FAQs About Guided Bird Watching in The Gambia
Ebola in The Gambia?
The Gambia is free of Ebola and always has been. These are the key facts.
• There has never been a case of Ebola in The Gambia and since the outbreak in West Africa first came to prominence in March 2014, it has remained that way.
• The Foreign Office advice concerning travel to The Gambia has been consistent throughout this time and there are no restrictions at all on travel between the UK and The Gambia.
• The Gambia has no common land borders with any of the current Ebola-infected countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia.
• Since the 21st August, the Gambian Government suspended all flights into The Gambia from these countries. This included restrictions on anyone that has visited any of the affected countries within 21 days of travel.
For further information see the Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice for The Gambia https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/gambia
How can I get the best out of my bird watching trip to The Gambia?
- If you are visiting to experience the natural history of Gambia then engage the services of a trained and experienced licensed professional guide
- Look at my sample itineraries
- Contact me with your dates and let me know what you would like to see and do
- I am equally happy guiding visitors who have a general natural history interest as well as those who may wish to concentrate on the birds or butterflies of the region or look for particular bird species.
How do I contact you?
My email address is on the contact page which is the most effective means of making contact with me. I will respond to you as soon as possible but if I am leading a tour inland where communication is more difficult then there may be some delay.
When you are in Gambia then I am available on my mobile phone numbers which are listed on the contact page.
What books should I use?
Many guides will claim to be the best birder in Gambia but that distinction probably belongs to Clive Barlow whose book The Birds of The Gambia and Senegal published with Tim Wacher is one of the best.
I also use Birds of West Africa by Nik Borrow and Ron Demey for although it has less descriptive information it does have very useful regional distribution maps.
What are the best times to visit Gambia?
The birding in Gambia is good all year round. Most visitors to Gambia are from the northern hemisphere and the escape from northern winters by both people and birds(!) coincides with the dry season in Gambia (November to March). Temperatures rise to between 80 and 90 F during February and March.
The wet season (June to October) is less busy, less expensive and will be a little cooler but you will have to anticipate the attention of substantially more mosquitoes and it will be more humid.
What health precautions do I need to take?
Vaccinations may be necessary so you will need to take advice from the medical authorities where you live. You will need to do this in good time to ensure that you have the proper protection.
Whether staying on the coast or travelling inland it is equally important to take anti- malarial prophylactics and you will need to consult your doctor for an appropriate prescription. Covering up at dawn and dusk and good insect repellents are important to avoid being bitten in the first place.
What language do they speak in Gambia?
English is the official language in Gambia and all school children are taught in English.
In Senegal the official language is French.
What currency is used in Gambia?
The local currency is the dalasi and there are 100 butut to a dalasi. Although dalasi can be obtained in your home country the major tour operators advise that you will get a better exchange rate within Gambia.
Gambia is a cash economy and you would be unwise to rely on your credit cards as few outlets will accept them particularly away from the coast. As well as dalasi some traders will accept US dollars, Sterling and Euros.
There are a few ATMs in the larger towns.
What should I take to wear?
When out on a tour I recommend light coloured, light weight clothing with long sleeves and long trousers. During the day you will not be cold but early morning and towards the evening it can feel chilly. Stout walking shoes/boots are also recommended.
Sun hats and sunscreen are essential.
If you book an overnight trip inland then I will provide you with a full kit list.
Do I need insurance?
Yes, travel and medical insurance is strongly advised.
How can I travel around in Gambia?
If you book a tour with me then I will be looking after all your travel needs whilst you are in my care. I will collect you from your hotel and return you at the end of the tour.
If travelling at other times then the normal way of getting around is by hiring a taxi. It is advisable to agree a fare before you set off.
What is a Bumster?
These are generally young men who will be found in all tourists areas and will seek to offer you all sorts of services in exchange for money. Some of them will offer you bird guiding services, particularly if they see that you have binoculars. You may be lucky and find an individual who actually knows some of the local birds.
At the airport you are likely to be approached by porters asking you to exchange their £ coins for UK bank notes. This will be of service to these individuals as they are often tipped in foreign coinage but locally they are unable to convert coins, only notes into dalasi.
Do I need to bring a telescope?
I have my own telescope so it is not essential but your’s may be better than mine!
How do I pay you?
We can discuss the best way to do this based on how much guiding you are looking for. For longer trips you may want to pay in advance.
I accept payment in £ sterling, US dollars or Euros. If an advance payment or deposit is required then a transfer to my Standard Chartered bank account is the most straightforward and safest way of carrying this out. These details can be sorted out when we have finalised the trip.
Is tipping usual in Gambia?
Tips for good service will be much appreciated as wages in the tourist industry are low but it is entirely at your discretion.