Return to The Gambia, Day 1, 22 January 2015 - Introduction, Kotu Creek & Casino Cycle Track

Back in early December I found a ridiculously cheap deal for a week in the Gambia with Thomas Cook (£200 pp, b&b, including flights from Gatwick!) so we were on for this completely unplanned trip. We booked the Palm Beach Hotel at Kotu Beach as this was the same hotel we'd stayed at in 2011 when we first visited the Gambia. Back then we concentrated on the coastal areas and did quite a bit of general touristy things which meant this time we were going to concentrate on places we'd not been to before including a 3 day trip 'up country'. By that I mean going inland following the Gambia River.

Back in 2011 I'd used a local bird guide for just a couple of mornings and knowing he's good I made contact with him on Facebook and we quickly agreed an itinerary and a price for a 3 day/2 night trip up country. My guide is Ebrima W Barry and I would highly recommend him to anyone needing a birding guide in the Gambia. He is good company, a great birder, a careful driver (in his comfortable 4WD) and is really dedicated to finding you the birds you want to see. He can be contacted at or via his website at

Before I get onto the birding here are a few snippets of info that may prove useful for anyone visitig the Gambia based on my personal experience:

  • I would avoid the Palm Beach Hotel like the plague. It's position is good for on the doorstep birding but since 2011 it has gone downhill big style. The most worrying aspect being the fact that it has turned into a 'knocking shop' with old British men picking up very young Gambian girls every night in the bar/restaurant area. 
  • The Gambia is (at the time of writing) ebola free. Despite this tourism is down 70% this year due to people being worried about it. 
  • The constant hassling by people wanting to sell you stuff, be your guide, be your taxi driver etc is still prevalent. If you're birding and have a guide lined up just quote his name and this will help get rid of any unwanted attention from other guides. 
  • The Gambia Birdwatching Association have registered guides and a small shelter by Kotu Bridge where they congregate. Any registered guide here should be good and once I was known to them and they knew I was being guided by Ebrima they welcomed me like one of their own. Indeed they went out of their way to find me my bogey bird at the end of the trip - read on!
  • I'd thoroughly recommend getting a copy of the Gosney guide to Finding Birds in the Gambia. Even if you use a guide it gives very useful info.      
Having arrived late afternoon today it didn't leave too much time for birding. I just had a quick look at the mouth of Kotu Creek right by the hotel (while Belinda got me a beer!) and then took a short walk along the Casino Cycle Track in fading light. I was also out for the first time with my new Canon 7d so just took a few pictures of the local common birds while I was getting used to the settings!

Around the creek and hotel Speckled Pigeons, Laughing Doves and African Mourning Doves are common as are the ubiquitous Pied Crows. Waders in the creek always seem to include Whimbrel, Senegal Thicknee, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and Spur-winged Plover with the common herons being Squacco Heron, Great White Egret, Grey Heron, Western Reef Heron and Sacred Ibis. Other really common birds (which I probably won't mention again!) are Black Kite, Hooded Vulture, Common Bulbul and Village Weaver. On our short stroll along the Casino Cycle Track we managed 2 Piapiac, 2 Senegal Coucal, Western Grey Plantain-eater, 4 Black-winged Stilts, Marsh Sandpiper, 2 Green Woodhoopoe, Little Bee-eater, Broad-billed Roller and Ring-necked Parakeet.     
Spur-winged Plover

Pied Crow

Grey-headed Gulls

Grey-headed Gull


Laughing Dove

Speckled Pigeon

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