Gambia and Senegal

Tour Overview
The Gambia is the smallest country of mainland Africa, surrounded by Senegal. The Senegal-Africa’s Sahel region lies between the Sahara Desert and the lush forests of Upper Guinea. The habitat here consists mostly of dry savannah, dry woodland and semi-desert but it also supports some of West Africa’s most important wetlands, and a wealth of special birds not easily found elsewhere.

This 12-day birding tour offers the chance to see a superb range of birds with excellent photographic opportunities. Highlights include African Finfoot, Pel’s Fishing Owl, White-crowned Lapwing, White-crested Tiger Heron, Black Crowned Crane, Arabian Bustard, Red-billed Tropicbird, Bat Hawk, Savile’s Bustard, Little Grey Woodpecker, Golden Nightjar, Sennar Penduline Tit, Brown Booby, River Prinia, Cricket Warbler, Adamawa Turtle Dove, Red-throated Bee-eater, Mali Firefinch, Chestnut-bellied Starling, Neumann’s Starling, White-fronted Black Chat, and Pied-winged Swallow.

TOUR INFO:  Tour starts and ends in Banjul
Tour duration: 12 days
Next group departure date:  To be confirmed
This birding tour can be booked as a private small group tour.

Itinerary – Day tot day Summary:
Day 1:
Tour starts in Banjul, transfer to Bijilo

Welcome to The Gambia! Your fantastic birding tour will start as soon as you touch down at Banjul International Airport. Birding will commence on our transfer to the hotel. This is a great time to familiarise yourself with the common birds of the area. Look out for Hooded Vulture, Pied Crow, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Starlings, Kites, and many more.

Day 2:
Kotu Creek and the rice fields, Gunjur Forest, and Kartong wetlands

Kotu Creek is an absolute “must visit”! Part of its appeal is the wide variety of habitats that can easily be visited during a day trip. These habitats include a mangrove lined creek with tidal mudflats, rice fields and open woodland, which harbours a fine selection of waders and water birds including various species of Herons, Egrets, Sacred and Hadada Ibises, African Spoonbill, Spur-winged Lapwing, and at least five different species of Kingfishers.

We will walk along the Nature Trail, rice paddy fields, cycle track, golf course and do a boat trip. After which we make our way to Gunjur and Kartong about 47km towards the coastline. Driving along the South Gambia road will give us the opportunity to spot a few species like Lizard Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, African Golden Oriole, Osprey, Palm-nut Vulture, Capuchin Babbler, Green Hylia, Greater Painted-snipe, Grey-headed Kingfisher, White-fronted Plover amongst many waders at the beach.

Gunjur forest and Kartong sand pitch constitutes gallery forest, dunes, and savannah woodlands with open marshes and reedbeds. To date 357 species of bird have been recorded at Kartong. The wetlands form the centre of the area and other adjacent habitats include sand dunes, foreshore, tidal mud flats, mangroves, savannah scrub, rice fields cultivations and a remnant of high forest. The extensive reed and rush beds provide roost refuge and breeding sites for some species which are difficult to see in the Gambia. Many of the species here are very approachable and allow wonderful photographic opportunities. Species recorded here recently include Northern Carmine Bee-eater, African Crake, Dwarf Bittern, Greater Painted-snipe, Allen’s Gallinule, African Pygmy-goose, Martial Eagle, Black Crowned Crane, Little Crake, Lesser Moorhen, Little Buttonquail, Blue-naped Mousebird, Green-headed Sunbird, White-fronted Plover, Black-crowned Sparrow Lark, Little Greenbul, Red-winged Pytilia, African-collared Dove and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting.

Day 3:
Driving up country via Soma and Farafenyi crossing the Senegambia bridge

We will start our day with an early breakfast in the hotel followed by our drive up country, via the towns of Soma and Farafenyi crossing the Senegambia bridge to our overnight stop at Morgan Kunda Lodge.

The town of Soma is an important crossroads, where the main east–west road in the country crosses the Trans-Gambia Highway and it also sits between Northern and Southern Senegal. A vibrant market town and the economic hub of the region, known for its assortments of cooked meat locally known as ‘dibitair’. Farafenyi town is just south of the border with Senegal and is an important market town. The population of Farafenni is around 25,000 and the main local language is Wolof, although Mandinka, Fula and other languages are also common.
Along the way we will stop at numerous key birding sites. Mandinaba rice fields, Farasutu and Pirang Forest, Kampanti rice fields, Bamakuno Forest, and Kiang West Lower River Region.

Farasutu forest is a community owned and managed Reserve and is about a 40-minute drive from the main hotels. This is a small patch of dense coastal woodland with freshwater pools, and mangrove swamps. This is one of best places to see the Grayish Eagle-Owl, Spotted Honeyguide, Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike (Orange-breasted Bush-shrike), Orange-cheeked Waxbill, Senegal Thick-knee, Bar-breasted Firefinch, Giant Kingfisher, White-backed Night-Heron, Green-headed Sunbird plus many other species.

Pirang Forest is one of the largest remnants of ever Green Gallery Forest left in the country (65 hectares) and is also a community owned Reserve. The forest is surrounded by a variety of habitats including extensive salt flats, mangroves and Phragmites parkia stands to the north. We will be targeting many forest specialists with limited distributions including White-spotted Flufftail, African Wood Owl, Western-little Sparrowhawk, Great Sparrowhawk, Ahanta Francolin, Green Turaco, Yellowbill, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Little Greenbul, Swamp Greenbul, Leaflove, Grey-headed Bristlebill, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Yellow-bellied Hyliota, Green Hylia, Collared Sunbird, Green-headed Sunbird, Chestnut-breasted Nigrita, Western Bluebill and Brown-necked Parrot. It is also the only site in The Gambia for Puvel’s Illadopsis.

The mammal fauna here is very rich. Three species of monkey are known to occur, with Green, Patas and the critically endangered Temminck’s Red Colobus all present, albeit in small numbers. Several small carnivores are known to occur (largely from camera-traps) including Gambian mongoose (often visible foraging in groups in the daytime) as well as White-tailed, Ichneumon and Marsh Mongooses. Hausa and Pardine Genets hunt at night as does African Civet, and the forest is one of only three in The Gambia that has Two-spotted Palm Civet. Small numbers of Bushbuck are present, but these can be hard to see, and Cape Clawless Otters are present in the mangroves. Sun Squirrels are common throughout and easy to see.

The Kampanti rice fields are undoubtedly the country’s Mecca for Raptors with the rice fields, croplands and vast open country boasting a superb range of birds of prey including the iconic Bateleur Eagle, Martial Eagle, Grasshopper Buzzard, White-backed Vulture, African Hawk Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk, Brown Snake-Eagle, Beaudouin’s Snake-Eagle with African Golden Oriole, White-crowned Robin-Chat, Splendid Starling and Bearded Barbet.

Kiang West National Park is managed by the Gambia Department of Parks and Wildlife Management and covers an area of 19,526 hectares. It is located on the south bank of the Gambia River, in the Lower River Division of Kiang West District. Vegetation types in the park include Guinean savanna and dry deciduous woodland. The park’s mammals include Common Duiker, Leopard, Marsh Mongoose, Serval, Sitatunga, Spotted Hyena, Warthog, and the highly endangered West African Manatee.

The park has more than 300 bird species, more than half of all the bird species that have been recorded in the Gambia. Some of the park’s bird species have a very local distribution and are rarely observed in other locations in the Gambia. The park is famous for its raptor diversity. Other bird species in the park include ten Kingfisher species and the threatened, Brown-necked Parrot which breeds in the park’s mangroves. Other bird species include White-fronted Black-chat, Dorst’s Cisticola, Burchell’s Courser, Brown-rumped Bunting and Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, which have restricted distributions in the Gambia. The Bateleur, a short-tailed eagle species, is the park’s official symbol.

Day 4:
Travel to the border of Senegal and cross over to Koalack

We’re of to an early start as we proceed to the border of Senegal. After the border crossing, we drive to Koalack where we overnight. We will stop at a few birding spots along the way while making our way to Kousmar islet, with 110 nests in 2.8 km2 of suitable breeding habitat, Kousmar islet (23 km2) in Senegal supports the largest documented colony of African Swallow-tailed Kites known to date. Sightings of the following species are also possible: Black-bellied, White-bellied and Savel’s Bustards, Sudan-golden Sparrow and Little Green Bee-eater.

Day 5:
Saint-Louis and Parc De Djoujd

Welcome to Senegal, located at the westernmost point of the continent and known as the “Gateway to Africa.” The country lies at an ecological boundary where semiarid grassland, oceanfront, and tropical rain forest converge; this diverse environment has endowed Senegal with a wide variety of plant and animal life. It is from this rich natural heritage that the country’s national symbols were chosen: the Baobab tree and the Lion.

To the north lie the vast and empty wastes of the Sahara, the formidable barrier which all Europe’s summer migrants must cross before coming to the safe haven of West Africa, where a rich landscape awaits those birds that survive the desert crossing, while to the south lie the rainforests and other humid tropical habits that characterize the ‘armpit’ of Africa.

In between is the Sahel, a vast arid zone of partly semi-desert country that extends right across the continent between about 10°-and 18°-degrees North latitude. The northern part of this huge dry zone, that receives only a comparatively short rainy season between about June and September, is known as the Sudan Savanna and is characterized by dry grasslands and rather open acacia woodland. Further south this very dry habitat gives way to a mix of moister, richer forest and savanna, known as the Guinea Savanna.
Saint-Louis is a city on the northwest coast of Senegal. It is known for its colonial architecture. The old town is on N’Dar Island, in the Senegal River. This island is linked to the mainland by the 1865 Faidherbe Bridge, designed by Gustave Eiffel.

On the way we will travel through the towns of Richard Toll, Touba, Gosas, and Roso, stopping at key birding spots. Species to expect are Black Scrub-Robin, Green-winged Pytilia, Cricket Warbler, Water Thick-knee, Sennar Penduline-Tit, Horus Swift, Cream-colored Courser, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, River Prinia, Arabian Bustard, Chesnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Black Crowned Crane, Zebra Waxbill, African Pygmy-goose. We will do a boat trip to see more birds along the river such as African Fish Eagle and Warthog, Monitor Lizard and Nile Crocodile.

Day 6:
Djoudj National Park and overnight at the Parc De Djoujd

The Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary is a wetland in the Senegal river delta, which serves as an over-wintering site for vast numbers of waterfowl and other Palearctic migrant birds. It provides a range of wetland habitats which prove very popular with migrating birds, many of which have just crossed the Sahara. Of almost 400 species of birds, the most visible are Pelicans and Flamingos. Less conspicuous are the aquatic Warblers migrating here from Europe; for these, the park is the single most important wintering site. A wide range of wildlife also inhabits the park, which is designated a World Heritage Site.

Djoudj National Park is situated right on the border with Mauritania. The lower reaches of the mighty Senegal River are subject to seasonal flooding, which expands the few perennial marshlands in the area. There are other species of great interest in the dry bush country and riverine thickets nearby. The endangered and very shy Arabian Bustard is still regularly seen in the park, whilst the river channels are the haunt of the little-known and comparatively recently described River Prinia (a Sahelian endemic).

The most abundant species are White-faced Whistling-Duck, Garganey, Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Northern Pintail and Northern Shoveler. Further interest is provided by small numbers of Spur-winged Goose, Knob-billed Duck and Eurasian Teal. On the shallow, more saline lagoons great numbers of Greater Flamingos gather to feed and often Lesser Flamingos join them. However, the greatest spectacle of the Djoudj is often provided by the numerous Great White Pelicans that regularly concentrate into large flocks to feed on the abundant fish.

Great numbers of Cormorants, Herons, Egrets, Waders, Gulls, Terns and other waterbirds add to the avian riches of one of the most important wetlands in Africa. The Black Crowned Crane, which is almost a Sahelian endemic is one of our target birds.

Other waterbirds we are likely to see include White-breasted Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, African Darter, Pink-backed Pelican, Little Bittern, Grey, Black-headed, Purple and Squacco Herons, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Western Great, Intermediate, Little, Western Reef and Western Cattle Egrets, Glossy and Sacred Ibises, Eurasian and African Spoonbills, Black, White and Yellow-billed Storks, Western Osprey, African Fish Eagle, Common Moorhen, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Spur-winged Lapwing, African Jacana, Greater Painted-snipe, Collared Pratincole, Little Ringed, Common Ringed, Kentish and Kittlitz’s Plover, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Common, Green, Wood, Marsh and Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stint, Dunlin, Common Snipe, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Grey-headed, Slender-billed, Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and Gull-billed, Caspian, Sandwich, White-winged and Whiskered Terns.
Mammals are generally inconspicuous, but Common Warthogs are frequently encountered in the park, and we should also see Patas Monkey and Golden (or Common) Jackal.

Day 7:
Travel to Podor

After an early breakfast we head to Podor. In this area, which is close to Mauritania, we will be looking for specific birds, such as Golden Nightjar, Cream-coloured Courser, and many more. Podor is at the edge of the Sahara and at the same latitude as Timbuktu, it is Senegal’s northernmost town. The border of the Sahara lies not far to the north.

Here we are looking for some very special birds that are restricted to this area (semi-desert fringe) of tropical Africa. This is where we will find one of the most attractive Sahelian birds, the little Cricket (or Scaly-fronted) Warbler. We will also be on the lookout for the following Sahelian specialities: Little Grey Woodpecker and Sennar Penduline-Tit. We can also find flocks of Sudan-golden Sparrows.

Smart Black Scrub-Robins and three other Sahelian near-endemics; African Collared Dove, Pygmy Sunbird and White-rumped Seedeater are also found in the area. Vieillot’s Barbet, Senegal Eremomela and Senegal Batis are Western African endemics. Other species found here include Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin and Fulvous Babbler.

More widespread species that we could encounter include Short-toed Snake-Eagle, Lanner and Red-necked Falcons, Common Kestrel, Cream-coloured and Temminck’s Coursers, Black-headed Lapwing, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Laughing and Mourning Collared Doves, the pretty little Namaqua Dove, Black-billed Wood-Dove, African Palm Swift, Striped Kingfisher, Black Scimitarbill, Blue-cheeked, Green and Little Bee-eaters, Eurasian Hoopoe, Western Red-billed Hornbill, African Grey Woodpecker, Singing Bush Lark, Crested Lark, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark, Common Bulbul, Desert Cisticola, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Northern Crombec, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Brubru, Black-crowned Tchagra, Southern Grey Shrike, Greater Blue-eared Starling, Northern Grey-headed Sparrow, White-billed Buffalo Weaver, Speckle-fronted and Little Weavers, Cut-throat Finch and Red-billed Firefinch. There are even chances for Pallid Harrier, Barbary Falcon, Common Quail, Common Buttonquail, and both Greyish and Verreaux’s Eagle-Owls.

Day 8&9:
Travel Days heading back to Saint Louis and Kaolack

Today we start heading back to Saint Louis. Along the way we will stop at birding spots where we will target Quail-plover, Bustards, Chestnut-bellied Starling, and Blue-naped Mousebird. We leave Saint-Louis early and take a slow drive towards Kaolack, where we will overnight. We will bird the sites not visited previously to add to our ever-growing bird list.

Day 10:
Final morning of birding in Senegal

This is our last morning in Senegal and we will depart for the border at Farafenyi heading further to the North Bank Region in The Gambia where we will overnight at Bansang Riverside Lodge on the South Bank. We will stop off at the Farafenyi Wetland and rice fields for Black Crowned Cranes, Red-necked Falcon, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Spotted Thick-knee, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Dark Chanting-Goshawk, Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Sahel and Exclamatory Paradise Whydahs, African Hawk Eagle and many more. Stops at Kaur Wetland, N’jaw waterhole, Wassu Stone Circles, Kuntaur Rice Fields then on to Georgetown commonly known as JanJanbureh.
Kaur Wetland is situated at the north bank of The Gambia river. This freshwater wetland, with plenty of mud flats and rice fields, is the perfect place to spot the remarkable Egyptian Plover.

The Wassu Stone Circles site is fascinating evidence of ancient African culture. There are 11 circles at Wassu, the tallest of which is almost 3 meters. It is believed to be the ancient burial ground of kings and chiefs from over 1200 years ago. Local legend has it that there is a curse on anyone who disturbs those laid to rest there. The stones forming the circles were extracted from nearby laterite quarries using iron tools and skillfully shaped into almost identical pillars, either cylindrical or polygonal, on average around 2 m in height and weighing up to 7 tons. Each circle contains between eight to fourteen standing stones having a diameter of four to six meters. This megalithic site bears witness to a prosperous and highly organized society with traditions of stone circle constructions, associated with burials, and persisting in certain areas for more than a millennium.

Georgetown (renamed Janjanbureh in 1995) offers a fascinating mix of wildlife, cultural sights, and important historic places. Today, it is the low-key administrative center for the Central River Division (CRD) but several buildings on the island date back to the colonial period and some sites and museums relate directly to the history of the slave trade in West Africa. Several buildings, though, that claim to be from the era of the slave trade are in fact from the late 19th Century. Janjanbureh is located on MacCarthy Island which is now linked to the southern shore by a new bridge so getting there is much more straightforward than it used to be.

Day 11:
Morning a boat trip on river Gambia and birding Kunkilling Forest

After Breakfast at the lodge, we will be going on a boat trip on river Gambia and do a forest walk at Kunkilling Forest before leaving the Island and heading to Tendaba Camp where we will overnight.

Kunkiling forest park is an excellent example of dry Sudan savannah woodland, riparian palm forest and agricultural land. It lies just 5 km southeast of Georgetown and has an impressive diversity of birds including the Little Green Bee-eater, Yellow bellied Hyliota, Pel‘s Fishing Owl, Shining-blue Kingfisher, African Finfoot, Spotted Thick-knee, White-backed Vulture, BruBru, Green-winged Pytilia, African Hawk Eagle, Exclamatory Paradise Whydah, Vieillot’s Barbet, and Adamawa Turtle Dove is one of the specialties of the forest. Possible mammal sightings include Olive Baboon, Red Colobus Monkey and Vervet Monkey.

On the way to the Tendaba area, we will stop at Kundang Wetlands and Rice fields for Black Coucal, Sacred and Glossy Ibis, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Sedge Warbler, Red-throated Bee-eater and many more.

Day 12:
Final boat trip on the river Gambia and final day of birding

After breakfast we will do our last boat trip along the creeks of the river Gambia at Kissi and Tunku Belongs. Birds expected here are White-backed Night-Heron, Goliath Heron, White-throated Bee-eater, Yellow-billed Stork, African Fish Eagle and African Finfoot.

We now head back to the coast going via Kiang West National Park, Bateling Track, Lower Kiang Interior Road where we can expect Scarlet-chested Sunbird, White-shouldered Black-Tit, Brown-backed Woodpecker, Grasshopper Buzzard, Abyssinian Ground-hornbill, African Yellow White-eye, Senegal Batis, Chestnut-crowned Weaver and White-fronted Black-Chat.

And so, an amazing Gambia and Senegal birding tour, unfortunately, comes to an end. After our arrival at the hotel, we will transfer you to the airport for your onward or homeward international flight.


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