Where can I go to see birds in The Gambia?
Abuko Nature Reserve
This was the first area to be given protection in The Gambia purely to conserve its wildlife. This habitat is now one of the rarest in The Gambia and is extremely rich in biodiversity with many thousands of species of fungi, plants, trees, insects and invertebrates living in and beneath its tall leafy canopy. However, not all of the Reserve is gallery forest and as you travel away from the banks of the stream the forest gradually thins out as the ground becomes much drier eventually changing into Guinea Savannah. Although this habitat is not as rare as the gallery forest it is still and excellent habitat for birds and other wildlife. Birds to be found here include Western Bluebill, Giant Kingfisher, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Pygmy Kingfisher, Yellowbill Coucal, Violet Turaco, Green Turaco, Ahanta Francolin, Green Hylia, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Green Crombec, Collared Sunbird, White-crested Helmet Shrike, Grey-headed Bristlebill, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat, White-crowned Robin-chat.
Bansang Quarry is a good stopping point on the way to Basse. You may see Red-throated Bee-eaters nesting here. There is a pool in the quarry where birds congregate to drink. These may include Exclamatory Paradise Whydah, Cut-throat Finch, Red-billed Quelea, Pin-tailed Whydah, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, Ortolan Bunting, Bush Petronia, Western Little Sparrowhawk and White-backed Vulture.
Bao Bolon Wetland Reserve
This is the largest of the six protected areas in The Gambia covering approximately 220 square kilometres. Just west of Illiasa the Bao Bolon itself passes under the road. Here you can see a vast valley filled with salt marsh which is a haven for water and other birds.
Basse is some 385 kilometres from Banjul and is the capital town of the Upper River Division. It lies on the south bank of the River Gambia at which point it is fresh water all year round. The main reason why people undertake the arduous journey to Basse is in the hope of seeing Egyptian Plovers. You may, however, also encounter Northern Carmine Bee-eater, African Swallow-tailed Kite, Spotted Thick-knee, Adamawa Turtle Dove, Bar-breasted Firefinch and Little Green Bee-eater.
Bintang Bolon Lodge
This is in a beautiful setting amongst the mangroves at the edge of Bintang Bolon. Accommodation is in six pleasant huts. Four of these are situated on the river bank and each has its own balcony overlooking the bolon. Two further huts are tucked away in the mangrove. Each hut has its own private facilities. Some of the birds which may be seen in this area include Great White Pelican, flamingos, Goliath Heron, Western Reef Heron, Caspian Tern, Lesser Crested Tern and Sandwich Tern.
Brufut Woodland has long been a favourite place for birwatchers though it does tend to be ignored in a lot of birding literature. It is quite an open area of woodland where it is easy to observe birds and holds a good selection of birds including Verreaux's Eagle Owl, African Golden Oriole, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-Shrike, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Blackcap Babbler, Greater Honeyguide, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Cardinal Woodpecker, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Violet Barbet, Violet Turaco, Fanti Saw-wing, Klaas's Cuckoo and many more.
Bund Road has long been known as a birding hot-spot with ornithologists world wide. The road is adjacent to a large expanse of tidal mud that is exposed at low tide and alive with birds. Species include Caspian Tern, Lesser-crested Tern, African Skimmer, Great White Pelican, Yellow-billed Stork, Pomerine Skua, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Black-headed Gull, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Barn Swallow, Splendid Sunbird, Green-headed Sunbird, African Reed Warbler, Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Pied Avocet, Zitting Cisticola and many more.
Cape Creek is an area of salt marsh, mangroves, and open water and is an excellent place to see birds. At low tide large expanses of mud are exposed and many waders can easily be seen from the road that cuts the area in two. Some of the species you may see include Yellow-throated Long Claw, Yellow Wagtail, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Spur-winged Plover, Gull-billed Tern, Blue-bellied Roller, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Little Bee-eater, Senegal Parrot, Northern Red Bishop and many, many more.
This is another famous birding site which has an amazing array of birds along its length and has provided many thousands of birders with new species for their life list. These include Standard-winged Nightjar, Long-tailed Nightjar, Pied Flycatcher, Village Indigobird, Great-spotted Cuckoo, African Silverbill, Woodland Kingfisher, Northern Black Flycatcher and Copper Sunbird.
Fajara Golf Course
This is also renowned as a very good birding spot. There is a range of habitats from open area to coastal scrub and a few tangled patches of woodland. The Course also lies alongside part of the Kotu Stream which passes beneath the road at Kotu Bridge before it empties into the sea. Kotu Stream is nearly always one of the first places that birders visit in The Gambia. Birds include Blue-bellied Roller, Black-headed Plover, Greenshank, Redshank, Blue-breasted Kingfisher. Pearl-spotted Owlet, Red-billed Firefinch, Variable Sunbird, Beautiful Sunbird, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Wattled Plover, Senegal Thick-knee, Black-crowned Night Heron and many more.
Faraba-Banta Bush Track
This is a 10 kilometre sandy bush track which runs through a variety of habitats including cultivated areas, parkland savannah and untouched woodland savannah. The whole area is so off the beaten track that it is very peaceful and remains unspoiled. It is a good place to view raptors and you may get to see a Bataleur or Martial Eagle or even a Brown Snake Eagle or Gabar Goshawk. The track runs alongside the Finto Manereg Park which is not open to the public. However, there are a number of small tracks which lead into the Park and if you are very lucky you may catch sight of a White-winged Black Tit, African Yellow White-eye or a Black-faced Firefinch. There is a good variety of raptors to be seen throughout the year. Due to the open nature of the terrain they may be seen catching the thermals around mid-day.
Georgetown or Janjangbureh
Janjangbureh was formerly known as Georgetown and is located on a large island in the River Gambia. The island and surrounding area is perhaps the most popular place for birdwatchers to stay when they are travelling up country. Some of the species which may be encountered include Verreauxs Eagle Owl, White-faced Scops Owl, African Scops Owl, Shining Blue Kingfisher, Little Green Bee-eater, Square-tailed Drongo, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Swamp Flycatcher, Wilsons Indigobird, Spotted Thick-knee, African Finfoot, Common Snipe, African Fish Eagle, Knob-billed Duck and Garganey.
Kampant Rice Fields
This area is best visited when travelling up country. It is situated on the Trans-Gambia Highway and small pools may be seen on either side. These pools may retain water all year round and is a good place to stop briefly in the hope of seeing raptors and various small birds. These may include Grasshopper Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Bataleurs Grey Kestrel, Lizard Buzzard, Wahlbergs Eagle, Ayres Hawk Eagle, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Yellow Wagtail, White Wagtail, White-crowned Robin-chat, Northern Puffback, Black Flycatcher, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Grey-backed Cameroptera, Common Moorhen, Black Crake and Black-rumped Waxbill.
Kartong Sand Mine
This is located just to the south of Boboi Beach Lodge. The sand mines have great future potential to attract birdwatchers from all over the world. After the sand is excavated holes are left which are allowed to fill up naturally with rain and ground water. Over time vegetation has established itself around the edges of these huge artificially formed pools. As they are some of the only fresh water pools in the area a very rich avi-fauna has grown up around them. Along with the coastal scrub, which is also very rich in bird life, this area is rapidly becoming important for birdwatchers who wish to add new species to their life lists. The growing bird lists for this area include European Spoonbill, Spotted Redshank, Great Snipe, African Painted Snipe, Wryneck, Western Bluebill, Baillons Crake and Little Crake. This list is not exhaustive!
About 1 kilometre west of Kau-Ur is a small swamp which retains its water throughout most of the dry season. This is a site well worth stopping at as you may get the opportunity to see White-faced Whistling Duck, Little Bittern, Greater Painted Snipe, Purple Swamphen, Egyptian Plover, Quail Finch, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Ruff and Collared Pratincoles.
Kiang West National Park
The Kiang West National Park is huge being some 110 square kilometres and almost all of the animal species remaining in the country may be found within it. The Park stretches along the southern bank of the River Gambia taking in some large areas of mangrove forest, creeks, salt pans and tidal flats. The majority of the protected area consists of dry woodland savannah. One outstanding feature is a laterite escarpment running close to, and overlooking, the riverbank. The wildlife of the Park is rich and varied but it does take some effort to see it. The most easily seen species are, of course, the birds. In total over 300 species of birds have been recorded within the area which is a pretty impressive total and forms over half of the entire Gambian bird list. Twenty two species of raptor alone have been recorded here. Here are a few examples of the birds you may hopefully see – Bataleur Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, White-headed Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, Common Quail, Quail Plover, Four-banded Sandgrouse, Lanner Falcon, African Hobby, Bronze-winged Courser, Temmincks Courser, Black-bellied Bustard, Collared Pratincole, Brown-necked Parrot, Red-chested Cuckoo, Black Wood Hoopoe, European Hoopoe, White-shouldered Black Tit, African Cuckoo, Yellow White Eye, Yellow-bellied Hyliota, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow Weaver, Senegal Batis, Bruces Green Pigeon, Broad-billed Roller, Plain-backed Pipit, Red-chested Swallow, Mosque Swallow, Pygmy Sunbird, Splendid Glossy Starling, Lesser Blue-eared Starling, Violet-backed Starling.
In reality Kotu Pond is a series of open sewage pits. The pits are separated from the road by about 50 metres of open woodland and can be reached along a sandy track. The range of birds seen at the pond is amazing and they will all allow you to get fairly close to them. Some of the species that can be seen here are Marsh Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Great Painted Snipe, African Jacana, White-faced Whistling Duck, Little Grebe, Ring Plover and Curlew Sandpiper to mention but a few.
Lamin Lodge is one of many places where you may stay to take full advantage of the birds. You may hire a boat to explore the maze of mangrove-lined bolones that make up the Tanbi Wetlands. Some of the species which you may see at this site include Giant Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Swallow, Zitting Cisticola, White-crowned Robin-chat, Bronze-tailed Glossy Starling, Bush Petronia, Gull-billed Tern, Common Tern, Osptrey, African Darter and Great White Pelican.
Makasutu Culture Forest
The Makasutu Culture Forest is a 1000 acre reserve and one of the finest eco-tourism areas in the world. It lies near to the town of Brikama. It is to be found on the banks of the tranquil Mandina Bolon (bolon is the local Mandinka word for river). The whole area encompasses many different eco-systems and habitats so it is home to many species of birds and butterflies as well as monkeys, baboons, monitor lizards, Nile crocodiles, and, if you are lucky, you may see a West African Manatee in the bolon. The word 'makasutu' means 'holy forest' and the local people treat it as a sacred place. It is truly a magical place to walk through, especially early in the morning, when you will see a wonderful array of brightly coloured birds like bee-eaters, starlings, rollers and kingfishers which will make your visit truly memorable.
This is a small village located just 5 kilometres south of Brikama and 6 kilometres from the border with Senegal. The Marakissa River Camp is equipped with round huts with toilets, comfortable beds and a small restaurant and is a good place to "chill out" and see birds in comfort. You can also hire canoes to go on trips up the river from the Camp. There are a number of different habitats nearly such as woodland, rice fields, swamp, scrub and ponds and so some of the birds which may be seen here include Spotted Honeyguide, Greater Honeyguide, Cardinal Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Long Claw, African Golden Oriole, Square-tailed Drongo, White-breasted Cuckoo Shrike, Leaflove, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Oriole Warbler, Green Crombec, Blackcap Babbler, Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Orange-cheeked Waxbill, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Violet-backed Starling, Yellow-shouldered Widowbird, Black-winged Red Bishop, White-rumped Seedeater, Whistling Cisticola, Windling Cisticola, Martial Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, African Hobby, Lizard Buzzard, Gabar Goshawk, Grey Kestrel, Red-necked Falcon and Grasshopper Buzzard.
Niokolo Koba National Park
The Niokolo Koba National Park in south-eastern Senegal covers an area almost the size of The Gambia with 9,000 square kilometres of uninterrupted wilderness. This is the premier site in both The Gambia and Senegal for seeing large mammals and has been designated a World Heritage Site and International Bio-sphere Reserve which reflects its international importance for both wildlife and birdlife. If you are serious about wildlife and birdlife then a visit to this Park is a must! In the west of the Park the ground is relatively flat and heavily wooded although there are many low lying plains that become inundated with water during the rainy season. To the east the ground is more open with huge expanses of grassland and a few low hills. The wildlife of Niokolo Koba is simply astounding and very easy to see and is almost as good as many of the national parks in East Africa. Most of the large mammals to be found in West Africa can be found in the National Park. The only species which will not be found are those associated with high rain forest habitats. Antilope to be found include Bubal, Roan Antilope, Defassa Waterbuck, Kob, Oribi, Bohur Reed Buck, Bush Buck, Common Duiker, Red Flanked Duiker and the rare Giant Eland. Other large herbivores include African Buffalo, Common Warthog, African Elephant and Leopard. Along the rivers are to be found all three species of African crocodile as well as good numbers of hippo. Over 350 species of birds are to be found in the National Park including some that you are unlikely to see anywhere else in either Senegal or The Gambia. These include Saddle-billed Stork, Bat Hawk, Pels Fishing Owl, Secretary Bird, Green-headed Sunbird, Adamawa Turtle Dove, Sun Lark, Magpie Manikin, Ethiopian Swallow, African Pied Wagtail, Lesser Striped Swallow, White-crowned Plover, Shining Blue Kingfisher, Balaleur, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Red-throated Bee-eater and Hadada Ibis.
Niumi National Park and Jinack Island
Niumi National Park covers 49 square kilometres and is one of the finest protected areas within The Gambia. Together with Bao Bolon Wetland Reserve this is one of only two protected areas to the north of the River Gambia. Niumi National Park is adjacent to Parc National De Delta Du Saloum in Senegal and shares many of its habitats and wildlife with this much larger area. Birds which may be seen in the area include Grey-headed Kingfisher, Painted Snipe, Red-chested Cuckoo, Common Redstart, Bruces Green Pigeon, Long Crested Hawk Eagle, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Plain-backed Pipit, Woodland Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Pygmy Kingfisher, Splendid Sunbird, Pygmy Sunbird, Bronze-tailed Glossy Starling, Kittlitzs Plover, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Common White-throated Warbler, Broad-billed Roller and Black Egret.
This is the last bridge along the main highway before you leave the Lower River Division and pass into the Central River Division. It is a place you tend to visit en route from Tendaba Camp or Georgetown. It is, however, worth a brief stop to look for raptors, Maribou Stork, small birds and water birds.
About 25 kilometres west of Kau-Ur and 1 kilometre east of the village of Panchang is a wonderful swamp where yet another bolon crosses beneath the road. There is a large pool at the roadside which usually keeps its water throughout the dry season. This is a great place for birdwatching and is worth spending some time here to search for elusive species amongst the vegetation. Species seen at this site include African Pygmy Goose, Zebra Waxbill, Common Moorhen, Lesser Moorhen, Sudan Golden Sparrow and Speckle-fronted Weaver.
Parc National Du Delta Du Saloum
The Sine-Saloum Delta occupies the area immediately north of the River Gambia. This huge area covering 760 square kilometers is one of the most beautiful in Senegal and contains the above National Park which is the fourth largest protected area in the country. The Parc National is adjacent to the Niumi National Park in The Gambia and together they form an area which is rich in both scenery and wildlife. The Parc National is located around the River Saloum where it meets the Atlantic Ocean and is a wonderful mix of habitats which include a sparsley vegetated sand island lying just off the coast. Extensive and impressive mangrove forests, tidal bolons, lagoons and huge mud flats which are exposed at low tide together with open Sudan savannah woodland and forests. The Parc National is especially noted for its fabulous birdlife which includes all the usual mix of species for this part of Africa such as pelicans, egrets, herons, raptors, gulls, terns, warblers and waders.
Pirang Shrimp Farm
The Scan-Gambia shrimp pools are located about half a kilometre to the north-east of the village of Pirang. Take the left hand fork out of the village. It is still the best, if not the only, place to see the Black-crowned Crane which roosts in the nearby mangroves. As well as the mangroves there are also rice fields, Oil Palms and open areas with a variety of trees. This diverse habitat makes it a worthwhile place to visit. As well as the Black-crowned Cranes there are also good numbers of spoonbills, egrets, kingfishers, waders and other water birds including Spur-winged Goose, White-faced Whistling Duck, Plain-backed Pipit, Osprey, Crested Lark, Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Hadada Ibis, African Spoonbill, European Spoonbill, Pied Avocet, Little Stint, Sanderling, Dunlin, Curlew, Sandpiper and Quail-finch. During the wet season it is also possible to see Yellow-crowned Bishops.
Tanji Bird ReserveThis is in an area known locally as Karinti. It is an officially protected area of The Gambia and is only about 5 minutes drive from the Kotu Bridge area. The reserve is just over 6 square kilometres and encompasses a wide range of different habitat types from beach, tidal lagoons, mangrove swamp, Coastal scrub and dry Savannah woodland. The Reserve also protects Bijilo Island which is The Gambia's only offshore island lying about 1.5 kilometres from the coast. Some of the species that you may encounter here include White-fronted Plover, Yellow-legged Gull, Kelp Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Four-banded Sandgrouse, African Green Pigeon, Osprey, Oriole Warbler, Pomarine Skua, Sulphur-breasted Bush Shrike and Giant Kingfisher amongst others.
Tendaba Bush Camp
Tendaba is probably the best known and mostly frequently visited Camp in The Gambia. It is often used as a stop over point on a visit further up the country. The Camp is situated in the heart of the small village of Tendaba which is located right on the banks of the River Gambia. The accommodation at the Camp is basic but you may be lucky enough to be able to book a VIP room which has its own toilet, shower and ceiling fan. The area around the Camp is excellent for birdwatching and it is well worth a 2 or 3 day stay if you wish to take full advantage of the area. Within easy walking distance of the Camp you will find Tendaba Airfield, Tendaba Rice Fields, Tendaba-Kwinella Back Way, Bateling Bush Track and Kiang West National Park. If you wish to visit Tanku or Kissi Creek you will need to hire a boat from Tendaba to get there. It is a very prolific area for birds and some of the species you may see include Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Abyssinian Roller, Black Crowned Crane, Great Honey Guide, European Bee-eater, Brown-necked Parrot, Brubru Shrike, Marsh Harrier, Osprey, Palm-nut Vulture, Pallid Harrier, African Scops Owl, Black-headed Plover, African Fish Eagle, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Black-rumped Waxbill, Indigo Bird, Spotted Eagle Owl, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Namaqua Dove, Goliath Heron, African Finfoot, African Blue Flycatcher, White-crested Tiger Bittern, White-backed Night Heron, Mouse-brown Sunbird and Hamerkop.
Your first sight of The Gambia when arriving by air from overseas is Yundum Airport. A tremendous amount of development has taken place over recent years as the tourist industry has grown and it is no longer possible to just wander around due to security measures including a fence which has been erected. The countryside around the airport is mainly used for growing groundnuts, but along with the scrub, scattered trees, shrubs and tall grasses it is a worthwhile area to see birds. Even before you disembark from your aircraft you may be lucky enough to have seen Black-headed Plover, Temmincks Courser, Cattle Egrets, Black-bellied Bustard and raptors along the runway which they favour because the grass is kept short. However, Old Yundum is the most popular place for birding. Just outside of the town you will find open woodland, farmland and vegetable gardens. If you take a walk along the path which takes you through this area you are likely to see Singing Cisticola, Rufous Cisticola, Yellow White-eye, Whistling Cisticola, Fanti Saw-wing, Pied-winged Swallow, Red-shouldered Cuckoo Shrike, Bearded Barbet, Yellow-fronted Tinker Bird, Violet Turaco, Red-faced Cisticola, Northern Crombec, Brown-backed Woodpecker, Klaases Cuckoo, Diederik Cuckoo, African Hawk Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Red-necked Falcon, Lanner Falcon, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Common Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel as well as many others.