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I loved it! I’m coming back!

My Magazine 2022/02
5 min
Author: Sharon Flowers
Sharon's feedback on Gambia Tourism Forum about her recent travels to The Gambia caught our attention. She shared her experience and was to sort out many photos from The Gambia - a heaven destination for bird watchers. We asked her if she would share her experience and photos in our magazine. And she agreed! Thank you, Sharon!

Reflections from my first visit to The Gambia!

I loved it!

I loved the helpfulness and kindness of the Facebook Forum - The Gambia Tourism Forum!

I travel the world but have no idea how The Gambia remained hidden from me for so long! I love experiencing different cultures, and often as a solo traveller, I look for friendly people, safe and clean accommodation and great wildlife! My passion is taking photos! The Gambia proved to be perfect! I loved the places I stayed at...The Folly Plantation Gambia Boutique hotel, Footsteps Eco Lodge, Marakissa River Lodge and Mandinari River Lodge. But I know there are so many more that I can’t wait to visit on my next trip!

I saw lots of birds and took over 2000 photos!

Highlights!

The GREEN MAMBA! Drinking at a small pond in one of the forests we visited! It was soooo long! The malachite kingfishers; my favourite kingfisher and because it’s so small I rarely get close in other countries! Getting photos of the Giant Kingfisher eating, so easy to see and get close to when at Mandinari, also the pied kingfisher with its early morning snack!

The osprey carrying off a fish as well as eating one, my first sighting led to seeing many more whilst on the Tanji River. My 5 hours spent on the river was amazing, with an amazing guide which was also great value! So much wildlife! Another great river trip was the one I took outside Marakissa River Lodge at 300 dalasis an hour I ended up doing 7 over a morning and an afternoon to get the sunrise and sunset...again - amazing wildlife!

Another highlight that was unexpected - seeing a red colobus monkey in Abuko forest.

Mandinari River Lodge was great for just wandering around and spotting the birds! Especially the kingfishers and other birds I’ve yet to identify! Also a great place for taking photos of the colourful crabs! I'd have loved to have gone on the river but at 1000 dalasi an hour (as I was solo and it was 500 an hour but minimum 2 people) it was beyond my budget. It was here that I realised I had run out of money! The kindness I received from the staff there was fantastic – providing me with lunch and a beer! Fortunately, I was able to make use of APS International to send myself another £50 worth of dalasi and I was able to repay the kindness – and drink more beers!

 

What I didn’t enjoy so much!

I didn't enjoy the expectation of some people that as a solo woman I am there to find a man...a younger one, and to be told about my beauty, how lovely I was etc..(I'm an old woman of 61 so totally not true!). I guessed there would be some level of harassment but I still felt awkward and didn't like it. Once I expressed this they backed off...phew!

I also noticed when back at Heathrow that my brand new rucksack looked so different I left it until it was the only piece of luggage on the conveyor belt! It had been opened and was filthy! The poor person who ripped open the zip must have been very disappointed as it only contained mostly dirty washing!

Final thoughts...

If I had to choose a favourite place it would be Marakissa River Lodge...such warmth, friendliness, good food, great value (800 dalasis a room, with breakfast) and on the river to wander the banks, and ride on a canoe.


Next time I will try to get ‘up river’. I feel sure I will also visit the same places again as well! The only way I manage to travel so much is to keep costs down. I managed to do the whole trip of 7 nights/8 days for £1000. I ate well, slept well, did many tours...and loved it! I’m coming back!

I couldn’t have done what I ended up doing without the advice and suggestions made by the extremely helpful people on the Facebook group Gambia Tourism Forum.

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