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Birdquest's Gambia & Senegal tour is a classic combination of two of the best countries in West Africa for birdwatching. While well-known Gambia offers great birding, it is Senegal that holds most of the regional specialities and also the Djoudj National Park, the place with the most spectacular birding in the entire region, so combining these two adjoining territories makes perfect sense for birders who want the finest birding.
Friday 21st December 2012 —
Friday 4th January 2013
Leaders: Nik Borrow and Solomon Jallow
Group Size Limit: 12
Tour Category: Easy
Only a few hours flying time south of Europe there is a very different world - a tropical, African world. To the north lie the vast and empty wastes of the Sahara, the formidable barrier which all Europe’s summer migrants have to cross before coming to the safe haven of Senegal and Gambia (sometimes collectively referred to as ‘Senegambia’), where a rich landscape awaits those birds that survive the desert crossing.
A classic Afrotropical destination, Gambia and Senegal offer easy, enjoyable birding, good photographic opportunities and an easy-going atmosphere. Even if you are well travelled south of the Sahara, this accessible corner of the continent offers a great birding break including some exciting specialities. Gambia offers very good birding, but it is Senegal that harbours almost all the avian specialities of this part of Africa, so a tour that combines the two countries is by far the better option for the discerning birder! Our tour is unrivalled in what it produces.
Straddling no less than three faunal zones, the Sudan Savanna, the Guinea Savanna and the Forest-Savanna Mosaic (the northernmost outliers of the West African rainforests), Gambia and Senegal possess a surprisingly rich avifauna. Combine a visit to Gambia with an excursion into Senegal, home to a series of ‘Sahel’ specialities that are not only absent from Gambia but rarely seen on any other birdwatching tours either, and you have an outstanding birding experience! At this season the local avifauna is further enriched by the presence of numerous winter visitors from Europe and North Africa – familiar faces amidst a host of new birds.
Gambia projects inland like a finger along the river that gives the country its name, extending from the pounding surf of the Atlantic to the heat and dust of the dry interior. A small English-speaking enclave within Francophone Senegal, Gambia has become a popular destination for winter sun-seekers from Europe. The hotels, swimming pools and cocktail bars of the coastal resorts lie in stark contrast, however, to the simple village life just a few kilometres inland. Age-old tasks such as fetching and carrying water, washing and cooking continue in traditional fashion, while ancient Peugeots are pressed into service as ‘bush-taxis’ for a day out at the local market.
Almost completely surrounding Gambia, Senegal is a fascinating contrast. Some of the ethnic groups are shared between the nations, but the French influence is strongly to be felt, with the locals carrying home baguettes from the bakery, excellent French food and French architecture evident in the dusty towns. Northernmost Senegal, where we will be concentrating our time, is much closer to the Sahara than Gambia and the arid landscapes of the Sahel contrast greatly with the verdant scenery along the Gambia River.
We start our journey at Banjul on the Gambian coast. Just a short distance from our hotel one can watch such species as Palm-nut Vulture, Senegal Thick-knee, Western Grey Plantain-eater, Blue-bellied Roller, White-crowned Robin-Chat and Yellow Penduline Tit. At the superb little Abuko Nature Reserve, which lies only a short distance inland, forest birds such as Violet and Green Turacos, Snowy-crowned Robin Chat and Green Hylia can be found along the trails and West African specialities include Pied-winged Swallow, Fanti Saw-wing and Grey-headed Bristlebill. At the mouth of the River Gambia, or amongst nearby mangroves, are congregations of gulls, terns and numerous herons, egrets and waders.
From Banjul we head northwards into Senegal via the town of Kaolack. Our goal is the Senegal River region, on the border with Mauritania. Here we shall explore the dry country that lies to the south of the Sahara in search of Sahel specialities such as Savile’s Bustard, African Collared Dove, Little Grey Woodpecker, Cricket Warbler, Sennar Penduline Tit and Sudan Golden Sparrow. At the Djoudj National Park, one of the most important wetland reserves in Africa, we will not only see extraordinary numbers of waterbirds but also the little-known River Prinia and very probably the huge Arabian Bustard.
After our time in Senegal we will explore the ‘up-river’ region of Gambia, travelling first to Janjangbureh. In this area we should be able to track down one of most handsome birds in Africa, the sublime Egyptian Plover. Watching these unique waders with their complex pattern of black, white, grey and peach, it is hard to imagine the evolutionary process that led to such an exquisite creation! We will also visit a colony of exquisite Red-throated Bee-eaters before moving on to Tendaba. Here we will explore the mangrove-lined creeks by pirogue in search of attractive White-backed Night Herons, stately Goliath Herons, colourful Blue-breasted Kingfishers and delightful African Blue Flycatchers. We shall also be looking for other ‘interior’ specialities such as the grotesque Abyssinian Ground Hornbill. By the time we have to return home we will certainly have come to appreciate that this small corner of Africa offers outstanding birding only a stone’s throw from Europe.
Birdquest has operated tours to Gambia and Senegal since 1985.
(Note: The above is a summary of the tour. For more information please download the detailed, day-by-day itinerary. The button is at the top right of the page.)
Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are mostly of normal Birdquest standard. The lodges at Janjangbureh and Tendaba are fairly simple but quite comfortable and all rooms have private bathrooms (but there is no electricity at Jangjangbureh). Road transport is by small coach and roads are variable in quality, being poor in Gambia but reasonably good in Senegal.
Walking: The walking effort is easy almost throughout, with just one or two longer walks.
Climate: Generally hot and dry. It is sometimes humid on the coast. Rain is unlikely at this season.
Bird Photography: Opportunities are quite good.
Important: The tour price includes return flights from London.
Tour Price: £2780, €3200, $4500 London/London, including Christmas peak season supplement. Price includes all transportation (including London-Banjul-London flights), all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Single Room Supplement: £252, €290, $408.
Deposit: 10% of the tour price (excluding any single supplement).
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
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