A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about gambia

Marrakissa

Another heavenly place


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

I slept surprisingly well last night, despite the upset tummy yesterday afternoon and several rather unpleasant dreams overnight.

We are meeting Abdoulie first thing, who will be our birding guide for the morning. He is early, and so are we.

Brikama

Heading for Marrakissa, we drive through Brikama, which is the second largest town in The Gambia, and absolute pandemonium. I try some of my usual drive-by shooting (photographically speaking) as we are stuck in the traffic jam. The following images are photographed through the window glass of the car, so apologies for the somewhat inferior quality.

large_b7e00650-7af1-11e9-a882-ebeecf336466.jpg
Waiting for the school bus

large_c886b850-7af1-11e9-a882-ebeecf336466.jpg
Bread delivery

large_de0cab30-7af1-11e9-a882-ebeecf336466.jpg
Coffee on the go

large_edb65f90-7af1-11e9-a882-ebeecf336466.jpg
Hitching a ride

large_1a5cbb70-7af2-11e9-a882-ebeecf336466.jpg
Heading for the Laundry

large_7d758980-7af2-11e9-a882-ebeecf336466.jpg
Donkey Cart

Likky Bom

The sign on the rear bumper of a bright yellow car puzzles me greatly and I ask Abdoulie what it means. He is as bemused as we are, and to our surprise pulls over the driver to ask him. “It's my nickname” says the mystified kid in charge of the adorned car “nothing more than that”. I do wonder if he realises what sort of connotations the sign has, albeit with a slightly different spelling.

large_3db16450-7af6-11e9-98e3-9d6961888a74.jpg

Marakissa

First we stop on a bridge to check out the birdlife along the wetlands area.

large_c15849c0-7b11-11e9-993a-5fd5f31c9782.jpg
Senegal Coucal

large_f3ec4940-7b11-11e9-993a-5fd5f31c9782.jpg
Wire Tailed Swallow

large_01d86f20-7b12-11e9-993a-5fd5f31c9782.jpg
Great Egret

large_118a60e0-7b12-11e9-993a-5fd5f31c9782.jpg
Double Spurred Francolin

large_2865d1a0-7b12-11e9-993a-5fd5f31c9782.jpg
Cashew fruit with the nut hanging down below

large_3c0bb9e0-7b12-11e9-993a-5fd5f31c9782.jpg
Red Eyed Doves

large_4ca39ed0-7b12-11e9-993a-5fd5f31c9782.jpg
Squacco Heron

large_6906ec80-7b12-11e9-993a-5fd5f31c9782.jpg
Western Plantain Eater

large_7fbf9300-7b12-11e9-993a-5fd5f31c9782.jpg
Purple Glossy Starling

large_9147f270-7b12-11e9-993a-5fd5f31c9782.jpg
Senegal Parrot

large_60cb1cb0-7b1e-11e9-8e06-ad645587d09a.jpg
Red Billed Firefinch

large_3c2a1980-7b21-11e9-8e06-ad645587d09a.jpg
Yellow Fronted Tinkerbird, doing its best to hide

large_59047de0-7b1f-11e9-8e06-ad645587d09a.jpg
Common Bulbul nest building

large_1448c1f0-7b30-11e9-b3c7-2d734227b023.jpg
Yellow Throated Leaflove

large_31b67bc0-7b25-11e9-87bc-ab80f2207b51.jpg
Piapiac

large_71281750-7b25-11e9-9ca9-1f25aaa6c580.jpg
Lizard Buzzard

Ants

Abdoulie warns us to be careful when stepping over the marching ants. Too late, David has already been invaded. Lots of jumping, shouting and a few choice words later, he drops his trousers in the middle of the field to get rid of the ants. Thankfully I am too busy laughing to photograph it.

large_ef8e2f30-7b25-11e9-9ca9-1f25aaa6c580.jpg

large_bfd5b050-7b30-11e9-bc79-a9a9d955c8ef.jpg
White Faced Whistling Ducks

large_749907e0-7b35-11e9-81b5-cf57682dec75.jpg
African Jacana

large_2fae5510-7b38-11e9-86e2-9fac5777075b.jpg
Fine Spotted Woodpecker

large_f50ecf70-7b41-11e9-b844-37934c6901b7.jpg
Woodland Kingfisher

large_fec59390-7b42-11e9-93df-433cc4501cea.jpg
African Golden Oriole

large_6c3ccce0-7b43-11e9-80e9-bffb193375e3.jpg
White Billed Buffalo Weavers

large_5d3ad4c0-7b44-11e9-93ed-058f98c0db7a.jpg
Long Tailed Glossy Starling

large_6c1f3d50-7b44-11e9-93ed-058f98c0db7a.jpg
Blue Bellied Roller

Black Faced Quail Finch

We see a number of these little birds fly out of bushes without warning, but trying to photograph them proves extremely difficult.

large_728df070-7b47-11e9-93ed-058f98c0db7a.jpg

Eventually Abdoulie takes my camera and goes off stalking them.

large_816e6160-7b47-11e9-93ed-058f98c0db7a.jpg

After a lot of time and effort, he manages to creep up on one of the quail finches on the ground to grab a quick shot. Good man – I have to say I admire his patience.

large_90afb700-7b47-11e9-93ed-058f98c0db7a.jpg

large_a9538bb0-7b47-11e9-93ed-058f98c0db7a.jpg
Yellow Throated Leaflove

large_dbceac00-7b47-11e9-93ed-058f98c0db7a.jpg
Grey Heron

large_dbde1fe0-7b48-11e9-93ed-058f98c0db7a.jpg
Village Weaver

large_e9383ef0-7b48-11e9-93ed-058f98c0db7a.jpg
Pin Tailed Whydah

What an amazing place this is turning out to be. I shall leave you here now and continue in another blog entry. Ciao.

Posted by Grete Howard 04:37 Archived in Gambia Tagged ants roller woodpecker heron starling weaver oriole bulbul gambia jacana swallow coucal francolin cashew_nut the_gambia piapiac whistling_ducks glossy_starling plantain_eater firefinch abdoulie brikama bread_delivery licky_bom bumper_sticker marakissa tinkerbird leaflove buffalo_weavers quail_finch whydah Comments (4)

Marakissa River Camp

Another Birdie Heaven


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

Marakissa River Camp

Abdoulie takes us to this delightful camp for refreshments and bird watching. The camp is set on the riverside (there is a hint in the name), and features many different species. We spend a couple of delightful hours here, nipping between the covered terrace overlooking man made water pools, and the river below.

large_f02923a0-7cba-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg
Abyssinian Roller

large_0149c090-7cbb-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg
Yellow Billed Shrike

large_1205a840-7cbb-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg
Beautiful Sunbird, preening

large_2592d860-7cbb-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg
Purple Glossy Starling

large_33165160-7cbb-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg
Yellow Throated Leaflove

large_4163f830-7cbb-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg
Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu

large_538dc7c0-7cbb-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg
Lesser Honeyguide

large_613a4c90-7cbb-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg
Piapiac (AKA Black Magpie)

large_70d50cd0-7cbb-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg
Scruffy Looking Village Weaver

large_bed06dd0-7cbb-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg
Western Plantain Eater

large_8c8d9b90-7cbb-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg
Black Crake

large_a0309da0-7cbb-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg
Giant Kingfisher

Kingfisher Diving

While we are down at the river's edge, I spot a Pied Kingfisher in the corner of my eye, just about to dive into the water. I swing my camera around and manage to grab a quick shot as he carries his lunch away.

large_3163a2e0-7cbc-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg

Having devoured the fresh snack, he comes back, sitting on a nearby branch, contemplating his next move.

large_4efa1960-7cbc-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg

Feeling hungry again, he hovers over the river, hoping to spot a fish.

large_5bc083f0-7cbc-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg

Bingo! Not only did he manage to catch one (just – he is barely holding on to it by the tip of its head), but he also speared a dead leaf.

large_66269050-7cbc-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg

large_6fc8b070-7cbc-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg

Which is now stuck on his beak.

large_7a2a9e20-7cbc-11e9-ad19-2175bfbad4d2.jpg

large_61f2ea20-7dab-11e9-ae55-6b7dcc59b212.jpg
Speckled Pigeon

large_7eadf4c0-7dab-11e9-ae55-6b7dcc59b212.jpg
Palm Nut Vulture

large_90890810-7dab-11e9-ae55-6b7dcc59b212.jpg
Western Reef Heron

large_ac95b4d0-7dac-11e9-80c8-c9859bf198bb.jpg
African Black Kite

large_fd93a770-7dac-11e9-80c8-c9859bf198bb.jpg
Great White Egret

Back up at the terrace we are joined by the two Dutch ladies we met at Brufut and Tanji. It seems that we are all doing a very similar birding circuit.

large_1acdc7d0-7cd6-11e9-8391-23d1dd589dbb.jpg
African Thrush

large_cf112150-7cd7-11e9-8391-23d1dd589dbb.jpg
Blue Bellied Roller

large_32dc2fc0-7cd5-11e9-b558-932777b13c29.jpg
Beautiful Sunbird

large_b349b060-7cd5-11e9-8391-23d1dd589dbb.jpg
The female sunbird is nowhere near as colourful as the male

large_48cbb9e0-7cd5-11e9-b558-932777b13c29.jpg
Orange Cheeked Waxbill

large_54889c50-7cd8-11e9-a684-f7239b046cf9.jpg
Red Billed Firefinch

large_8a7c4f50-8912-11e9-825d-9175a862e404.jpg
A squirrel joins in the fun

Having had our fill of birdies this morning, we head back to the lodge, getting stuck in a very hot car as we hit a traffic jam along the way.

Lunch

It is lovely to see lots of people have come for lunch here at Tanji today – a big birding party plus a few other couples. We get a very warm welcome from our favourite waitress Awa, who throws her arms out and shouts our names as soon as she sees us. She has drastically changed her appearance from yesterday by going from long, black hair to extremely short, pillarbox red! It suits her. Mind you, she is such a pretty girl she'd look good in anything.

large_b272dec0-8912-11e9-825d-9175a862e404.jpg
Butter fish in a delicious spicy sauce, served with chips.

We are watched during lunch by a troupe of the local Green Vervet Monkeys, as well as a couple of birds

large_c8aba6e0-8912-11e9-825d-9175a862e404.jpg

large_62e3c8f0-8913-11e9-825d-9175a862e404.jpg
Red Billed Firefinch

large_7bae1160-8913-11e9-825d-9175a862e404.jpg
Grey Backed Camaroptera

After a delightful siesta, we spend the rest of the afternoon chatting to Haddy, the owner of Tanji Eco Bird Lodge, hearing all about her plans for the property as well as solving all the world's problems. As you do.

Dinner

Dinner is a low key affair again as usual, with just the two of us and staff.

large_a1d0f240-8913-11e9-825d-9175a862e404.jpg

large_b0575c50-8913-11e9-825d-9175a862e404.jpg
Chicken Yassa

After dinner we retire to our room to let the staff go home while David and I share a few drinks on the balcony, going over the delights of the day.

Posted by Grete Howard 03:45 Archived in Gambia Tagged birds monkeys wildlife kite wild africa birding squirrel roller heron vulture west_africa kingfisher starling shrike finch gambia bird_watching sunbird eco_lodge vervet_monkeys thrush cordon_bleu wildlife_photography the_gambia tanji the_gambia_experience cordon_blue piapiac crake plantain_eater firefinch waxbill tanji_bird_eco_lodge abdoulie marakissa leaflove marakissa_river_camp wild_birds kingfisher_diving camaroptera siest haddy chicken_yassa Comments (2)

Afternoon at Tanji Bird Eco Lodge

Finally: the Bluebill.


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

After a great morning's birding at Abuko, we return to Tanji Bird Eco Lodge for the rest of the day. First of all I want to catch up on emails as I didn't really have much time last night – almost as soon as we'd got the password, we were off to the room where there is no wifi.

Communication completed, I go to my favourite seat in the house: overlooking the bird baths. The staff are busy refilling the various pools, and the birds are making a racket from the surrounding trees, excited at the prospect of a dip and a drink.

I, on the other hand, am waiting patiently for the Bluebill to appear. We saw him here on the first day, but it was too dark to take photos at the time, and he hasn't been back since. So we wait. And wait. And wait.

Our patience pays off, and just before lunch he rocks up. What a beauty!

large_fad24b10-73c8-11e9-89ab-d51e5d8da64f.jpg
Western Bluebill

Lunch

When Sarra asked last night what we wanted to eat for lunch today, we both craved curry and I suggested shrimps. The chef went out to buy them especially this morning, and very good they are too; quite spicy. Mmmm

large_46af9690-7ae6-11e9-a1a3-7fa613fad983.jpg

The pain in my arm - photographer's elbow – has not abated any during the morning, so I text my good friend John (who is also my chiropractor) for advice. He suggests getting a bottle of cold beer and holding it against the painful area, then drink it afterwards. Now you know why we love him so much!

large_ac6be650-7ae6-11e9-a1a3-7fa613fad983.jpg

large_b5698910-7ae6-11e9-a1a3-7fa613fad983.jpg

Being a glutton for punishment, I forego resting my arm, and head back to the bird pool. After a short while, David retires to the room for a siesta, and I ask him to grab me a bottle of water from the bar before he goes. Awa, our delightful waitress, gets him a cold one from the fridge, and he brings it over for me before he leaves.

Finding that the seal is broken when I go to open the bottle, I assume that David has taken a swig out of before giving it to me, and continue to glug around a third of a litre in one go. It is mighty hot here, and keeping up the fluids is important.

Five minutes later a distraught Awa comes running out, and with obvious horror in her voice asks: “The water? You haven't drunk it...?”

When she sees how much is missing from the bottle, she is full of distressed apologies, but promises that I won't get ill as she takes away the offending bottle (of what I now hope is 'only' tap water and nothing more sinister) and brings me a fresh, SEALED one.

With the thought still in the back of my mind of what the unclean water might do to my tummy, I concentrate on the birds again.

large_7d056e20-7ae8-11e9-a1a3-7fa613fad983.jpg
A scruffy Common Bulbul

large_979f1f60-7ae8-11e9-a1a3-7fa613fad983.jpg
African Thrush

large_52d8a850-7ae9-11e9-8e4f-fdfe903fa50f.jpg
Angry looking Black Necked Weavers

large_b6a356b0-7ae8-11e9-a1a3-7fa613fad983.jpg
Blackcap Babbler with photobombing friend

large_c883c130-7ae8-11e9-a1a3-7fa613fad983.jpg
Snowy Crowned Robin Chat showing off his beautiful markings

large_f3898c70-7ae8-11e9-a1a3-7fa613fad983.jpg
Village Weaver doing his best Village Idiot impersonation

Bath time Fun

large_2487f7d0-7ae9-11e9-8e4f-fdfe903fa50f.jpg

large_399dead0-7ae9-11e9-8e4f-fdfe903fa50f.jpg

large_450fe8f0-7ae9-11e9-8e4f-fdfe903fa50f.jpg

With the thought of the potentially contaminated water I drank now dominating my mind, I am becoming increasingly paranoid, and I start analysing every real or imagined 'feeling' in my stomach. As an IBS sufferer, I am used to my tummy being talkative and uncomfortable after eating, but is this something more foreboding? When after another twenty minutes or so, I hear donkey-like noises from my belly, I decide to go back to the room while I still can.

Wise move. I only just made it. A good excuse for a siesta, I guess.

Dinner

After the customary Duty Free drinks on the balcony, we head down to the restaurant for dinner. Having ordered it last night, we know exactly what's on offer this evening. Thankfully it seems that the little 'episode' earlier was just that, and I feel fine again now. Phew.

large_425feeb0-7aea-11e9-bcac-3d81cb39d3b4.jpg
Fish Dodoma - absolutely delicious!

The jewel in the crown of Tanji Bird Eco Lodge is undoubtedly its staff. Awa and Adama, who are gorgeous inside and out, are twins and have only recently started working here at Tanji, but have already carved out a little niche for themselves with their bubbly personality and service mindedness.

large_cab9f030-7aea-11e9-bcac-3d81cb39d3b4.jpg

Another highlight this evening is the resident spider in the toilet by the restaurant, about the size of my splayed palm.

large_c1f430e0-7aeb-11e9-bcac-3d81cb39d3b4.jpg

large_ccfee1b0-7aeb-11e9-bcac-3d81cb39d3b4.jpg
He's a beauty!

The lodge is situated inside a bird reserve of the same name, and with no other habitation for miles around, there is next to no light pollution here and the stars are really out in force this evening. Despite feeling decidedly tipsy, I attempt some astrophotography before going to bed.

large_5ef4de40-7aeb-11e9-bcac-3d81cb39d3b4.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 12:53 Archived in Gambia Tagged birds beer africa dinner stars west_africa siesta bulbul astro gambia bird_watching eco_lodge shrimps night_photography upset_tummy starry_night astro_photography astrophotography thrush the_gambia tanji babbler robin_chat tanji_bird_eco_lodge abuko gambia_experience bluebill photographer's_elbow water_bottle fish_dodoma starry_sky Comments (2)

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)

Home to Gatwick

The Gambia here we come


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

After having to cancel our trip to Norway recently while looking after my terminally ill father: culminating in his death at the end of a long and stressful period of our lives; I felt the need to book something. Anything. I didn't want to have to spend time planning a 'proper' adventure, but I did want to go somewhere reasonably exotic. Having contemplated a return to The Gambia a couple of times in recent years (we first visited in 1996), it seemed a perfect destination: hot, sunny, relaxing, comfortable, friendly, excellent bird watching and not too long a flight.

So here we are, in the car on the way to Gatwick for an overnight stay before our early morning flight tomorrow.

Premier Inn at Gatwick Manor

After checking in to the hotel, we crack open a bottle of something alcoholic in the room (we do like to have a little tipple while we are getting ready) before sauntering down for an early dinner. We find there are no vacant tables in the restaurant, but the bar is reasonably empty, so we eat our food there instead.

540b5db0-6ccc-11e9-9a81-9be379f12513.jpg477970a0-6ccc-11e9-9a81-9be379f12513.jpg

With mostly traditional pub dishes on the menu, I choose carefully. It is not that I don't like traditional food, but when I go out to eat I prefer to have dishes that I would not normally have at home.

large_a16d64e0-6ccc-11e9-9a81-9be379f12513.jpg
Very tasty mushrooms in Stilton and black peppercorn sauce on toasted sour dough bread for starter.

large_ae57f940-6ccc-11e9-8cb3-738d8b1bd51a.jpg
Battered halloumi and chips. One of my frustrations with classic pub menus is that so much of it is deep fried (why not just simply grill the halloumi rather than adding extra grease and calories?) and most things seem to be served with chips, which I am not overly keen on.

large_baba4ad0-6ccc-11e9-8cb3-738d8b1bd51a.jpg
David, having more of a traditional palate than me, chooses pie and chips for his main course.

large_c734df50-6ccc-11e9-8cb3-738d8b1bd51a.jpg
My choux bun with Prosecco strawberries is disappointing. The berries appear to have come out of a tin and there is too much cream for my liking. David fares much better with his apple and sultana crumble with a hint of cinnamon. As usual David asks for custard and ice cream, but unlike most other places we have eaten over the last few years, he get charged extra for one of them.

Almost as soon as we have finished eating, we retire to the room to make sure we get some sleep before tomorrow's early start. Watch this space for further updates from The Gambia.

Posted by Grete Howard 09:36 Archived in England Tagged dinner gatwick gambia premier_inn gatwick_manor the_gambia pub_food halloumi pie_and_chips Comments (2)

(Entries 13 - 19 of 19) Previous « Page 1 [2]