This photographic tour to the Gambia, led by wildlife photographer Ashley Grove, focuses on the rich variety of colourful and approachable birdlife along the coast and the River Gambia.
Just a six-hour flight from London, The Gambia is a small, narrow country on the west coast of Africa that is bisected by the River Gambia. For a country approximately the size of Wales it has a real range of habitats, ranging from dry savannah, wide rivers, forest and tidal creeks lined with mangroves, each of which is home to a wide variety of bird life.
For the photographer this trip presents an amazing opportunity to take advantage of two weeks of almost guaranteed sunshine, with a wide range of glorious, photogenic subjects, most of which are virtually oblivious to our presence. The focus for this tour is not the number of species we can find, it is about getting close enough, for long enough, to capture a set of unforgettable moments and images of some truly unique species that you will treasure for years to come!
Along with a local guide, wildlife photographer Ashley Grove will be on hand to get you close to some of the country’s iconic species. Whether you are a capable photographer or just starting out, Ashley will be able to offer the necessary guidance for your level of experience.
Kingfishers, bee-eaters and rollers will be high on the agenda and we will visit specific sites to seek out these groups of birds, including two bee-eater colonies. As well as photography from dry land, we do several boat trips into the creeks, a sure way of getting closer to some of the kingfishers, plus waders and a huge variety of herons.
Day1: Fly to Banjul and transfer to hotel
On arrival in Banjul we transfer to our coastal base for three nights at the comfortable Senegambia Hotel, with great access to some quality, bird-rich locations that lie within easy reach.
Accommodation: Senegambia Hotel, 3-nights
Days2-3: Coastal excursions to Tanji beach, Katong and Kotu
During our stay we visit several sites that offer a good variety of birds, including Tanji Beach where there is a selection of waders and seabirds, and very often more than one fishing osprey close to the shoreline. Huge Caspian terns fly by almost continuously among the grey-headed and slender-billed gulls, with pink-backed pelicans often fishing just offshore.
One of the top sites we visit at the coast is Kotu, which holds some great birds such as pied, blue-breasted, grey-headed, striped and malachite kingfishers. We can photograph little bee-eater here and often blue-cheeked bee-eaters flying through on feeding forays. Broad-billed roller is another bird that is photographed on a regular basis at this site, along with beautiful sunbird and yellow-crowned gonolek.
Days4-5: Tendaba Camp
Leaving the coast we drive inland for a two-night stay at Tendaba. Situated right on the edge of the Baobolong Wetlands, we take a boat ride into the creeks in search of the local birds and hope to find various kingfishers, herons and waders – including Senegal thick-knee – all within relatively close range of the camera. The many other birds that pass through at different times of the day include raptors such as shikra and lizard buzzard, also ring-necked parakeet and woolly-necked stork, and there is also a chance of the elusive finfoot making an appearance.
Near the camp some savannah gives great views of Abyssinian roller, European bee-eater, grey hornbill, red-billed hornbill and plenty more.
Moving on from Tendaba, we head further inland to Georgetown, where we have three days to explore the various sites in this area, including a couple of boat trips where hippo, African fish eagle, palm nut and white-backed vultures, white-faced whistling duck, striated heron and more will be seen.
We spend a full day at Bansang Quarry, the nesting site for red-throated bee-eater. We’ll have ample opportunity to photograph these birds at the nest, feeding and ‘pond dipping’, as well as the wealth of different birds that come to drink at the pools, such as exclamatory whydah (a bird that has to be seen to be believed!), cinnamon-breasted bunting, Bruce’s green pigeon, red-billed qualia and Namaqua doves – to name but a few.
We begin our gradual journey back to the coast, with another night at Tendaba. We embark on one last boat trip to catch up with anything we may have missed the first time around. Little African swifts may be nesting under the jetty while we are there and can be a lot of fun to photograph, or we can maybe tempt black and yellow-billed kites to snatch fish bites from the surface of the water just offshore from the camp.
Accommodation: Tendaba Camp, 1-night
Day10: Return to the coast
Our last night is spent back at the Senegambia Hotel on the coast, where there are still new sites to visit. Abuko Reserve is probably the most famous of The Gambia’s birding sites and is the top spot to take pictures of giant kingfisher; it may also be our best site for both turaco species, African paradise flycatcher, wattle-eye and perhaps western bluebill. The adjacent Lamin ricefields provide an opportunity to photograph painted snipe and other waterbirds.
Accommodation: Senegambia Hotel, 1-night
Day11: Fly back to the UK
After breakfast this morning there may be time to take some last shots around the hotel grounds before we head back to the airport for our flight home.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 11 daysfrom £2,795 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 11 daysfrom £2,195 pp
Single supplement: From £165
Group size: 8
Included in the price/package:
4 nights hotel in Banjul
3 nights lodge in Kiang West National Park
3 nights lodge in Georgetown
Services of the leader
Ashley developed an interest in nature - and birds in particular - while growing up in the Warwickshire countryside, before setting up as a wildlife photographer in 2005.
He now lectures widely and leads regular photographic and birding tours to The Gambia - his favourite destination – as well as the Shetland Islands, Isle of Scilly, Trinidad & Tobago, the Spanish Pyrenees and elsewhere.
He is particularly keen on birds of prey and hummingbirds, and regularly delivers workshops and seminars throughout the UK. Officially recommended by the RSPB and Royal Horticultural Society, he give talks to groups from Scotland to Kent and from Wales across to Suffolk. Ashley’s friendly manner and enthusiasm will no doubt be infectious and help you to learn new skills on your birding photography journey.
Located on the south bank of the Gambia River, Kiang West National Park is one of the biggest and most important wildlife reserves in the Gambia. The park is home to around 300 bird species, and many of the country’s remaining mammal species such as bushbuck, warthog, hyena, serval and sitatunga.
Situated close to Kiang West National Park and the Baobolong wetlands, lies Tendaba Camp. This simple, yet comfortable accommodation is within easy distance of some of the Gambia’s best birdwatching sites, and is ideally situated for exploring the nearby wildlife-rich, River Gambia.