Julian Hughes and his wife went on a Gambia birding trip and it was their first experience of Africa. They were not disappointed with many wonderful sightings of birds and the chance to meet some great people and get some insight into rural Africa. The Gambia is definitely on their list for a return visit.
The Senegambia Hotel which is not the cheapest option but it has a wide choice of bars and restaurants and seems to be the hotel of choice for birders which means a lot of informal exchange of birding information and taxi sharing takes place.
They managed to see 264 different species of bird in their two week stay even though they didn't go birding every day and didn't make use of the guides that are available. Another group which did arrange a guide for the same period and visited most of the same sites came up with a tally of 300 species.
The photo hide on the south side of the orphanage compound in the Abuku Forest which overlooks a concrete drinking pool was one of the best spots as they had close-up views of the African paradise flycatcher, levaillantís cuckoo and western bluebill and a pair of displaying African pygmy kingfishers was particularly memorable.
There are a number of parks that you can visit where you will have a good chance of spotting birds including Bijilo Forest Park, Tanji beach, Brufut Woods and Yundum Woods to name just a few.
If you have the time, a four day trip inland is really worthwhile as this was responsible for most of the memorable moments and birds of Julian's whole trip.
Have a few pounds ready for when you arrive at the airport because this is the preferred currency for the porters that ply their trade there. Using a porter is not something you choose as one of them will simply pick up your bags, ask where you are going and demand you follow them.
You can avoid falling victim to the dreaded "banjul belly" here by taking the simple precautions for eating that apply in any tropical country. Avoid ice cream, ice in drinks and unpeeled food and be wary of buying anything from a street vendor to eat.