_2cd1bc50-c0e4-11e9-9419-07d3fe23298b.jpg

Dinner

As time is getting on, we go straight to dinner from the sunset cruise; the boat conveniently lands at the jetty right by the restaurant anyway.

large_016961e0-c0e8-11e9-8197-3b07721b6384.jpg
Pre-dinner drink of Pina Colada

large_4f7eb380-c0e8-11e9-8197-3b07721b6384.jpg
Prawn Cocktail

large_a4f0a210-c0e8-11e9-8197-3b07721b6384.jpg
Butter fish with Lyonnaise potatoes and a delicious home made tartare sauce

large_Samosas.jpg
David's Samosas

large_986e14e0-c1c5-11e9-9c80-098154c165a4.jpg
Gambian Rice Pudding with ground peanuts - a very delicate flavour

We decline the offer of an early morning coffee in the room tomorrow, in favour of a lie in, and sneak off to bed after a magical day in Makasutu Forest.

Posted by Grete Howard 15:16 Archived in Gambia Tagged trees birds fishing reflections sunset pelicans kite africa dinner forest birding captain baobab stork vulture ibis egrets spoonbill birdwatching mangroves cocktail west_africa samosas cormorant gambia boat_trip fores sunset_cruise piña_colada darter roost plover bee_eater sandpiper the_gambia butter_fish mandina_lodges makasutu makasutu_forest whinbrel flying_birds birds_flying air_traffic_control prawn_cocktail rice_pudding Comments (5)

Gatwick to Tanji

Better late than never


View Galavanting in The Gambia 2019 on Grete Howard's travel map.

As expected, the hotel room was way too hot overnight (it is a common problem with Premier Inns) and I didn't sleep very well. The benefit of this is that I will then hopefully sleep on the plane, making the flight go quicker.

After dropping off the car at the valet parking, we head for the Titan check in desk. It is a number of years since we travelled on a charter flight, and I am concerned about my hand luggage which is full of camera equipment and borderline as far as the weight limit goes. To mitigate this, David is carrying one of my lenses in his backpack, and another in his coat pocket, whereas I slip all the batteries in my pocket and wear one of the cameras around my neck with yet another lens on it.

As it turns out, all this worry has been for nothing – they don't even give the hand luggage a second glance, yet alone weigh it.

Wondertree Restaurant

Duty Free purchase comes next, then breakfast.

large_Wondetree.jpg

large_99692b60-6cce-11e9-a895-df288f20f0ed.jpg
David's full English

I order pancakes with bacon and syrup.
large_af88c630-6cce-11e9-8cb3-738d8b1bd51a.jpg

Flight

Boarding is simple and straight forward and we strike lucky with a row to ourselves.

large_e775ca70-6cce-11e9-9a81-9be379f12513.jpg

As we settle in, ready to relax for the next six-and-a-half hours, our hearts sink a little when the captain comes on the intercom with an announcement: “Things don't seem to be going too well for us this morning; we have developed a technical fault and have to go back to the stand to get an engineer to check it out.”

Oh dear.

One hour later, he updates us: “We're ready to go, air traffic control is ready, but Eurocontrol is not ready”.

At this point he switches the engine off to save fuel, which of course means no A/C. The cabin becomes hotter and hotter and hotter as people's patience wears thinner and thinner. After some (uncomfortable) time, he reassures us: “I am aware that you guys are getting rather warm back there...” and switches the power back on.

More time passes before the next announcement: “A restricted no-fly zone has cropped up in the south of France, so our flight path needs re-routing.”

More waiting time.

That sorted, we are informed that “we need a courier to push us out from the stand and they are all at the other side of the airport”.

At this point the lady across the aisle from us becomes very irate, shouting obscenities, calling the captain a liar, refusing to switch her phone off etc. While I understand that nerves are getting frayed and tempers short, that sort of outburst is not doing her – or us – any favours.

We finally take off two hours and twenty minutes late. What should have been a 6 and a half hour flight, now becomes nearly nine hours of having to sit in this tin can.

The flight itself is reasonably painless after all that, with quite good food (spicy chicken noodles and a very nice chocolate and orange mousse). Wine, of course, has to be bought – and paid for – separately. I guess we have been spoilt over the years with scheduled long haul flight where everything is included.

Banjul Airport

The modern terminal building has been added since we were last here; in fact, it is not fully completed yet. We are last in the queue for immigration, but it doesn't matter as the luggage has only just started to arrive when we get out there.

Some things have never changed since we were here last, 23 years ago: porters wishing to change the British coins they have been given as tips into notes which they are then able to convert into Dalasi, the local currency. I am happy to oblige.

My bag arrives and we watch everyone else collect theirs, one after the other. Still no sign of David's. Some bags go round and round, again and again, but David's is not one of them. More and more people are leaving the baggage area and heading for the customs and exit. Still no sign of David's bag. With only a handful of passengers still remaining around the carousel, all apparently in possession of their luggage, the belt stops. Without David's case. After a few tense moments, I spot it, partly hidden by the curtain at the entrance to the belt, stopping just short of actually coming into the baggage area. Phew.

Tanji Bird Lodge

As expected, we have a private minibus transfer to the hotel. Our accommodation for the first five days is in a very small eco-lodge with just eight rooms, and it soon becomes apparent that we are the only tourists staying here for those nights.

large_05edf3d0-6e8f-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

The lodge is all very open plan, with a thatch-covered bar and tables in amongst the trees as well as on a ridge overlooking the ocean for eating and drinking.

large_7dc4a9d0-6e8f-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

large_a75190b0-6e8f-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

large_236a52a0-6e8f-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

A meandering path leads us to the four simple brick huts housing two rooms in each.

large_e7a15740-6e8f-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

There is no A/C in the room, but it has been designed with a high domed ceiling to help disperse the heat, and with slatted windows, the sea breezes are allowed to flow through.

large_01f09200-6e90-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

The inside is basic but adequate, featuring a narrow double bed which has been lovingly strewn with flower petals. In all the years we've travelled and all the hotels we've stayed in, this is a first for us. We have had petals on the bed before, of course, but never has it spelled out our name – such a special and personal touch.

large_32658210-6e90-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

large_3ea72c40-6e90-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

large_5ab5f150-6e90-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg
Domed ceiling

The bathroom has a shower and toilet but no running hot water (we were fully aware of that when we booked), and we cannot seem to manage to get any water out of the shower hose, only through the tap. Cold bucket showers it is then. In this heat, that can be quite refreshing, and is an excellent way to preserve water.

large_8f1d9f60-6e90-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

Bird Baths

But first things first: bird watching. The lodge is set inside Tanji Bird Reserve, and have enticed birds to visit the grounds by providing a series of bowls and pools filled with water. To encourage human visitors, chairs and benches are available for us to sit on as we watch our feathered friends come to bathe and drink; with strategically placed tables for our drinks too of course.

large_f6436a30-6e90-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg
David's preferred way to spot birds

We see a surprising amount of birds in the short time we are here this afternoon (by the time we get settled in to the room, we only have around half an hour left of daylight). They come to bathe and drink, or maybe just hang around with their mates. Here is a small selection:

large_07843950-6e91-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg
Blue Spotted Wood Dove

large_2acc0dc0-6e91-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg
Blackcap Babblers

large_6f488e10-6e91-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg
Red Eyed Dove

large_eb009cf0-6e91-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg
Village Weavers

large_fe7f2710-6e91-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg
Snowy Crowned Robin Chat

large_143551b0-6e92-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg
Black Necked Weaver and Grey Headed Bristlebill

large_30e33cf0-6e92-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg
Laughing Dove

Dinner

As is the Howard tradition, we enjoy a Duty Free tipple in the room before going down to the restaurant for dinner. We find it surprisingly chilly, with a cool wind, to the point of wearing a fleece. We never expected that in The Gambia; in fact, while packing we contemplated whether or not to bring any type of warm clothing at all. Just as well we did.

large_cb898a20-6e92-11e9-9754-e343323fa0bb.jpg

As the sun goes down, some interesting clouds appear, later taking on a muted pink hue from the setting sun.

large_10aafd00-6e93-11e9-998d-7db86ed5b984.jpg

large_1c6575d0-6e93-11e9-998d-7db86ed5b984.jpg

With us being the only two guests in the lodge this evening, catering is down to what they have in the kitchen, which is fish and chicken.

large_64373ba0-6e93-11e9-998d-7db86ed5b984.jpg

We choose butter fish, which is thankfully de-boned and absolutely delicious. I have mine with rice while David orders chips.

large_955cde10-6e93-11e9-998d-7db86ed5b984.jpg

With a glass or two of the local beer, of course. While the main religion here in The Gambia is Islam, they are a secular nation and quite liberal – the country even has its own brewery.

large_f3b05be0-6e93-11e9-84af-55d28e7ceac6.jpg

Being situated inside a bird reserve, there is no light pollution here. Walking back to the room in almost complete darkness, we are glad to see someone has been to the room and switched our outside light on while we were eating dinner. How thoughtful.

We have only had a couple of beers each this evening, but David really struggles to get the key in the lock. s we are fiddling, a knock from behind the door makes me jump – there is someone in our room! Then it dawns on us: this is not our room. It seems we have tried to enter the room where the manager was sleeping. Oops. Sheepishly we continue to our own room and make a mental note of leaving the outside light on tomorrow night.

Being used to a super-king sized bed at home, we worry that the four-foot bed in this place is going to feel rather cramped. Surprisingly, it doesn't, but it is somewhat chilly this evening so we reluctantly grab the duvet from the cupboard and put on the bed. While the bed is narrow, the duvet is miniscule. It is basically a single quilt inside a double cover. It looks like we will have to cuddle up all night, then.

Once the lights are out, the room is pitch black. The sort of blackness that you cannot imagine without having experienced somewhere with absolutely no light whatsoever. Your eyes never get used to it. You cannot see anything. At all. I make sure my torch is within groping distance, and drift off to sleep.

The Gambia Experience featuring Tanji Bird Eco Lodge

Posted by Grete Howard 10:59 Archived in Gambia Tagged birds hotel flight airport breakfast dinner birding dove weaver gatwick titan bird_watching delay valet_parking check_in bajul charter_flight wondertree tanji tanji_bird_lodge bird-bath babbler robin_chat bristlebill butter_fish narrow_bed Comments (4)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]