Friday 8th – Friday 15th November 2019THE GAMBIA – WINTER BIRDING IN WEST AFRICA
The small West African country of The Gambia is a superb place for an introduction to birding in Africa. Measuring just 338 by 47 kilometres, what it lacks in size it certainly makes up with the birding!
With an enviable bird list of over 600 species that includes the sought-after Egyptian Plover, African Finfoot and Painted Snipe plus a multitude of brightly-coloured species from Bishops, Whydahs, Weavers, Sunbirds, Rollers through to Bee-eaters, Kingfishers, Waxbills, Barbets, Gonoleks and more. Birding around the hotels can be very rewarding with around 60 species in the gardens!
With short flight times and good weather this is a perfect winter destination.
Tour Leader: Ebrima Korita & Steve Grimwade
Maximum Group Size: 14
We take a morning flight from London Gatwick arriving mid-afternoon in Banjul, the capital of The Gambia. We transfer to our hotel and after checking in will drive to Kotu Bridge for a gentle introduction to the birds of The Gambia.
Birds we should see include Spur-winged and Wattled Plovers, Hooded and Palm-nut Vultures, Little Bee-eater, Senegal Thick-knee, Western Reef Egret, White-billed Buffalo Weaver, Blue-breasted and Abyssinian Rollers, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Green Wood-hoopoe and Beautiful, Splendid and Variable Sunbirds amongst others.
During the morning we take a drive down the coast to Kartong, where the beach, freshwater pools and reed-beds make it one of the best birding sites in The Gambia. Species we can hope to see include White-fronted Plover, White-faced Whistling Duck, African Pygmy Goose, Purple Swamphen, Green-backed, Black-headed and Squacco Herons, Black Crake, African Jacana and if we are lucky, Dwarf Bittern.
Other birds present on the reserve include Senegal Coucal, Viteline Masked Weaver, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Pied and Malachite Kingfishers, Piapiac and Pied-winged Swallow.
From Kartong we will proceed to the Footsteps Eco Lodge, where we will relax during the hottest part of the day and have lunch. The lodge grounds give us opportunities to see Pygmy Kingfisher, Wire-tailed Swallow, Orange-cheeked and Lavender Waxbills and Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird.
Driving back towards our hotel in the late afternoon, we will make our final stop at Tanji Fishing Village. The beach at Tanji is the most reliable sight in The Gambia for Kelp Gull which is our main target here. Other species which we will encounter include Lesser Black-backed Gull, Grey-headed Gull and Caspian, Royal and Sandwich Terns plus several familiar waders such as Whimbrel, Grey Plover and Turnstone.
Today we will drive east towards Pirang Forest, calling first at Mandina Ba, an area of flooded rice fields, gardens and mixed woodland. Species we may see here include Wahlberg’s Eagle, Hadada Ibis and Fine-spotted Woodpecker. From here we will proceed to Pirang Forest which is one of the best sites in the country for Green Turaco, Yellowbill and Green Crombec, but our main targets will be White-spotted Flufftail and African Wood Owl.
The former will be dependent on conditions within the forest, as the rains sometimes leave the path waterlogged until January or February. After a relaxing picnic lunch we will move on to the Faraba Banta bush track in search of Greyish Eagle Owl, Red-necked Falcon and Grey Kestrel, although we need to keep a sharp eye out for other raptors in this area, as Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle, Short-toed Eagle and Bateleur have all been seen.
This is the only day we will have to make a really early start, as we will be travelling upriver to Tendaba Camp. We will travel towards Tendaba on the North Bank of the River Gambia and it is important we catch the first ferry from Banjul to Barra, which will necessitate leaving our hotel around 5am.
We will have coffee/tea before leaving the hotel, and take a packed breakfast to eat when we are on the North Bank. Once in Barra we will drive for around three hours to Kaur Wetlands where we hope to see the charismatic Egyptian Plover. We will make several birding stops on route, where we will search for Northern Anteater Chat, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Savile’s Bustard, Singing Bush and Flappet Larks, Cut-throat Finch, Cinnamon-breasted Rock Bunting, Exclamatory Paradise Whydah, Black-rumped Waxbill and Sudan Golden Sparrow.
Raptors should be well represented as we travel through open savannah, with species such as Dark Chanting Goshawk, Long-crested Eagle, Grasshopper Buzzard, Martial Eagle and Brown and Western Banded Snake Eagles all possible. Once at Kaur Wetlands, in addition to Egyptian Plover we may see Kittlitz’s and White-headed Plovers, African Quail-finch, Namaqua Dove, Marabou Stork, Painted Snipe, Collared Pratincole and possibly Black-crowned Crane.
Upon leaving Kaur we will re-trace our steps to Farafenni to catch a ferry back to the South Bank and proceed to Tendaba Camp where we will spend the night. The accommodation at Tendaba is basic, but the best that is available in order to enjoy the birds of the area.
After breakfast and depending on the tide, we will take a boat trip to the North Bank and drift quietly along the Mangrove creeks. With luck we may see African Finfoot and African Blue Flycatcher, but regular species include Yellow-billed and Woolly-necked Storks, Great White and Intermediate Egrets, Goliath Heron, White-backed Night Heron, African Darter and Brown Sunbird, whilst kingfishers including Blue-breasted, Malachite and Pied will be numerous.
After the boat trip we will head back to the coast, making several stops to look for Martial Eagle, Bataleur and vultures such as White-backed and Ruppell’s Griffon.
Today we will head towards Marakissa Bird Camp where the owner’s wife Adama will prepare our lunch. Before arriving at Marakissa we will stop at Penjem Forest to seek out some of the woodland species not yet seen. These could include Grey-headed Bush-shrike and White-breasted and Red-shouldered Cuckoo Shrikes. We will also make a brief stop at Darsalami Wetlands to look for Marsh Sandpiper, Giant Kingfisher and Gull-billed Tern.
Marakissa itself is an area of secondary woodland, scrub and swamp, giving us a chance of seeing Allens Gallinule, Greater, Lesser and Spotted Honeyguides and African Scops Owl. After exploring the area around Marakissa we will return to our hotel.
We have a drive of about 40 minutes to Abuko Nature Reserve, one of the last remaining examples of gallery forest in The Gambia. Before entering the reserve we will spend a little time birding Lamin Rice Fields where we hope to see Painted Snipe, Black Crake and African Harrier Hawk. Once inside the reserve we will keeping an eye out for birds such as Little Greenbul, Western Bluebill, Grey-headed Bristlebill, Green and Violet Turaco, African Grey and African Pied Hornbill, Black-necked Weaver, Yellow-breasted Apalis and African Paradise and Red-bellied Paradise Flycatchers. From Abuko we will make the short drive to Lamin Lodge, where we will have lunch.
Afterwards we will move to the Cape Point area for our afternoon birding, giving us the chance to look for such species as Red-billed Quelea, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and Lesser Crested Tern as well as more obvious species such as Pink-backed and Great White Pelicans, Osprey and a range of waders including Black-winged Stilt, Marsh Sandpiper and Greenshank.
During the morning we will make the short drive to Tujerang, which offers a selection of different habitats and should produce White-fronted Black Chat, White-shouldered Black Tit, Singing and Whistling Cisticola’s, Senegal Batis and Chestnut-crowned Sparrow Weaver, most of which will be new birds to add to our list.
After lunch we head to the airport and take the flight back to London after a bird-filled holiday!
Flights from London Gatwick to Banjul
Full board accommodation for 7 nights
All ground transport in The Gambia
Full guiding throughout
Drinks and items of a personal nature
Lunch on day 1
Relaxed, one to two miles walking per day
Expect around 220-250 species
Ground Price: £1450
*Air Price: £500
Total Tour Price: £1950
Single Supplement: £130
*Please see our tours page regarding flight costs