Birding, Exploring, Experiencing Culture And Relaxing. 

Birding holidays in Gambia

Fond memories of past visits to Gambia

After many years, I finally found the opportunity to revisit The Gambia, a country that holds many fond memories for me. I had been there several times before, mostly connected to my engagement with Gambian music culture as a music professor. This time, after ten years of absence, my goal was simple: to unwind, immerse myself in nature, and pursue my newfound passion for wild birds. For these purposes, Footsteps Eco Lodge turned out to be the perfect choice. 

Together with my travel companion Erik Østlyngen, we were offered to stay in the spacious and charming Sunbird House. The grounds at Footsteps provided plenty of experiences of birds and nature right on the spot. Many of my bird photos were taken just from the little platform built above the lovely pool.

While having breakfast there we would enjoy the company of Beautiful Sunbirds, Village Weavers, Gonoleks, Plantain Eaters, Paradise Flycatchers, Common Bulbuls, a Pygmy Kingfisher and a variety of doves. 

Just a short walk from Footsteps is a wetland area teeming with many of the other remarkable bird species of the Gambia. Here we saw Kites, Cormorants, Ospreys, Herons, Hornbills, Vultures, Swamp Hens and Bee-eaters. This area lies just inside the dunes and the enormous beaches.

It was so peaceful; we hardly saw other people. 

Further afield

For our further explorations of Gambian wildlife, we also made trips to the Tanji River and the Kartong wetlands.

Also the Pirang Shrimp farm area and nearby forests where we saw four different species of owls.

For several of our trips, Lamin Bojang was our guide. His knowledge and advice were invaluable, helping us to spot many elusive bird species we otherwise would have overlooked.

Going through our photos and observations we ended up registering a total of 151 different bird species.

In only 11 days!

Djembe & Kora

In addition to birding, meeting with Gambian music performers was a highlight of my trip.

Kora player Jeli Yankuba was invited to Footsteps, and I got a chance to re-experience some of the Mandinka music that first captivated me thirty years ago.

A local Djembe group from Gunjur entertained us at the barbecue evening, making us all get up and dance.

Since the Djembe has become a basic instrument in music education in many countries, it is great to experience it in its original context.

I was impressed by the virtuosity of the young drummers.

Down-to-earth luxury!

To me, Footsteps is luxurious, but in a down-to-earth, sensible way. Food is simple but always tastes nice – three different main courses to choose from for dinner: vegetarian, fish or meat. And often with a touch of local cooking, like the domoda sauce used in stews. For the barbecue, we were served the tastiest freshly baked cake. My compliments to the cook!

It is so good to experience the implications of an ecological consciousness at Footsteps. The lodge is self-sufficient in electricity and water. No need to buy drinking water, we could just fill up our bottles with good quality water from a tank by the reception. Food is produced locally. As in much of The Gambia, the internet connection can be slow. I soon found out that if I wanted to go online, early morning was the best time. This was simply a good limitation for me, as there was no need to check for emails and messages all the time. Offline the rest of the day suited my mood well.

So all in all, this trip fulfilled all my expectations, it gave me exactly what I was seeking: relaxation, no stress, exciting new experiences, and great memories of people and wildlife. I am already looking forward to my next trip to The Gambia and Footsteps Eco Lodge. 

All photos are ©️and are the property of Jan Sverre Knudsen

Guest blog written by Jan Sverre Knudsen

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