Gambia Birding Tours
The Republic of The Gambia (“The Gambia” hereafter) is the smallest country of mainland Africa. The entire country is surrounded by Senegal, except for the west coast which sits on the Atlantic Ocean. The Gambia really is a tiny country at just 4,127 square miles (10,689 square kilometers) which would make it the third smallest mainland US state, just behind Connecticut. The Gambia’s population is around 2.2 million people, about the same as New Mexico, with around 413,000 people living within the urban area of the capital, Banjul. Banjul is a relatively modern city, only being founded in 1816, and was the center when The Gambia was a colony of the British Empire.
The first records of The Gambia are from the 9th and 10th centuries when the area was visited by Arab traders from North Africa. Later The Gambia became part of the Mali Empire, before the Portuguese Empire arrived and sold the trade rights of The Gambia to the British Empire, ruled by Queen Elizabeth I. During the 17th century the British Empire and French Empire fought for control of the region before Britain finally invaded and occupied the country in 1758. While France retained some control, what remained was ceded to Britain in 1856. The modern boundaries of The Gambia were formed in 1889 and The Gambia finally gained independence from Britain in 1963.
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During the three centuries of the transatlantic slave trade, it is thought that as many as three million people were transported from The Gambia and the surrounding region to colonies across the world. In 1807 the British Empire abolished the slave trade but failed in doing this in The Gambia until 1906.
The geography of the Gambia is dominated by The Gambia River which flows down the spine of the country. The surrounding land is flat and a mixture of savanna, forest-savanna, and mangroves. The Gambia is only 31 miles (50 kilometers) wide at its widest point and as such the climate is consistent across the country. The tropical climate brings rain between June and November along with high temperatures. From November until May the climate is dry, and temperatures are lower.
The Gambia’s bird list is currently 620 species (following International Ornithological Congress (IOC) taxonomy v11.1 in May 2021), an incredible total for such a small country. There is obviously far too many species to list here but some of the many highlight species from our The Gambia: Gateway to Africa tour include Egyptian Plover (a most-wanted bird for many world birders and a monotypic family), African Paradise Flycatcher, African Pygmy Goose, Hamerkop (another monotypic family), Guinea Turaco, Violet Turaco, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Oriole Warbler, White-spotted Flufftail, African Finfoot, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Martial Eagle, African Fish Eagle, Bateleur, Red-necked Falcon, Marabou Stork, Pygmy Sunbird, Exclamatory Paradise Whydah, Black Crowned Crane, Long-tailed Nightjar, Blue Malkoha, Green-headed Sunbird, Northern Puffback, White-crested Helmetshrike, Splendid Starling, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Grey-headed Kingfisher, White-fronted Plover, Pel’s Fishing Owl, African Wood Owl, Greyish Eagle-Owl, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, White-backed Night Heron, Spotted Honeyguide, Bronze-winged Courser, Red-throated Bee-eater, Four-banded Sandgrouse, Stone Partridge, and much more. We will also come across a wide range of Western Palearctic migrants including many passerines, shorebirds (waders), herons, bitterns, egrets, birds of prey, and swifts. It promises to be a wonderful birding experience.
This tour is designed to be the perfect introduction to African birding. We will be staying in the famous Senegambia Beach Hotel during our time on the coast which offers all the facilities of the best hotels in Europe. With the bonus of around 230 species of bird recorded in the hotel grounds and immediate area, it also allows for excellent photo opportunities. When we travel upriver, we will stay in comfortable and safe eco-lodges with the birds again on our doorstep, and while on our journey we make use of safe and comfortable vehicles.