Malick Suso - Gambian Bird Guide

Where are the best spots to go birding in the Gambia?

Where do we start? Normally the hotel garden believe it or not! Some of the larger more vegetated hotel gardens have a list in excess of two hundred species - relaxing by the pool can be difficult and going to the bar without your binoculars can be a big mistake. Step outside and the immediate countryside can be a rewarding place to explore if you know the right spots.

An evening stroll with an expert bird guide

With Malick's guidance an evening walk around the Kotu stream area, the Fajara Golf Course or the superbly productive Kotu sewerage pools (not smelly!) can turn up a wealth of birds in just a couple of hours stroll.

But of course further exploring the Gambian landscape is a must and there are lots of great possibilities within forty minutes drive or less of the coastal hotels. Their birding value varies seasonally but Malick's expertise will assure a productive excursion for sure.

Here are a few of the more famous birdwatching areas:

The Abuko Forest Reserve
25-35 minutes from the coast
A wonderful dry forest reserve with a central oasis, a pool overlooked by a balconied hide and a good network of paths mean that this is a must for any visit to the Gambia in any season. Turacos, Greenbuls, Paradise Flycatchers, Wattle-Eyes and a crowd of Kingfishers are all regulars as are Red Colobus Monkeys which are rare elsewhere.

Brufut Forest
45 minutes from the coast
A dense dry scrubby forest which has a good web of paths and which is home to the Legendary Dr Owl, a local ornithologist whose profession is to locate the nesting and roosting Verrauxs Eagle Owls, the White-Faced Scops Owls and the resting spots of the Long-tailed Nightjar. You can observe the latter from about 3m without disturbing them - incredible!

Tanji Reserve
30-40 minutes from the coast
Dry scrubland and forest with sandy paths that lead to a beach side lagoon. A mecca for sunbirds and many other species, including many migrant warblers and gamebirds. The coast is great for waders, terns, gulls and Ospreys. Another must visit location in any season.

Denton Bridge/Lamin Lodge
30 minutes from the coast
A mangrove cruise awaits as do Ospreys, pelicans, herons, egrets, Caspian Terns and Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eaters. In two or three hours you can enjoy a leisurely and safe journey into the creeks where Spoonbills and Yellow-Billed Storks can also be seen. The craft vary depending on the party's size - from dug-out canoes to a large cruiser with all facilities, lunch and a rooftop viewing platform.

Tendaba Camp
2 hours from the coast
This famous 'up-river' lodge is a must for the more serious birder and has been visited by many. Facilities are clean and basic and the staff very hospitable. The food is excellent as is the Kingfisher Beer after a successful boat trip into the mangrove creeks. Egret and Kite roosts, plenty of herons, African Darters and the spot to glimpse the Pels Fishing Owl, a rare and difficult bird. Elsewhere walks through the local woodland offer great general birding. For Malick, Tendaba is a 'home from home' and his rapport with all the locals will guarantee a successful trip. Although even he won't promise the owl!

Image copyright Chris Packham
Image courtesy of Chris Packham