It’s a little embarrassing really. To my shame, I know barely anything about the part of the world where our three tagged ospreys have migrated, so I thought I would do some reading up.
Surrounded by desert, Senegal has a tropical climate with some great beaches – according to my Lonely Planet travel book. Apparently its trademarks include: the Wolof and Mandinka tribes; vibrant markets; striking mangrove swamps; its groundnut industry; lively fishing communities; great scuba diving opportunities and good beer. Its 10.5 million population has given rise to many musicians with internationally renowned reputations. Many crumbling old colonial buildings comprise some of the architecture, especially in St Louis on the west coast of Senegal (just up the coast from where our female ’30’ has wintered for the past six years).
French is the national language of course (even I knew that much), but if you want to greet someone a phrase to remember is ‘Asalaa-maalekum’ meaning ‘peace’ in Wolof. The national dish is ‘maffé saloum’- a beef dish cooked with peanuts, tomatoes, yams and carrots (not one for vegetarians with a nut allergy) and a popular drink to quench your thirst is ‘bissap’ juice – described as having lots of ‘zing’.
The smallest country within mainland Africa with a population of just 1.5 million, Gambia was first colonised by the Portugese and then the British. It’s an incredibly biodiverse country for such a small area, with 576 bird species. Sunshine and golden beaches contrast with ruins of slaving stations, reminding us of the painful history of this region of Africa.
Tourism and the fishing industry drive Gambia’s economy. Imagine what it must be like for an osprey holding a wintering territory on the beaches of Gambia, with its dense rows of brightly coloured fishing boats along the shoreline, competing with the local human population for food and navigating the potential hazards of snagging a fishing net when diving. None of our three tagged ospreys are currently residing in Gambia, but many ospreys which breed in the UK do of course.
Some fascinating facts about Gambia: the capital’s airport, Banjul International Airport, had its runway partly built by NASA as an emergency runway for space shuttles. Word of caution: never whistle after dark – its a taboo.
What is it like where ‘S1’ is spending his time? Well I was staggered when I googled images of the Arquipélago dos Bijagós (or Bissagos Islands), just off the coast of Guinea-Bissau. The beauty of those rainforest clad tropical little islands fringed by pristine beaches, surrounded by crystal clear water makes me want to book a flight right now and leave this dreary wet September day at Rutland far behind. No wonder wildlife watching on the Bissagos Islands is listed as an essential experience for tourists at this protected biosphere reserve. Incidentally, another inhabitant of these islands is a rare species of saltwater hippo – I wonder if S1 will see one?
As for mainland Guinea-Bissau, this is another very small country of 1.3 million, intersected by waterways. The official language is Portuguese and the architecture of many buildings reflects the colonial history. Guinea-Bissau is the sixth largest producer of cashew nuts – no coincidence then that the tipple of choice is a cashew rum (‘caña de cajeu’). While at the bar, why not try some ‘riz gras’- a rice with greasy sauce, or some grilled fish and salad? The locals are described as some of the most “unconditionally hospitable” people in West Africa, despite being one of the most poverty stricken in the whole of the continent – quite a humbling thought.
What about 4K?
Since we last spoke, this young male has moved even further south – now into Guinea. Answers on a postcard for where he will eventually end up (not a request to be taken literally, thank you readers). Sierra Leone? Côte d’Ivoire perhaps?
When viewing the satellite tracking webpage, did you know that if you click and drag the little street-view person (the small yellow figure in the bottom right-hand corner) over the map, it’s possible to view some of Google’s street-view images and photo archives? Where available, there are some fascinating panoramic views to be had all over these west African countries.
If the editor of Lonely Planet is hiring, just let me know.