River at sunset with flying birds
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Gallery: bird-watching at Mandina Lodge

So after my first ‘Bird Place of the Month’ took you to Senegal, this month I am taking you to neighbouring Gambia, which we actually visited the previous year!

Mandina consists of a small group of very individual lodges set among mangroves in the Makasutu Cultural Forest. Four of them are ‘floating lodges’, moored on the edge of the river, an off shoot of the Gambia. That is where we chose to stay.

From the deck

Every morning at Mandina tea or coffee is brought to your deck at a pre-agreed time. We were woken each morning by the pleasant sound of a tray being placed on the table outside and a cheerful ‘Good morning’. As soon as we were dressed we would hurry outside to enjoy our coffee. As we drank we would watch the river come to life around us. Both now at sunrise, and throughout the day, there was always something to see from this spot, including plenty of birds. Huge Goliath herons (up to 1.5 metres tall), other herons, pelicans, kingfishers and more.

Click on any image for a slideshow with captions

By the pool

Of course if you’re willing to walk a few metres you may find even more! The large swimming pool here attracts not just people but birds too. Bee eaters swoop down to pick up insects from the water’s surface, while a small island in the middle is kept supplied with seeds by lodge staff.

Around the lodge

Drag yourself away from the lodge, perhaps on a walk with one of the resident naturalist guides or a boat ride on the river, and you will see yet more birds. My feature photo was taken during a sunset cruise when we witnessed hundreds of egrets, herons and others, all descending on a particular small island to roost.

Disclaimer

If this sounds like an advert for this magical place, I apologise. I promise you, I’m not on commission! But if you love birds and want to experience a very different Gambia, away from the more tourist-developed coastline, albeit with plenty of creature comforts, you could do worse than stay here! For me it was certainly a very Happy Place, Happy Space.

I visited Mandina Lodge in 2014

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