A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about dove

A lazy morning at Mandina Lodges

Taking it easy


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

Coffee is delivered to each room every morning, at a time of your choice. We have ours outside at 07:30 this morning, while watching the beautiful sunrise over the river.

large_24125b40-9788-11e9-9d01-6339876fd7ff.jpg

large_2e102ff0-9788-11e9-9d01-6339876fd7ff.jpg

large_3871a870-9788-11e9-9d01-6339876fd7ff.jpg

large_419e4a70-9788-11e9-9d01-6339876fd7ff.jpg

large_4bdd6de0-9788-11e9-8bd4-d5513929c149.jpg

large_8df9b710-9788-11e9-8bd4-d5513929c149.jpg

large_c557afd0-978a-11e9-9b57-d3d79ba2aefd.jpg

We're not the only ones enjoying the sunrise.

large_Jenny.jpg

large_8bf94f00-978f-11e9-8bd4-d5513929c149.jpg

large_123ad0c0-9790-11e9-8bd4-d5513929c149.jpg

The morning goes something like this:

Breakfast
Bird watching
Walk around the grounds
Bird watching
Back to room
Sit outside
Birdwatching
Snooze

large_79f083b0-9789-11e9-8bd4-d5513929c149.jpg
Cheese and chilli omelette, sausage and beans = a great breakfast

large_4e8785a0-9790-11e9-8bd4-d5513929c149.jpg
Pied Kingfisher

large_e71db780-9790-11e9-8bd4-d5513929c149.jpg
Black Headed Heron

large_3a1668b0-9791-11e9-8bd4-d5513929c149.jpg
Another one of the fifteen cats at Mandina Lodges

large_0871dcd0-9792-11e9-8bd4-d5513929c149.jpg
Village Weavers and Red Eyed Dove in a plant pot on the island in the middle of the pool

large_2a43b310-9792-11e9-8bd4-d5513929c149.jpg
Laughing Dove

large_36d85f40-9792-11e9-8bd4-d5513929c149.jpg
Bats in the ceiling of the restaurant

large_7fbc0a40-9792-11e9-ac42-c7a3c962e9f7.jpg
The birds are fed every day

large_c285f890-9792-11e9-ac42-c7a3c962e9f7.jpg
Lovely bougainvillea in the grounds

large_fb528760-9792-11e9-ac42-c7a3c962e9f7.jpg

large_361e8fb0-9793-11e9-ac42-c7a3c962e9f7.jpg
Village Weaver

large_6e6ece10-984d-11e9-93e7-856a56062c50.jpg
Black Kite - it looks like he has caught something - a mouse maybe?

large_cab2f3e0-984d-11e9-9bee-3bd38be59c8c.jpg
Black Necked Weaver

large_a4c350a0-9850-11e9-ac51-5f6a481d866d.jpg
Beautiful water reflections in the river

large_b6844c40-9850-11e9-ac51-5f6a481d866d.jpg
Long Tailed Cormorants

large_c6438470-9850-11e9-ac51-5f6a481d866d.jpg
David at the poolside

Lunch

We eat our lunch in the shady bar, while watching a Whimbrel trying to catch a crab on the mud flats. The crab gets away several times before the bird finally managed to grab it.

large_b2f4b5a0-aa53-11e9-a738-95d34bf32211.jpg

large_c8431dc0-aa53-11e9-a738-95d34bf32211.jpg

large_d2364410-aa53-11e9-a738-95d34bf32211.jpg

large_dceb5ad0-aa53-11e9-a738-95d34bf32211.jpg

The crab has lost its claw.

large_e65c58d0-aa53-11e9-a738-95d34bf32211.jpg

He still managed to escape though.

large_6049e0e0-aa54-11e9-a738-95d34bf32211.jpg

But not for long.

large_80953e30-aa54-11e9-a738-95d34bf32211.jpg

large_d9dac5d0-aa5b-11e9-a3ee-258caae35491.jpg

A Grey Heron wants to get in on the action.

large_ba1ed210-aa6d-11e9-b750-399c01e62ba1.jpg

large_4a6bc7a0-aa6f-11e9-912e-13124a98c8b2.jpg

large_9dd05a00-aa6f-11e9-912e-13124a98c8b2.jpg

large_4a4aae40-aa73-11e9-9018-c58cb3404e07.jpg

As well as a Western Plantain Eater.

large_1bc12ff0-aa72-11e9-9018-c58cb3404e07.jpg

large_a71e5f50-aa72-11e9-9018-c58cb3404e07.jpg

Time for another siesta.

Posted by Grete Howard 08:52 Archived in Gambia Tagged birds reflections dog river cat sunrise breakfast kite wild africa forest birding coffee bats crab heron dove whimbrel west_africa weaver gambia omelette bird_watching cormorants the_gambia the_gambia_experience plantain_eater wild_birds mandina_lodges makasutu mandina makasutu_forest water_reflections Comments (8)

Tanji Beach and Bird Bath

Last morning at Tanji


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

With no early morning bird trip booked today, we have a lie-in this morning and don't rise until 07:15. Luxury. It is also the first time in the four nights we've stayed here that we've had breakfast in the lodge.

After a lovely omelette, we go back to the room and pack for today's transfer to our next lodge, then take a long, leisurely stroll along the beach.

Tanji Beach

Tanji Bird Eco Lodge borders what could be a nice beach with a bit of TLC. As it is at the moment, it is littered with all sorts of rubbish washed up or discarded by fishermen. Other than the locals who are either using it as a short cut from one place to another, or are here to look for bait for their fishing trip; the beach is deserted.

large_ae5fb7e0-8eee-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_043825e0-8eee-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_2c70c760-8eee-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_3c35f300-8eee-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_d8274150-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

It could be so nice.

large_4aac7e90-8eee-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_78184d50-8eee-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

The beach is suffering badly from erosion

large_7fa39570-95bf-11e9-a803-f1bfd7174cdb.jpg

large_937dd420-95bf-11e9-a803-f1bfd7174cdb.jpg

large_9d3cf220-95bf-11e9-a803-f1bfd7174cdb.jpg

I was hoping to find some sea birds along the coast, but the only one we see is a lone Whimbrel.

large_efccd550-8eee-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

Instead I try my hand at some creative photography using the crashing waves as my subject.

large_28d9a170-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_429d6510-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_5a9e6a10-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_6d860b60-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_7e4611c0-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_89c1faf0-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_9bf148c0-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_a89fe590-8eef-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

We return to the lodge and spend the remainder of the morning by the birding pool.

large_2061f030-8ef2-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_99e4b310-8ef3-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

With a drink, of course

large_68872d30-8ef2-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg

large_26df3b90-8ef0-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Black Necked Weaver enjoying a splash in the bird bath

large_34f77a80-8ef0-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Red Eyed Dove

large_61638c80-8ef0-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Village Weaver

large_76f1bcc0-8ef0-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
African Silverbill

large_99cc2960-8ef0-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
African Silverbill

large_c64840f0-8ef0-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Common Bulbul

large_28debfa0-8ef1-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Black Necked Weaver

large_594cf8f0-8ef1-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Western Bluebill

large_8ce2b100-8ef1-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Pied Crow

large_9f4f55f0-8ef1-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Red Billed Firefinch

large_ba796050-8ef1-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Common Wattle Eye

large_83318040-8ef2-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Agama Lizard

large_d7c51230-8ef1-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Western Red Billed Hornbill

large_f0402930-8ef1-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
White Crowned Robin Chat

large_05da8e70-8ef2-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Red Bellied Paradise Flycatcher

large_ab7397a0-8ef2-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Yellow Throated Leaflove

large_c1553f10-8ef2-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Snowy Crowned Robin Chat

large_d70d6580-8ef2-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
A Green Vervet Monkey tries to muscle in on the scene too

large_fed60720-8ef2-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Bronze Mannikins

large_1e126570-8ef3-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Red Cheeked Cordon Blue

large_387c5420-8ef3-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Grey Headed Bristlebill

large_af8ef6d0-8ef3-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Senegal Coucal

Lunch

During our long chat with Haddy yesterday, we were asked what time we would like to arrange the transfer from Tanji to Bakotu for today. As we love it so much here, we decided we'd like to have one last lunch at this place before moving on.

large_fff0f790-8ef3-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
Fish and chips

large_0e0cb8f0-8ef4-11e9-b868-e1c5dbb75cd0.jpg
One last coffee under our favourite umbrella

It is always hard to say goodbye when you have been treated like part of the family as we have here. Spending four nights in the same hotel is rather unusual for us, so we have really got to know the staff quite well.

The driver who picks us up for the transfer is the most miserable Gambian we have met to date, and a poor driver to boot. His driving style is jerky and aggressive and he travels much too close to the vehicle in front. Thankfully the journey to Bakotu only takes half an hour.

Posted by Grete Howard 06:49 Archived in Gambia Tagged beach monkey waves rubbish crow lunch lizard birding trash coffee erosion pollution flycatcher dove fish_and_chips west_africa weaver bulbul finch gambia omelette bird_watching hornbill eco_lodge coucal cordon_bleu the_gambia tanji robin_chat bristlebill cordon_blue mannikin firefinch tanji_bird_eco_lodge bluebill leaflove tanji_beah creative_photography slow_shutter_speed silverbill wattle_eye verver_monkey saying_goodbye Comments (3)

Abuko

Big day today: Lifer # 1000


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

I spent most of the night tossing and turning, trying to find a position that didn't hurt my arm. That'll teach me for spending so long at the waterhole photographing the birds. Not. I even struggle to bring my hand up to my face this morning, affecting washing, brushing my teeth and hair, and eating. Photographer's elbow. A bit like a tennis player having played in an all day tournament after normally just having a game once or twice a week. The pain won't stop me going out taking photos of birds though.

Abuko

This morning Malick is taking us to Abuko. He's decided that we are going to be better off walking along the plantations just on the outskirts of the woods, rather than inside the thick forest itself, where the conditions will be rather difficult in terms of photography: dark and too many branches in the way. Sounds good to me.

large_fcdcc380-7338-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg

large_e5507950-7338-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg

large_f1299db0-7338-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg
Onions

large_c922c520-7339-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg
Bitter Tomato

large_df0a11e0-7339-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg
Sweet Potato

large_ee887080-7339-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg
Mango

large_fc48f280-7339-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg
Tapping the palm toddy

large_2b3346c0-7341-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg

large_38d12590-7341-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg

large_43f59ff0-7341-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Scarecrow. Or should that be scaredog?

large_5db544e0-7341-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
I don't think the strips of cloth hung from this pole to keep the birds away from the crops are working too well.

We almost immediately spot birds in the trees and on the ground. As before, any lifers (new species to me) will be denoted with *

large_3eb8a850-7339-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg
Sacred Ibis

large_4dc1afe0-7339-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg
African Grey Hornbill

large_659c4120-7339-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg
Hooded Vulture

large_89b34c70-7339-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg
Blue Breasted Kingfisher*

large_a243e740-7339-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg
Grey Woodpecker*

large_b17e8620-7339-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg
Woodland Kingfisher

large_175589d0-733a-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg
Spur Winged Plover

large_5fc08260-733a-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg
Striated Heron

large_90014310-733a-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg
Black Crake

Malick warns us to be careful as we step over the ants who are making their way along a well-defined path.

large_c0148b20-733a-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg

large_d7498d90-733a-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg

large_e411a5d0-733a-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg
African Jacana

large_0b3777c0-733b-11e9-bcc1-930d38e69529.jpg
Senegal Coucal

large_9d80c7a0-733e-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
White Billed Buffalo Weavers*

large_b05ecc00-733e-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Two different species of Egrets - Intermediate and Cattle

large_c70ee700-733e-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Squacco Heron

large_d588a6e0-733e-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Black Heron

large_eeaf6730-733e-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
David testing out his directional microphone, hoping to cut out some of the "click click click" he normally gets on his videos from my photography.

large_1cd250f0-733f-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Blue Bellied Roller*

large_2fd47f20-733f-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Giant Kingfisher with a Tilapia in his beak

large_45043bb0-733f-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Rose Ringed Parakeet

large_5868ae20-733f-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Pied Crow

large_64f65570-733f-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Gull Billed Tern*

large_79dcacf0-733f-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Red Eyed Dove

large_8e40b510-733f-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Long Tailed Cormorant

large_a2c95c30-733f-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Senegal Thick Knee*

This is a very special and important moment in my birdwatching mission – my 1000th lifer!

Ta da!

While I have been interested in seeing and photographing birds for a very long time, it is only in the last 13 years or so that I have taken it to the next level and making a point of identifying and recording the birds I see. I would not consider myself a serious birder, but I am an ardent list-maker, so to make 1000 different species makes me jubilant and proud.

large_1088cca0-7341-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Little Bee Eater

large_8602a6e0-7341-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Hammerkop

large_afe0ec10-7c97-11e9-8a03-bd7d481cd39d.jpg
Broad Billed Roller

large_bcc18b60-7341-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Hooded Vulture

large_ccb60460-7341-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Reef Heron

large_da0d1630-7341-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Purple Heron

large_e86b10b0-7341-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Long Tailed Cormorant

large_f5e2f0f0-7341-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg
Great White Egret

I came to The Gambia with a very short wish list, consisting of only three species that I really wanted to see: Western Bluebill, Western Plantain Eater and the Abyssinian Roller. Having ticked off the first two yesterday, Malick promised me the roller today. He succeeded in spotting it, and the bird put on a delightful display for us.

large_4dea3060-7342-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg

large_72fd00d0-7342-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg

large_648a45d0-7342-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg

large_843f2f80-7342-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg

large_8da8b370-7342-11e9-9c75-33f8621fa256.jpg

The perfect finish to a perfect morning's birdwatching. Thank you Malick.

Posted by Grete Howard 06:36 Archived in Gambia Tagged birds crow birding mango ants roller woodpecker heron egret vulture ibis parakeet dove west_africa kingfisher plantations garlic cormorant sweet_potato tilapia gambia bird_watching hornbill hammerkop thick_knee coucal tern the_gambia malick_suso crake afraica abuko bitter_tomato palm_toddy scarecrow 1000th_lifer lifer life_tick Comments (3)

Afternoon at Tanji

Making a splash


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

Afternoon at Tanji Bird Eco Lodge

As soon as we get back to Tanji Bird Eco Lodge from our birdwatching at Brufut this morning, we head for the bird baths, of course.

large_cb393b60-7270-11e9-b9dd-9fa932472dbf.jpg
Black Necked Weavers

large_30b62640-7273-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
African Silverbill

large_57449a30-7273-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Common Bulbul

large_7f86d8a0-7273-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Red Bellied Paradise Flycatcher

large_9a71b720-7273-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Snowy Crowned Robin Chat

large_b5e1cb30-7273-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Western Red Billed Hornbill

large_fa9030f0-7273-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Common Wattle Eye

large_113f6190-7274-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Red Billed Firefinch

large_2f31b3b0-7274-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Village Weaver

large_425154f0-7274-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Grey Headed Bristlebill

large_5df968f0-7274-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
African Thrush

Lunch

As I said yesterday, we are the only overnight guests at the lodge, although other visitors come for a drink or just to watch the birds at the bath; including the two Dutch ladies we saw this morning at Brufut. For lunch, however, there is just the two of us, and we sit at one of the tables on the ridge overlooking the sea beyond.

large_cd150370-7274-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_24799a40-7275-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_d93fca40-7274-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_e5592bf0-7274-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_f4bdc100-7274-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_356d33c0-7275-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Fish with spicy sauce

After lunch I return to the paddling pool while David goes to the room for a siesta. The girls have been in to make the bed and have lovingly created some more designs with flower petals.

large_8847fcb0-7275-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_c1be11f0-7275-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Black Necked Weaver

large_d91f2d70-7275-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Red Cheeked Cordon Blue

large_f0eaa380-7275-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Village Weaver

large_023d7400-7276-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
There is quite a pool party going on.

large_39cacc10-7276-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Black Billed Wood Dove

All through the afternoon, birds come and go, different species, some of which are familiar to me, but many of whom I'd not seen before this morning. I am absolutely captivated by the goings-on and can't tear myself away.

large_86cbee90-7276-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
This poor little bulbul has a bent beak, and I am not sure if it is a birth defect or whether he has collided with a window or similar. He is still alive, so is presumably able to survive on soft fruits and suchlike.

large_c32a56b0-7276-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
The Little Bee Eaters dart in from the confines of the trees, swoop down for a brief dip in the cool water and once again return to the safety of the woods. All in the blink of an eye.

large_0c735330-7277-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg
Blue Spotted Wood Dove

I am particularly fascinated by the splashing in the shallow water. Dialling in rapid shooting on my camera, I fire off picture after picture after picture of the weavers (mainly) cleaning their feathers.

large_d2321e60-7279-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_e8ebaf40-7279-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_2eb85640-727a-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

large_6b0f2170-7273-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

There is even a squirrel who makes a brief appearance at the water hole.

large_0ae0c4f0-727a-11e9-b272-c5c5da951ab8.jpg

Feeling a slight twinge in my elbow from spending the last ten hours or so photographing birds (taking nearly 5000 pictures in the last 24 hours while holding a heavy lens in the air); I figure it is about time to call it a day. Popping into the bar on the way back to the room, I grab the last three Cokes to go with the Duty Free rum for me, and the last beer for David; for us to enjoy a little snifter in the room before dinner. It looks like we have drunk the bar dry. Again. This seems to be a fairly regular occurrence on our travels.

large_711a7fa0-730a-11e9-a188-37f823c7e7f7.jpg

Dinner

By the time we wander down to the restaurant for something to eat, the bar has thankfully been restocked, and we can both enjoy a beer with our food tonight.

large_e17af630-730a-11e9-a188-37f823c7e7f7.jpg

large_f41c3fb0-730a-11e9-9292-49f7508d38ab.jpg

large_0482db70-730b-11e9-9292-49f7508d38ab.jpg

Sarra, the manager, comes over for a chat and asks: “You want wine? I'll get you wine for tomorrow”.

Followed by “We have internet, a service we offer to The Gambia Experience. 200 Dalasi for the duration of your stay”.

As I do like to be in touch with the world (really?), I reply with gusto “Great. What's the password?”

“I will go and get it”.

Sarra proceeds to walk over to a pile of papers and start to rummage. Nothing. He pokes around in the bar. Still nothing. Continuing his search in the kitchen, it is apparent he still has not found what he is looking for. Nor in the office. Eventually he wanders off to one of the bedrooms, presumably still looking for the elusive piece of paper with the code on it.

The food arrives, but still no wifi password. Oh well, it is not that important anyway.

large_2d2d6c10-7320-11e9-ac40-1b2e091db21f.jpg
Chicken and chips, Gambian style. The chicken is served in a delicious sauce, but I am missing my veggies. I find the vast majority of restaurants, both in the UK and abroad, serve far too few vegetables with their meals for my liking.

Just as we finish our food, Sarra comes back with the password and I am yet again in touch with the world.

Acutely aware that we are the only guests in the lodge, we vacate the restaurant and retire to our room for the night so that the staff can go home. Before we go, we ask for an extra duvet to put on the bed - not something I expected to do here in the Gambia.

The room is eerily dark, with the only sound coming from the crashing waves and rustling palms. Pure heaven.

Posted by Grete Howard 16:47 Archived in Gambia Tagged birds africa birding flycatcher dove wifi weaver bulbul gambia bird_watching hornbill eco_lodge thrush bee_eater the_gambia tanji robin_chat bristlebill the_gambia_experience cordon_blue firefinch tanji_bird_eco_lodge tanji_bird_reserve bird_photography wood_dove wifi_password Comments (1)

Brufut

So many lifers


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

Yet again Lariam (malaria prophylaxis) upsets my sleep with a series of bad dreams: while faced with a plethora of colourful birds, my camera refuses to operate despite repeatedly and frustratingly pressing the shutter. I wake up agitated and distressed, realise it is thankfully just a dream and return to sleep. And the dream. The same horrid dream. This repeats itself time and time again and by the time the alarm goes off at 6am, I am exhausted.

Birding Pool

Knowing we are too early for the breakfast, and will be out for most of the morning, we grab some snacks from our bags and head to the bird pool to wait for the guide to arrive.

large_663ca710-724d-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg

As it is still fairly dark, photography is almost impossible, so we just sit and enjoy until Malick turns up.

Police Check Point

We pre-booked Malick – Chris Packham's birding guide of choice - through The Gambia Experience before we left home, just to make sure we had a couple of days of serious birding organised. Having someone who knows where to go and the transport to take us there is half the battle.

As with so many African countries, The Gambia has its fair share of Police Road Blocks where they check the drivers' paperwork. It also acts as an opportunity to investigate the birds that hang around here, feeling on rubbish left behind.

large_3f708680-7250-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Yellow Crowned Gonolek

large_61229fc0-7250-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Red Cheeked Cordon Blue

large_74a87ce0-7250-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Red Bellied Paradise Flycatcher

large_871521d0-7250-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Western Red Billed Hornbill

large_96ceb4b0-7250-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Brown Babbler

Brufut

Our destination for today, however, is Brufut, a community-organised bird sanctuary protected by the West African Birds Study Association.

Before we reach the woods themselves, we stop near some habitation at the edge of a few plantations and take a short walk to see what species can be found around here. We are very excited to spot so many 'lifers' (species new to us, indicated by * below) in such a small area.

large_9869aa90-7251-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Yellow Billed Shrike*

large_b80a9710-7251-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Stone Partridge*

large_cc462fa0-7251-11e9-a3a7-6571d9103ad3.jpg
Piapiac*

large_f1062520-7251-11e9-a3a7-6571d9103ad3.jpg
White Crowned Robin Chat*

large_017d3ba0-7252-11e9-a3a7-6571d9103ad3.jpg
White Faced Whistling Ducks

large_11e31410-7252-11e9-a3a7-6571d9103ad3.jpg
Greater Honeyguide*

large_2f4c11f0-7252-11e9-a3a7-6571d9103ad3.jpg
Village Weaver

large_40098040-7252-11e9-a3a7-6571d9103ad3.jpg
Blue Bellied Roller*

large_53f63580-7252-11e9-a3a7-6571d9103ad3.jpg
Senegal Wattled Plover*

large_cf911f70-7252-11e9-afff-5bb465524a0a.jpg
Black Crake

large_9ef05280-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Long Tailed Glossy Starling

large_fd5c9a60-7252-11e9-afff-5bb465524a0a.jpg
Fine Spotted Woodpecker*

large_1f125d20-7253-11e9-afff-5bb465524a0a.jpg
African Jacana

large_2d5f8ec0-7253-11e9-afff-5bb465524a0a.jpg
Pied Crow

large_3a9f9620-7253-11e9-afff-5bb465524a0a.jpg
White Billed Buffalo Weaver*

large_64a7ee90-7253-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Greenshank

large_1fa92970-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Spur Winged Plover

large_88b64750-7253-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Beautiful Sunbird (female)

large_9b74b5c0-7253-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Bearded Barbet

large_b6ec1cd0-7253-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Splendid Sunbird (female)

large_0d3fdfe0-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Copper Sunbird*

large_3a6d4610-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Intermediate Egret

large_4f158320-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Northern Red Bishop in non-breeding colours*

large_6a8e22b0-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Variable Sunbird (female) The female sunbirds all look very similar.

large_8d10ab50-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Common Sandpiper

large_b34629d0-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Pied Kingfisher

large_c07ede30-7254-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Black Headed Heron

The plantations include such crops as cashew nuts and mango trees.

large_148ccff0-7255-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Unripe cashew fruits with the nuts not yet having developed - they will be hanging down below when ripe

large_2bb1f3e0-7255-11e9-9946-1f4fd5f117ee.jpg
Mango fruits

Brufut Woodland Bar

We continue to an area known as Brufut Woods, where there is even a bar serving drinks. Fearing that they may not be open this late in the season, Malick had already contacted them by phone earlier, to make sure they put the kettle on.

large_9e7fa7a0-725a-11e9-b8c5-bd5ea3f4388b.jpg

large_28ed9500-725b-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg

A number of benches are set out, overlooking an area with several bird baths in the trees and on the ground. I notice that rather than putting out food for the birds so that they become dependent on humans for feeding, only water is provided. I like that.

large_176b9e30-725b-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg

This is the civilised way of photographing the birds.

large_39416c10-725b-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg

large_47ecc340-725b-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg

We spend the next couple of hours watching, photographing, and listening to the birds, seeing their family squabbles, how they interact with each other and some obvious pecking orders.

As before, any lifers are denoted with *

large_b06b8e60-725b-11e9-837f-a9c9550f0e7c.jpg
Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu

large_00899660-725e-11e9-822d-1352a03e610c.jpg
Senegal Coucal

large_1ade7670-725e-11e9-822d-1352a03e610c.jpg
Black Billed Wood Dove*

I usually have a wish list of birds (or animals) I wish to see when we travel, and this is one of only three on my list this time:

large_47d7fb60-725e-11e9-822d-1352a03e610c.jpg
Western Plantain Eater*

large_94fa1360-725e-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
Bronze Mannikin

large_277269e0-725f-11e9-b8c5-bd5ea3f4388b.jpg
Yellow Throated Leaflove*

large_e6b2d510-725f-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
Laughing Doves

large_0d099730-7260-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
Common Bulbul

large_466fa6e0-7260-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
Red Billed Firefinch (female)

large_705f9550-7260-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
Black Necked Weaver*

large_8ab8bb20-7260-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
Greater Honeyguide*

large_b06a1580-7260-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
Lavender Waxbill*

large_fce2a710-7260-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
Orange Cheeked Waxbill*

large_1eb20c50-7261-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg
African Thrush*

large_3e2be8d0-7261-11e9-b36d-0de8a4c5fbef.jpg
Splendid Sunbird

large_51b918f0-7261-11e9-b36d-0de8a4c5fbef.jpg
Hooded Vulture

We employ the services of a local guide to help us go in to the woods to look for the Long Tailed Nightjar which is often found in this area. After a short moment of concern when the bird is not where he saw it half an hour earlier (as nocturnal birds, nightjars don't tend to move far during the day unless they are spooked), he spots it on the ground, very well camouflaged.

large_c0fbc370-7261-11e9-b8c5-bd5ea3f4388b.jpg

We start making our way back to the main road, along dirt tracks frequented by more animal carts than vehicles.

large_ec5ca700-7261-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg

But first, Malick wants to check out some palms on the way.

large_1464c2a0-7262-11e9-a924-b7bdbc1413a1.jpg

large_2d282d40-7262-11e9-b8c5-bd5ea3f4388b.jpg
Grey Woodpecker*

Having seen them here in the last couple of days, this is what he was looking for:

large_5c3d8d50-7262-11e9-b8c5-bd5ea3f4388b.jpg
Red Necked Falcons*

And so ends a very productive morning's birdwatching. Now back to the lodge for the rest of the day.

Posted by Grete Howard 08:41 Archived in Gambia Tagged birds crow africa birding coffee mango woodpecker heron egret vulture dove malaria west_africa kingfisher starling plantations weaver falcon shrike bulbul dreams finch barbet gambia lariam nightjar bird_watching hornbill sunbird jacana cashews coucal plover thrush sandpiper life_list robin_chat mefloquine malaria_prophelaxis malaria_tablets nightmares disturbed_sleep police_check_point chris_packham malick_suso the_gambia_experience gonolek cordon_blue brufut brufut_woods piapiac whistling_ducks honeyguide crake glossy_starling greenshank red_bishop mango_trees cashew_nuts cashew_trees plantain_eater mannikin firefinch waxbill Comments (4)

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)

Pench National Park - Part I

A very rare and endangered sighting this afternoon


View Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright - India 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

There appears to be some sort of confusion about our park tickets for today. It seems our agent booked them for the wrong gate, some 60km away. Hence the very early start of 04:30. Rakesh (the driver who brought us down from Jabalpur) is picking us up and driving us to the gate in his car, where we will change into the open top safari vehicle (known as a 'gypsy'), so that we won't get frozen solid by taking the long journey in an open top car. Wise move.

4:30 comes and goes. No Rakesh. At 05:00 I ask the young receptionist what is happening. He wanders off to check with the manager. After a few minutes, he comes running back and continues on to the car park.

A short while later a Gypsy arrives for us. There has been a change of plan. We are going to the nearest gate just a few kilometres away after all; and will pay for a new ticket instead, saving all the hassle of the long journey. That sounds good to me, as it would take well in excess of an hour to travel 60 km on these roads.

large_Pench_National_Park_1.jpg

We also have to pay for a (compulsory) park guide who will accompany us on this morning's safari. Once that is all in order, we can enter the park.

The first thing we spot, is an Oriental Honey Buzzard, another new tick on our life list.

large_Oriental_Honey_Buzzard_1.jpg

Seeing very fresh tiger pug marks is promising for a sighting this morning.

large_Tiger_Pug_Marks_51.jpg

The sun is just beginning to break through the mist as we make our way deeper into the forest.

large_Sunrise_in_Pench_1.jpg

Dhole
We are very excited when our guide spots a rare and endangered dhole (Indian wild dog) in between the trees. Our very first sighting of this species in the wild.

large_Dhole_1.jpg

There are thought to be fewer than 2500 of these animals left in the wild, so it is in fact even more rare than the tiger.

large_Dhole_3.jpg

large_Dhole_4.jpg

large_Dhole_7.jpg

We follow him as he makes his way through the forest.

large_Dhole_9.jpg

large_Dhole_11.jpg

large_Dhole_13.jpg

large_Dhole_14.jpg

large_Dhole_20.jpg

large_Dhole_25.jpg

large_Dhole_36.jpg

large_Dhole_38.jpg

Indian Ghost Trees
Found all throughout the park (as well as being quite common elsewhere on the subcontinent), the bark of this very distinctive tree (Sterculia urens) exudes a gum that is used for laxatives.

large_B0AB48BAB04B7825698154CE2A8FF2B0.jpg

large_B0DA86FCBA38AC50F337DBA89354F6B1.jpg

large_Rufous_Treepie_21.jpg

Rufous Treepie

Jungle Fowl

large_Jungle_Fowl_21.jpg

large_Jungle_Fowl_22.jpg

large_Jungle_Fowl_23.jpg

The sun is slowly warming up the air, but the mist is still hanging over the lower ground, creating a mystical and eerie atmosphere.

large_B4432C0DDADA42A8C91BCBAF81D7E696.jpg

large_B4550353AFDE25DF96F567A0C82C5BDC.jpg

large_B45815ACB21BBF4028A7F74A0CB41DA0.jpg

large_B46D590ABBBA51C0D61B9AA78696AD2A.jpg

large_Yellow_Foo..n_Pigeon_52.jpg
Yellow Footed Green Pigeon

large_Spotted_Dove_51.jpg
Spotted Dove

large_Peacock_51.jpg
Indian Peafowl

large_Indian_Pond_heron_51.jpg
Indian Pond Heron

large_Indian_Pond_heron_52.jpg
Indian Pond Heron

Changeable Hawk Eagle

large_Changeable_Haw_Eagle_51.jpg

large_Changeable_Hawk_Eagle_52.jpg

large_B50F7AF5BB64590C7C89FEC017802288.jpg
Another Peacock sunning himself

large_B52EBD4B9A45C1D95AC3080467CD2ACA.jpg

large_B53981FDCDA3A0F014674D026855E3CD.jpg

Brown Fish Owl
The guide keeps telling us the name of this bird, but I just can't get what he is trying to say. It sounds something like 'ground peace owl'. It is not until very much later that I realise he is saying 'Brown Fish Owl'.

large_Brown_Fish_Owl_3.jpg

large_Brown_Fish_Owl_1.jpg

We pass a flooded area with a Green Sandpiper feeding in the shallows.

large_A13.jpg

large_B5880977DBB2A25AC45F62631E8AF3E1.jpg

large_Green_Sandpiper_1.jpg

large_Golden_Jackals_51.jpg
Golden Jackals in the far distance

large_Indian_Roller_52.jpg
Indian Roller

Breakfast
We stop for breakfast in a dedicated picnic area. A structure has been created to provide shade or shelter you from the rain, but as the temperature this morning is still very much on the cool side, everyone remains outside to catch some warmth from the sun's rays.

large_A14.jpg

large_Breakfast_Picnic_52.jpg

The breakfast box is rather disappointing this morning, especially considering how superior the food was at the lodge yesterday.

A rather hideous plastic Mowgli adorns the site, which is appropriately called Mowgli Picnic Area.

large_Mowgli.jpg

We continue to a large wetlands area that is teeming with birds, and spend some time with binoculars picking out various species, many of which are new to us. It is all rather exciting.

large_Indian_Cormorant_51.jpg
Indian Cormorant

large_Bonelli_s_Eagle_1.jpg
Bonelli's Eagle

large_Green_Sandpiper_52.jpg
Green Sandpiper

large_Little_Ringed_Plovers_51.jpg
Little Ringed Plovers

large_Painted_Storks_51.jpg
Painted Storks

large_White_Rumped_Vulture_51.jpg
White Rumped Vulture

large_Indian_Pond_heron_53.jpg
Indian Pond Heron having a bad hair day

large_Greta_Egret_51.jpg
Great Egret

There are also a couple of jackals around.

large_Golden_Jackal_53.jpg

large_Golden_Jackal_54.jpg

large_Golden_Jackal_55.jpg

We reluctantly leave the pond area behind to go in search of more wildlife.

Hanuman Langurs

large_A15.jpg

large_B622291DBEEE36213B976B37E2CAA607.jpg

large_Red_Wattled_Lapwing_51.jpg
Red Wattled Lapwing

large_Hoopoe_51.jpg
Hoopoe

large_Chital_51.jpg
Chital

Nilgai
This is the first nilgai we see on this trip, and then only for a few seconds as she disappears into the forest.

large_Nilgai_51.jpg

large_Nilgai_53.jpg

large_Nilgai_54.jpg

large_Jungle_Owlet_53.jpg
Jungle Owlet

large_Black_Drongo_52.jpg
Black Drongo

Upon hearing loud warning calls, the driver stops the car and we sit and wait. There is obviously a predator in the vicinity, and a lot of very distressed langurs. We wait. And wait. And wait. As time is now getting on, we eventually have to move, despite not having seen any tigers.

It is time to leave the park and return to the Lodge as the park rules have very strict timings for just morning and evening safaris rather than the whole day as we are used to from Africa.

large_Time_to_Leave.jpg

On the way we spot these two gorgeous Indian Rollers, one with his lunch.

large_Indian_Rol..ith_Worm_52.jpg

large_Indian_Rol..ith_Worm_51.jpg

As we were up so early this morning (plus I didn't sleep well last night), I decide to forego lunch and spend the time snoozing instead.

Stay tuned for the next entry.

large_B694ABCDBB94D181D226E67C4276A731.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 02:37 Archived in India Tagged animals birds india sunrise breakfast safari eagle mist birding picnic national_park pigeon peacock roller heron egret stork vulture dove langur gypsy owl cormorant jackal chital drongo bird_watching pench nilgai buzzard early_morning hanuman_langur owlet plover tiger_park breakfast_picnic pench_tiger_park pench-tree-lodge pench_national_park tiger_pug_marks dhole indian_wild_dog wild_dog ghost_tree indian_ghost_tree treepie jungle_fowl early_morning_mist mowgli sandpiper hoppoe snooze Comments (3)

Kanha National Park Part IV - Kisli Zone

A disppointing turnout of animals in the park


View Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright - India 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Having returned to Kipling Camp after this morning's game drive, we have time to take a little nap before lunch. David chooses to chill in a hammock while I snooze in a chair in the lovely shady courtyard.

large_Kipling_Camp_-_Hammock.jpg

large_Kipling_Camp_1.jpg

After another delicious lunch of egg curry, spinach, pumpkin, dhal and curd, we go off for the last game drive here in Khana.

This afternoon we are allocated Kisli Zone, and Astrid (the manager at Kipling Camp) comes with us. Lyn and Chris, however, go off to spend the afternoon with Tara (more about that later).

large_Kanha_National_Park_41.jpg

The first thing we see this afternoon is a dead baby chital, who most probably died during the birth.

large_Dead_Newborn_Chital.jpg

A few minutes later we see a female sambar with her offspring, and I can't help thinking about the poor chital who lost her baby.

large_Sambar_41.jpg

large_Sambar_42.jpg

large_Sambar_44.jpg

Maybe this is her?My heart breaks.

large_Chital_41.jpg

Rahim stops the car to show us pug marks on the track – that looks promising.

large_Pug_Marks_41.jpg

The sun is getting low now, and we haven't seen a great deal yet this afternoon.

large_Low_Sun_41.jpg

large_Kanha_National_Park_42.jpg

The spider's webs are enormous out here, maybe some 4ft across. While I don't mind spiders at all, I would hate to walk into that web!

large_Spider_s_web_41.jpg

large_Oriental_Turtle_Dove_41.jpg
Oriental Turtle Dove

large_Peacock_41.jpg
Indian Peafowl

large_Indian_Grey_Hornbill_41.jpg
Indian Grey Hornbill

large_Yellow_Foo..n_Pigeon_41.jpg
Yellow Footed Green Pigeon

All too soon it is time to leave the park behind, despite having seen no tigers this afternoon. We see the piglets again by entrance as we leave - it is almost pitch black now.

large_Wild_Boar_41.jpg

When we get back to camp, we are eager to hear how Lyn and Chris' afternoon went.

Tara
Lyn and Chris debated long and hard whether to come out on safari this afternoon, or to stay in camp and go with Tara, the resident elephant, for her daily bath in the river. I persuaded them to do the latter, and am so glad I did, for several reasons, not least of all the fact that we saw very few animals in the park this afternoon.

Lyn and Chris, on the other hand, are full of it. “It was the stuff that dreams are made of” Chris enthuses when I ask him about it. Here is a brief resumé of their experience:

Tara led the way for them down to the river, and the mahout made sure she didn't go in the water until Lyn and Chris – who were unable to keep up the same speed as their much larger friend on the walk through the forest – arrived. Into the deep part of the river she went, splashing about to her heart's consent.

large_4D8B166BF90548210DE69E31369A815B.jpg
©Lyn Gowler

large_tara1.jpg
©Lyn Gowler

large_tare3.jpg
©Lyn Gowler

large_tare3.jpg
©Lyn Gowler

Tara then made her way to the shallow part near the bank where both Lyn and Chris were able to get into the water with the elephant, and even assist in washing her.

large_tare2.jpg
©Lyn Gowler

large_tara9.jpg
©Lyn Gowler

She gets a good scrub with a rough rock every day to ensure she gets all the grime and dirt off her skin.

large_tara11.jpg
©Lyn Gowler

When her daily ablutions were over, she showed off to her new-found friends, before crossing her legs ready for her pedicure.

large_tara5.jpg
©Lyn Gowler

large_tara10.jpg
©Lyn Gowler

large_tara6.jpg
©Lyn Gowler

large_tara7.jpg
©Lyn Gowler

large_tara_8.jpg
©Lyn Gowler

For Lyn and Chris this was most definitely a highlight of the trip, and I am so glad they got to experience this.

After a lovely dinner and a few drinks in the bar, it is time to tuck in for our last night at Kipling Camp. I am sad to leave but excited to see what our next camp, Pench Tree Lodge is like.

large_551DE3FBDA5B3C74F78B4BE5643E2F9E.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 14:25 Archived in India Tagged india elephant hammock spider tara pigeon kanha peacock dove chital sambar wild_boar kipling_camp kanha_national_park tiger_park cheetal piglets tiger_safari kisli_zone hotnbill pug_marks low_sun elephant_bathing Comments (3)

Port au Prince

It's the Caribbean, but not as you know it

semi-overcast 32 °C
View It's the Caribbean, but not as you know it - Haiti for Jacmel Carnival 2016 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Day 1 of our Haiti trip with Undiscovered Destinations.

As somebody said: ‘This is not the Caribbean. This is a West African country that just happens to be in the Caribbean!’

This is the Caribbean where few tourists go; an extraordinary place of intoxicating carnivals, dramatic scenery, audacious art, charming architecture, curious religions and tumultuous history; where the only thing stronger than the rum is the spirit of its people.

large_The_Caribb..you_know_it.jpg

Le Plaza Hotel looks even more delightful during daylight hours. The layout is somewhat back-to front, with the reception being a long way from the car park; linked by shaded paths where trees have been allowed free reign.

large_Le_Plaza_H..au_Prince_1.jpg

large_Le_Plaza_H..au_Prince_4.jpg

large_Leaves_1.jpg

large_Flowers_2.jpg

I was hoping that there might be a few exotic birds around, but all we see this morning is a Black Crowned Tanager and this Mourning Dove, plus a few lizards.

large_Mourning_Dove_1.jpg

large_Lizard_1.jpg

large_36D4CBB3A451218BA9F44DDF2FB18B96.jpg

I am not sure whether to be reassured or concerned by this sign in reception.

large_Le_Plaza_H..Reception_1.jpg

Breakfast is good, and I am a bit taken aback when we meet a group of surgeons complete with blue scrubs and face mask as we enter the restaurant. They have presumably refuelled before rushing off to perform life-saving operations. Good for them!

large_Le_Plaza_H.._Breakfast1.jpg

We meet up with Geffrard - the driver - again, and Serge, our local guide, for a tour of Port au Prince. Where Geffrard is a bulky man with an imposing look (he turns out to be a real sweetie though); Serge is of slight build, with long dreadlocks and a ready smile. We instantly like him.

large_Hotel_Olof..ge_close_up.jpg

large_Port-au-Prince_1.jpg

Port au Prince

The French made Port au Prince the capital of their colony of St Domingue in 1770, and the city later went on to be the capital of the new independent Haiti in 1804. With nearly 3 million inhabitants, Port au Prince is the largest city in Haiti and represents close to 30% of the country's total population.

large_Gingerbread_Houses_3.jpg

Gingerbread Houses

The 200 or so 'gingerbread houses' of Port au Prince are so called because of their resemblance to the edible variety: with latticework snaking around the eaves, porches, windows, and doors. This architectural style originated here in Haiti in the late 19th century, but the moniker 'gingerbread houses' wasn't coined until the 1950s, by foreign tourists who claimed the style resembled that of Victorian houses back in their native American South.

large_Gingerbread_Houses_12.jpg

large_Gingerbread_Houses_9.jpg

The architectural movement was in fact not just based on American buildings, but also taken from the vibrant colours and flamboyant patterns of French resort architecture, and was started by three young Haitian architects who had travelled to Paris. The initial wave of gingerbreads were built by the nobility, featuring wide sweeping staircases, large wrap-around verandahs and steep roof lines.

large_Gingerbread_Houses_7.jpg

In order to make the houses more suitable for the Caribbean climate, glass windows were replaced by louvred shutters to create a breeze through the rooms; tall doors and high ceilings to help disperse rising heat; and flexible timber frames to hopefully withstand hurricanes and earthquakes. The design certainly seems to have been proven to be fairly seismic-resistant as only about 5% of the 'gingerbread houses' collapsed after the 2010 earthquake, against 40% of all other structures. Could this be a model for the future?

large_Gingerbread_Houses_11.jpg

Haiti's distinctive architectural heritage is now seriously under threat by the weather, age of the materials and the cost of any restoration work. There are hopes to turn some areas into a cultural heritage district, charging tourists an entry fee to see the buildings, which in turn can be turned into restaurants, shops and accommodation. Currently they are leased to local 'guardians', with up to half a dozen families sharing one of the large houses. Others are turned into a medical centre or a law firm (not "love home", as David heard)

large_Gingerbread_Houses_8.jpg

Having our own car, driver and guide is beneficial in so many ways, including being dropped off right by the sites we want to visit and having someone knowledgable to explain the culture and history of the places we are visiting.

Having a man with insider knowledge also opens doors, sometimes quite literally. Serge is somehow able to get us in to the closed off Champ de Mars square in Downtown Port au Prince.

large_Serge_1.jpg

The square is where 20,000 Haitians created a tent city after their homes had been tumbled following the 2010 earthquake, or they were too scared to return to their own houses. Today there is no sign of the refugees, nor of the damaged National Palace.

large_Haitian_na.._earthquake.jpg
The National Palace after the earthquake

There are, however, monuments honouring some of the important people in the history of Haiti.

Jean-Jacques Dessalines
Dessalines arrived in Haiti from Guinea as a slave, working on plantations in Cap Haitien where he rose to become foreman. In 1791 he joined the slave rebellion and led the successful revolution towards liberating the country. Dessalines was the first ruler of independent Haiti from 1801 until he later crowned himself Emperor Jacques I of Haiti (1804–1806). He is regarded as a founding father of Haiti.

large_Jean-Jacques_Dessalines_1.jpg

Alexandre Pétion
Another of the 'Founding Fathers' of Haiti, Pétion was born to a wealthy French father and a free mulatto woman. After the revolution, he became the first President of the Republic of Haiti from 1806 until his death in 1818.

large_Alexandre_P_tion_1.jpg

St. Jean Bosco Massacre Memorial
Memorial to the people killed on 11th September 1988 when a Catholic Church was set on fire by the National Army during a mass led by the future president Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

large_Ti_Jean_on.._the_church.jpg

Toussaint Louverture
Born to slaves from Benin, Louverture, also known as 'Toussaint Bréda', was freed at 33 years old and went on to lead the slave uprising and Haitian Revolution in 1791. He was captured by forces sent by Napoleon to restore French Authority on the island in 1802 and deported to France, where he died a year later.

large_Toussaint_Louverture_1.jpg

Neg Marron
Memorial to the 'Unknown Slave', the maroons who ran away from their masters, hiding in the forest, communicating with other slaves by blowing a conch shell - the start of the uprising leading to the Haitian Revolution.

large_Neg_Marron_1.jpg

The Ex-Eternal Flame
This is where Papa Doc held his vodou rituals – I am not sure why the flame is no longer eternal.

large_Ex-Eternal_Flame_1.jpg

Bicentenary Monument
This is another ex-flame – Artiste's monument celebrating 200 years of liberty is also supposed to be topped by a torch.

large_Bicentenary_Monument_1.jpg

High Court
Also on the square is the High Court, built in the place where the National Palace once stood before it was ruined by the earthquake.

large_High_Court.jpg

In front of the High Court stand two golden lions, controversially taken from Sans Souci Palace in Cap Haitien.

large_Lions_from_Sans_Soucie.jpg

All around the square are vendors selling paintings, leather shoes and ice cream – it seems even the police find today's weather a little on the hot side...

large_Policeman_..g_Ice_Cream.jpg

Musée du Panthéon National
Haiti's National Museum is an underground space topped with a sculpture garden at street level. The structure started life as a mausoleum built by Baby Doc (Jean-Claude Duvalier) for his father François "Papa Doc" Duvalier. After his wife suggested the building should be a 'memorial to the forefathers' instead, the current museum was born.

large_5EE9B9ACA46C6DDC7785456F277EAEEC.jpg

The strange looking 'chimneys' on the roof represent the shape of the Taino huts (the original inhabitants of Haiti). They also help let light into the exhibition hall, as we found out during a power cut!

large_5803E37B9A99B8BC678A60A3559C0580.jpg

The compact and historically interesting museum does not allow photography inside unfortunately.

There are seven sections within the museum, covering Haiti's history from the Taino Indians, through the arrival of Christopher Columbus, the slavery years and subsequent revolt, liberty, to modern times. I always find slavery exhibitions particularly harrowing: the thought of man's inhumanity to man terrifies and appals me.

Some items of particular interest in the museum are the bell of independence from 1793; the anchor from Colombus' ship the Santa Maria which ran aground off the northern coast of Haiti in 1492; a small rock from the moon brought back by the Apollo 11, the pistol with which king Henri Christophe committed suicide; and a rather spectacular royal crown.

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption
Built in 1884, all that remains after the 2010 earthquake are a few walls.

large_Cathedral_.._Assumption.jpg

Work is said to be under way to demolish and rebuild the cathedral; meanwhile a new church – constructed in the style of the original cathedral – houses the congregation until its completion.

large_Permanence..on_de_Marie.jpg

large_Earthquake_2.jpg

Unfortunately, Haiti is currently most well known for the magnitude 7.0 earthquake which hit the city of Port-au-Prince in 2010, resulting in more than 200,000 deaths and one-and-a-half million people being left homeless. The epicentre was near the town of Léogâne, some 25 kilometres west of the capital, Port au Prince. It is estimated that 250,000 private homes, 30,000 commercial buildings, 4000 schools and over half the government buildings collapsed or were severely damaged during the quake or its many aftershocks. Damage and death toll was greatly exacerbated by existing poverty; poor housing conditions with densely-packed shanty towns and badly-constructed buildings; and widespread deforestation.

As this article in the Guardian points out:

large_Guardian_1.jpg

I feel totally overwhelmed just thinking about amount of injured victims (not to mention dead bodies); with rescue and aid efforts hampered by the devastation caused to communication systems, transport (main roads were blocked and the seaport rendered useless), hospitals, and electrical networks.

The images on the news were heartbreaking.

large_Earthquake_3.jpg

In the aftermath, political, humanitarian and medical chaos ensued, with sporadic violence and looting. A cholera outbreak which is believed to have been introduced to the country by UN Peacekeepers has claimed nearly 9,000 lives and made hundreds of thousands of people sick. The country is still in the throes of a massive health crisis.

Lynch Mob
Just around the corner from the cathedral, we run across some sort of demonstration. One young man is being beaten about the head and torso by an angry mob, and I am told by a number of gesticulating crowd members to put my camera away. Not being one to toe the line, I snap a few (really bad) covert pictures anyway. As the 'offender' is led away, we make our way towards the Oloffson Hotel for lunch.

large_Demonstration_2.jpg

large_Demonstration_3.jpg

large_Hotel_Oloffson_14.jpg

Hotel Oloffson is probably Port au Prince's most famous and well loved gingerbread house, and featured in Graham Greene's novel the Comedians (as Hotel Trianon). Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis and Mick Jagger were regular guests in the 70s and 80s.

large_Hotel_Oloffson_2.jpg

The hotel is like a peaceful oasis, far away from the country's turmoil and catastrophes, with its faded glory of Gothic spires, elegant latticework and decorative wooden shutters. It's like entering not just a different world, but another epoch.

large_Hotel_Oloffson_7.jpg

large_Hotel_Oloffson_11.jpg

Built in the late 1800s as a private home for the ruling Sam family, it was later used as a hospital during the US occupation of Haiti between 1915 and 1934. In 1935, the house was leased by a Swedish sea captain called Werner Gustav Oloffson, whose wife turned the building into a hotel to relieve the boredom during her husband's long absences while on sea voyages. The name still sticks today.

large_Hotel_Oloffson_6.jpg

The hotel has changed hands a few times since then, and is currently run by a Vodou priest. At the entrance to the hotel stands the statue of Baron Samedi, the Vodou spirit of sex, death and resurrection.

large_Hotel_Oloffson_4.jpg

Hotel Oloffson is a beautiful old Victorian style mansion, full of quaint decorations suitable for a place run by a Vodou priest.

large_Hotel_Oloffson_5.jpg

large_Hotel_Oloffson_13.jpg

As well as conducting vodou ceremonies, Richard Morse, the owner of the hotel, is also the founder of a mizik raisin band called RAM, whose music 'incorporates traditional Vodou lyrics and instruments, such as rara horns and petwo drums, into modern rock and roll. ' They play here at the Oloffson every Thursday night.

large_Hotel_Oloffson_-_RAM.jpg

From the beams above the balustrades, hang small plastic bags filled with water. These have me totally perplexed, but Serge explains that the are mosquito repellents. Apparently the flies see their own much enlarged reflections in the bags and are frightened off. An interesting and unconventional theory – I wonder how well it works?

large_Hotel_Olof.._repellents.jpg

We choose a simple lunch – a Haitian Sandwich consisting of cheese, ham, avocado and pikliz, the local spicy coleslaw. Except it is really not at all spicy, much to my disappointment. It is probably toned down for tourists. I enjoy the fresh lemonade though, which is served au naturel with sugar in a separate bowl for tempering the tartness of the citrus. Very refreshing!

large_Hotel_Olof..an_Sandwich.jpg

David tries the Prestige, Haiti's locally produced and best-selling beer. Similar to an American style lager, it is very drinkable, but experience has taught me to avoid alcohol at lunchtime in the heat.

large_Prestige_Beer.jpg

large_Gingerbreadmen_3.jpg

Sundowners are a very different matter, however, and I later indulge in some fruity rum punch while we wait to meet up with Jacqui, the owner of the local tour operator.

large_Rum_Punch_2.jpg

And what a delight and surprise Jacqui turns out to be! Not only is she from Bristol, our home city, we even have mutual friends there! What a small world!

Joining us for dinner, Jacqui advices us on the local food, and we try Lambi (conch with a creole sauce) and Tasseau de Boeuf (crispy fried beef with vegetables); both very nice.

large_Dinner_at_Le_Plaza.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 09:59 Archived in Haiti Tagged beer museum caribbean lizard slavery dove lumiere slaves haiti undiscovered_destinations papa-doc voyages_ oloffson_hotel port_au_prince premiere_beer rum_punch Comments (1)

(Entries 1 - 9 of 9) Page [1]