For almost a year the Osprey Team have been looking forward with eager anticipation to our next trip to West Africa, taking place in January 2016. I was particularly excited, because I had never visited West Africa before, and had only seen photos from previous years to whet my appetite.
Now we are here, and I still almost can’t believe I am actually in Africa! It is all I expected and more. I was gazing out of the aeroplane window in excitement as we descended towards Banjul airport on Monday 4th January. The heat that hit us as we walked off the plane was a far cry from the weather we had left behind in London early that morning! After our a three hour bumpy bus ride, we arrived at our first destination – Tendaba Camp. Tendaba is a lovely, rustic place on the south bank of the River Gambia.
We awoke on Tuesday morning refreshed, after all having an early night! Our first adventure was a boat trip on the River Gambia, through the mangroves along small winding tributary channels.
We saw such a plethora of species, I could hardly keep up. The trees and banks were teeming with bird life, most of which I have never heard of before, never mind seen! Highlights included Hamerkop, Pink-backed Pelican, Abyssinian Roller (a beautiful shade of blue!), Squacco Heron, Blue-Breasted Kingfisher, several Bee-Eater species, and much more. We also saw some crocodiles!
When we returned, there was time before lunch to take a walk round the camp and surrounding area, looking out for more birds. It was very hot, but we were rewarded for our efforts with superb views of several species, including a wonderful bright red Bearded Barbet, several eagles, kites and much more!
We also had a spectacular view of group of White Pelicans flying in a traditional V-formation, done purposefully to make the optimum use of aerodynamics and wind resistance.
After lunch, we had a break and sat on the jetty looking over the river. It was very peaceful sitting there watching the river flow by and enjoying the cool breeze. While we were there, we had superb views of Pied Kingfishers, and our first view of an Osprey which glided past us up the river!
Later in the afternoon we had another walk to an old airfield, where we were treated to more amazing views of several species, some we had already seen, and some that we had not, such as a splendid Grasshopper Buzzard, Crested Eagle and Black-winged Stilt.
Wednesday was the day we moved on from Tendaba Camp and went north into Senegal, so most of the day was taken up with travelling. We had to cross the River Gambia, and then cross the Gambia-Senegal border, both of which went fairly smoothly. One of the highlights of the day was stopping for lunch under a lovely large tree which provided plenty of shade for us to relax under. Whilst there, we saw Melodious Warbler, Beautiful Sunbird and the very large Ground Hornbill.
We arrived at our next destination, the Keur Saloum Hotel on the Sine Saloum Delta, at around 4:30pm. It’s a lovely place, brightly decorated with colourful flowers, with a fabulous sun terrace overlooking the river.
We had to get up early on Thursday to go on an excursion by boat to the Island of Birds, or Iles des Oiseaux – a great place to see wintering Ospreys! On the way to the island, we saw several Ospreys sitting in the trees, and the island itself was a little bit of paradise. There were sandy beaches, gentle waves and Ospreys everywhere! Some birds were sitting alone, but others sat in groups. Some were adults, some juveniles, and several had fish. It was incredible to see so many Ospreys all at once, and on a beach surrounded by Caspian Terns and Sacred Ibis!
We have a lot more exciting activities coming up, so keep an eye out for news. We will also have some photos from John Wright to share with you!