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Gambia Wildlife: What to Look Out for While You’re There

Published on 8th May 2019
The Gambia is known for its wildlife, so why not get up close and personal with the wide array of animals. You never know, they may just end up being your neighbours. Just over 10km2, The Gambia is the smallest country on the African mainland. Despite this, it still plays home to an assortment of species and creatures, whether they be large or small. There’s a diverse range of Gambia wildlife for you to keep your eye out for; seeing animals roaming around in their natural habitat truly is a magical experience that anyone of any age can enjoy.

Birds

With more than 560 different species, The Gambia is well known for its fantastic bird life, all of which can be found in an array of habitats. From mangrove swamps, open grasslands and forests, The Gambia is often referred to as one of the most world-renowned bird watching destinations to visit. Even if you’re not an avid twitcher, birdwatching in The Gambia provides you with an experience like no other. Whether you’re a first timer, a keen amateur or an enthusiast on the hunt for something particular, you’re sure to spot a species that inspires you. 
 
There’s an abundance of birdlife in Gambia, so you won’t have to wait long before you see something. Though you’ll more than likely see a lot of birds flying around while you’re carrying out your day-to-day activities, there are a few spots that provide some of the best birdwatching locations in Gambia. Mandina Lodges, the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project Camp and Bakotu Hotel are some of our favourites. And if you sit and wait patiently, you’ll more than likely discover that the Gambia wildlife comes straight to you!

black and white pied kingfisher sitting on a small branch

Primates

In The Gambia, there are six primates that are regularly seen: the vervet monkeys, red colobus monkeys, red patas, bush babies, baboons and chimpanzees. To get within touching distance of them, arrange to visit or stay at The Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project. This island sanctuary, which is located in the River Gambia National Park, is a safe space for chimps to live freely.  Arguably one of the most rewarding Gambia wildlife experiences, you’re sure to love and fully appreciate everything the project does. It has been established since 1979 and cares for orphaned and unwanted chimpanzees before releasing them back into the wild. Take one of the regular boat trips that run around the islands the chimps reside on so that you can see them in all their glory.
 
Another great place to visit is the Bijilo Forest Park, which lies in the coastal zone about 11km west of Banjul. There are troops of green monkeys, Western red colobus, Campbell’s mona monkey and patas that live here, as well as numerous other mammals, invertebrates and reptiles. 
 
For some serious Gambian wildlife spotting, head to the Abuko Nature Reserve. Not only will you find vervet monkeys, red colobus monkeys and patas monkeys, but you may also be lucky enough to witness antelopes, monitor lizards, crocodiles, cobras, pythons, squirrels, porcupines and many, many more animals all living together.
 
Note: please do not feed the monkeys.

group of vervet monkeys sat together on the ground

Crocodiles

Crocodiles - also known as the king of reptiles - are often found close to waters. There are more than 13 different species recorded worldwide, so you’re sure to spot a croc or two while in The Gambia. Kachikally Crocodile Pool is located in the heart of Bakau, Gambia (about 10 miles out of Banjul). It’s one of the most famous Gambian wildlife tourist attractions and is home to around 100 crocodiles. You can even come face to face with them as many of the crocs here are on show for stroking, which provides great photo opportunities. A lot of the crocodiles here can be seen basking on the banks and soaking up the sun while many of them can be seen floating in the waters in you look carefully enough.
 
Calypso Beach Bar on Cape Point is one of the most idyllic restaurants in the country. What’s more, thatched cabanas that are located outside by the creek offer a ring-side seat for seeing crocodiles. They’ve been known to come out on to the sandbanks while people have been sat eating a meal and enjoying a drink.

crocodiles sat on a rock outside of the water

Hippos

One of the most spectacular Gambian inhabitants is the hippopotamus. Janjanbureh, located on Janjangbureh Island in the Gambia River, is a great place for spotting the infamous hippos and you also get to enjoy a cruise along the river too. Downstream of Janjangbureh is the River Gambia National Park, which has been established since 1978. This area is made up of 5 different islands, so not only will you bear witness to magnificent hippos, other Gambia wildlife you’ll see include crocodiles, baboons and birds.

hippo running through grass with its mouth open

Safari Tours

Whether you’re a dedicated enthusiast or simply fancy a day out learning more about Gambia wildlife, there’s something for everyone to get excited about. Though you may want to be on the lookout for a specific breed or species, there’s no better way to see animals in their natural environment than on a safari tour. 
 
There are a number of companies you can use to experience something truly amazing. Those lucky enough will be able to see all creatures great and small, so remember to take a camera with you to capture those special, once-in-a-lifetime moments.

lion walking in front of two cars on safari tour

When to Visit 

Gambia wildlife is enjoyed by both locals and tourists. If you don’t live in the area and are simply coming for a holiday, the dry season is one of the best times to visit. November through February is the perfect time for catching sight of the country’s breathtaking selection of birds and wildlife. However, this is peak season so if you want to avoid crowds and cut costs, October or March through May may be a better time for you to explore Gambia wildlife.
 
Sometimes, timing is everything when it comes to Gambia wildlife. The different seasons can affect the animals you see, so if you want to find out more about the weather in Gambia, read our previous article: https://www.blueocean.gm/news/article/6/weather-in-gambia 

What about Those who Live in Gambia?

Well, for those of you lucky enough to live in Gambia, the wildlife here is something you’ll become accustomed to. Recent studies show that there are 560 species of birds, 117 species of mammals, 30 species of amphibians and 47 species of reptiles all living in the wild in Gambia. Many of these animals can be found in one of the six Wildlife Protected Areas (WPAs). However, they can also be spotted while out and about in The Gambia, which makes living here a magnificent experience.
 
If you’re looking for more things to do in Gambia, take a look at our guide: https://www.blueocean.gm/news/article/2/top-things-to-do-in-gambia 
 

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