As fun as the crocodile and monkey viewings had been it didn’t really feel like we had seen the best of the wildlife that West Africa can offer. After some online research and a few emails we booked a safari in Senegal at the Fathala Reserve with Black and White Tours. £80 would get us a hotel pick up/drop off, lunch, entry to the reserve and tickets to the ferry needed to cross the Gambia River. Not a bad deal! We couldn’t be guaranteed sightings of any animal but we hoped to come across giraffe, rhino, zebra, antelope and buffalo amongst others.
We were picked up before sunrise and set off to Banjul for the early morning river crossing. At this time of day the boat was fairly empty and we were treated to a Gambian sunrise across the Atlantic that could rival any around the world. We landed on the opposite bank and jumped in a Jeep just as the sun started to get really hot.
The next step was getting to Senegal and to the safari reserve. We were told this is done many times a day and there are rarely problems. Unfortunately no one had been told about the dispute between the Senegalese and Gambian trade unions that run the border checks. This meant 45 minutes of us waiting in the hot sun whilst our tour guides frantically tried to negotiate with two sets of border staff. Eventually everything was sorted and the company was allowed to transport all the tourists in to Senegal as long as they went in one car. One, much bigger, van later and we were on our way and arrived in no time.
From this point Assan, a park ranger, took over and gave us a run down of what to expect and various safety points.
Over the next 90 minutes Assan would shout at the driver to turn left or right at the various turns in the dirt track and tried his best to find as many animals as possible for the excitable tourists in the van. He didn’t do a bad job.
Now, this isn’t like the plains of East Africa with thousands of animals running wild, but it’s a big step up from Longleat Safari park too! The reserve is 6000 hectares of original and protected forest and they had huge amounts of information about each animal, bird and plant within it. Assan was fantastic throughout and Black and White tours did a great job too, I would definitely recommend them.
The trip home was at the Gambian rush hour and the ferry was a lot busier with goats, cars and people squashed on. The people next to us were having a huge laugh on the commute home and it was a lot of fun to have an insight in to a normal working day for Gambians, away from the tourist resorts.
A top day out.