Spending 2 weeks in The Gambia, I came to love the place more as each day passed. This really is a wonderful place to see wildlife in all it’s glory, as there is so much around you. Even just sitting by the pool can bring many sightings of birds, Green Vervet monkeys and insect life. Hooded Vultures and Black Kites fly over-head, Broad-Billed Rollers perch on the dead trees near the pool, Green Vervets playing with beetles before crunching them up and Praying Mantis wait in the hallway to greet you in the evening. Leaving the hotel and entering the forests brought many more exciting species and activity to be seen, and visiting Tendaba Camp, more inland, was a whole new experience compared to spending time by the coast.
Here is my first diary entry of the trip:
Day 1 – 13/04/12
After getting up at 4am and reaching the airport at 6.30am, I met the rest of the student group where we checked in. This was just the start of an exciting adventure to come and I’m glad I didn’t have to endure the over-night coach journey from Cumbria to reach London Gatwick airport. After checking in we spent some time looking around shops, buying sweets and drinks, but mostly sitting and waiting in anticipation. As soon as the Gate Number was shown on the board, we all headed there to wait just a little while longer. We boarded at 9am and were due to set off at 9.15am, but the flight was delayed and didn’t leave until around 10am, draining away some of the excited energy which further depleted as the flight continued. Excitement was soon recharged as the plane came into land at Banjul Airport, The Gambia.
Picking up baggage and talking to the people working there was an experience in itself. 3 of us found our bags taken off us by one of the “staff” there,who seemed perfectly nice. However, there was a catch and money was expected – this wasn’t a free service. I found myself giving the man £1 just to get him to leave the group alone. Tip 1 for The Gambia: Don’t expect anything for free.
We piled up our luggage on to Land Rovers and then piled ourselves into the open backs of them. As soon as we left the airport, Hooded Vultures could be seen flying over-head. It was a relatively short journey to the hotel, experiencing a lot of attention on the way from people waving and shouting, especially the children running to greet us.
It was exciting to reach the hotel, and to see the lovely-looking buildings and pool, which would offer relief from the midday heat. We picked up keys from the reception and Trish and I headed to our shared room. We clicked on the fan as soon as we got in and opened the door on to the balcony. This was going to be a very comfortable stay. We had a sandwich ready for us and a meeting with Roy to give us information on what would be happening. We would be heading out later on to go down to the beach then go into town to get food. We met Mamadou and Abu who would be part of our group for the trip. Abu changed money for us for the evening. It’s about 46 dalasi to the pound.
We unpacked our things and got changed from our travelling clothes, ready to go out for food and beer in the evening. First though we headed down to the beach, which is literally oppposite the hotel. Here we had our first encounters of vultures up close, just siting next to the path, and then the locals who were talking to us as we walked along the beach. There were lots of washed up fish along the beach (mostly with their heads missing), and we even found a puffer fish and a sea horse (courtesy of Billy). The group split, one half to go with Billy and the other half to go with Roy when we reached the town. Trish and I left with Billy and the others to go to a pizza restaurant, but we weren’t feeling that hungry after our snack earlier. We then headed back to GTS, the bar where we had left Roy and the others, and there was entertainment in the form of drumming and dancing, which was a great welcome to The Gambia.
After a long and tiring day, we went back to the hotel to get our first nights sleep at the Baobab Hotel.
This was followed by many absolutely amazing experiences. I will post more blogs about days in Bijilo Forest Park, Tendaba Camp, Abuko Forest, Tanji Fish Market, the Seedlings School, and Bijol Island. I will also post about the project I was involved in completing research for.
It is always difficult to do fantastic experiences like this justice in words. I took many pictures along the way,which I will also share.
I hope this does some justice to my experience in The Gambia.