Tour At A Glance





Single Room Supplement:


Tour Code:

Intermediate with some early starts. We try to take a break during the hot part of the afternoon when possible.

Group Size:

Maximum Eleven plus leaders

Little Bee-eater Blue-breasted Roller Red-billed Hornbill Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu Bearded Barbets Beautiful Sunbird Long-tailed Nightjar Giant Kingfisher Greater Honeyguide Senegal Thick-knee African Wood Owl Hamerkop African Darter African Green Pigeon White-crowned Robin-chat Western Grey Plantain-eater

The Gambia - Birding the Smiling Coast

Date: 12th to 19th November 2021 (SPACES) and 19th - 26th November 2021 (SPACES)
Leaders: Ashley Saunders, Marcus Nash & local guides (12th departure), Gary Elton & local guides (19th departure)



Fly London/Banjul and transfer to the Senegambia Beach hotel. After check in and depending on flight times we will spend the evening birding around the grounds to get to grips with some of the commoner species. Our first birds are likely to include Beautiful & Variable Sunbirds, Common Bulbul, Spur -winged Plover, Red- eyed Dove, White-crowned Robin-Chat and Broad-billed Roller as well as other typically African species. 
Our birding will start early with a pre-breakfast walk around the Senegambia grounds which offers a wealth of excellent birding opportunities. Parties of noisy Long-tailed Glossy Starlings adorn the lawns, and among the thickets Oriole Warbler, African Paradise Flycatcher and Yellow-crowned Gonolek may be found. Grey Woodpecker, Bearded Barbet, Lavender Waxbill, Red-billed Firefinch, Northern Black Flycatcher, Village Indigobird, Red-billed and African Grey Hornbills, Wattled Lapwing, Senegal Parrot, Black-necked Weaver and Western Grey Plantain-eater are all easily seen. Our main destination for the morning will be Bijillo Forest, which is walking distance from the hotel. Eyes should always be kept skyward for passing raptors such as Osprey, or Pink-backed Pelican as well as the myriad swallows, Palm swift, Little Swift and the rarer Mottled Spinetail might also be seen. Around the forest the scarce Oriole Warbler occurs, and other birds encountered here could include Gabar Goshawk, Shikra, Lizard Buzzard, Ahanta Francolin, Stone Partridge, Black-billed Wood-Dove, Fanti Saw-wing, Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat and Black-necked Weaver. After a poolside lunch and break during the heat of the day we head out to Kotu Stream and fields. This covers a range of habitats and starts to get you familiar with a range of the local birds such as Yellow-crowned Gonolek, Western Reef and Striated Herons, Intermediate Egret, Pied Kingfisher, Hooded Vulture and Pearl - spotted Owlet, while Blue-cheeked and Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters raid the skies above for insects. Shorebirds are a feature of the stream and sewage works area and on our last visit here we had a superb female Painted Snipe. Lizard Buzzard, African Harrier Hawk, Abyssinian and Broad- billed Rollers should all feature during the evening. A walk back along the cycle track could add Woodland Kingfisher, Yellow Billed Shrike, Green Wood Hoopoe, Northern Crombec, African Jacana, Piapiac and Senegal Coucal amongst others. We return to the hotel to enjoy a well earned beer after an exciting first day in The Gambia!    

The superb Tujerang woods will be our starting point today, and the birds will come thick and fast! The whole area is teeming with birds and we should encounter such gems as Senegal Batis, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver, Long-crested and Beadouin's Snake-eagles, Veillot's Barbet, Little Weaver, Red-winged Warbler and Yellow White-eye. Brown-backed and Cardinal Woodpeckers are also found here along with a range of Cisticolas and various palearctic migrants such as Common Chiffchaff, Willow, Subalpine, Melodious and Western Olivaceous Warblers, Common Redstart and Whinchat. Klaas’s and Diderick Cuckoos frequent the scrub too, and sometimes a Yellow-billed Oxpecker can be found if there are any Ndama Cattle in the area. After lunch at Tanji eco-lodge [where Western Bluebill often comes to drink at the excellent small pools] we can explore the beach area around this small fishing town. Here a range of shorebirds might be encountered including Grey-headed, Kelp, Slender-billed and even Audouin’s Gulls, and a selection of waders such as Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling and Bar-tailed Godwit. Roosting flocks of Terns should offer the opportunity to study similar Lesser Crested, Royal and Caspian through the scope. Nearby habitats offer the chance to look for Crested Lark and sometimes a Giant Kingfisher is to be found by the main lagoon. We return to the hotel for some downtime before dinner. 
We will travel one hour to the Pirang Forest reserve this morning, and spend the early part of the day looking for some difficult species such as the rare Leaflove and elusive Green Crombec. Little Greenbul, Green Hylia, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Greater & Lesser Honeyguides, Common Wattle-eye, African Green Pigeon, Violet Turaco, Brown-hooded Parrot and Verraux's Eagle Owl can often be seen here, while the rare and elusive White-spotted Flufftail is the speciality of the site. There is around a 50-50 chance of connecting with this skulker! The adjacent shrimp farm, when being worked, is a superb area for waterbirds. We can expect to find Greater Flamingo, flocks of Eurasian and African Spoonbills, and migrant waders such as Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint. African Fish Eagle sometimes hang around the area, while the disticntive West African Swallows, recently split from Red-rumped, can often be found.  After lunch at a small eco-lodge nearby we visit Farasuto and spend some time looking for more elusive or difficult to find species in the farmland there such as Black-rumped Waxbill, Violet-backed Sunbird, Fine-spotted & Cardinal Woodpeckers, Senegal Eremomela and Purple Glossy Starling. Drinking troughs again prove crucial for viewing elusive species [and trying to separate the glossy starlings!] but here it is sometimes possible to see Snowy-crowned Robin Chat, Blue-spotted Wood-dove, Green-headed Sunbird and even Green Turaco! We will check the small pools for roosting White-backed Night-heron - and keep a sharp eye out for crocs sleeping on the raised banks between the pools! We head back to Senegambia in time for 'Happy Hour' and a cold beer to end a long day.
A busy day in the field starts early as we head to the excellent Brufut Woods. It can take an hour to walk a hundred metres along the track here as the trees are literally dripping with birds. Blue-breasted, Pygmy and Grey-headed Kingfishers, Red-bellied Flycatcher, African Golden Oriole, Brown Babbler, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, White-faced Scops Owl, Violet & Green Turacos and even Long-tailed Nightjar might be seen here. We will search for a Verraeux’s Eagle Owl in its daytime roost before heading into the more open scrub. Yellow-fronted Canary, Veillot’s Barbet, Red-winged Warbler, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Northern Red Bishop, Whistling, Singing and Siffling Cisticolas, White-crested Helmet-shrike and Pied-winged Swallow might be seen in this area. We return to the hotel for a late lunch and some downtime before taking a trip out in the early evening towards Banjul, stopping en route to watch Black Egrets performing their fascinating ‘umbrella’ feeding action. We will then spend the remainder of the evening birding the fringes of the Gambia river estuary where vast concentrations of gulls, terns and waders are found. Caspian, Royal and Lesser Crested Terns, Slender-billed and Grey-headed Gulls, Curlew Sandpiper, Osprey, Arctic Skua, Western Reef Heron and perhaps Gull-billed Tern and Intermediate Egret might also be found. Returning via Cape Point the pools could hold more roosting Terns as well as Senegal Thick-knee, African Reed Warbler, Black-winged Stilt and Grey Kestrel & Rufous-crowned Roller watch from the wires.  We return to the hotel after another busy day in the field.
Abuko is one of The Gambia’s prime bird locations. The shady forest is host to many spectacular species, including Violet and Green Turacos, Giant, Malachite, Pygmy and Blue-breasted Kingfishers, Palm Nut Vulture, Black-headed and Black-crowned Night Herons, Hammerkop, Little Greenbul, Shikra, Green Hylia, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Snowy-crowned and White-crowned Robin-chats, and African and Red-bellied Paradise Flycatchers. With luck, we may also find the rare Buff-spotted Woodpecker and the Western Bluebill – a black and scarlet finch with an enormous bill. As well as birds, we may encounter Nile Crocodile, Nile Monitor, Western Red Colobus Monkey and Sun Squirrel. After lunch at Lamin Lodge overlooking the mangrove swamps, we visit Lamin Ricefields which is a peaceful spot and holds some good birds including Fine Spotted Woodpecker, Splendid Sunbird, Grey Kestrel, Lizard Buzzard, African Mourning Dove, Mottled Spinetail, Squacco Heron, Red-necked Falcon and even Bar-breasted Firefinch. We can use a network of narrow paths to explore small marshy pools where Wood and Green Sandpipers feed alongside Green Heron and various egrets. Blue-bellied Rollers are common here, perching among the palms where local people climb to collect the palm wine from the trunks. We'll aim to get back to the hotel with time for a swim or some more birding in the grounds before dinner.
Today we depart before dawn for the one hour drive south to the Senegal border as we will be spending the whole day birding around the superb Kartong Bird Observatory. Here we meet with our friends Colin Cross and his wife Binta who run the observatory and will be our hosts for the day! Enjoying breakfast on their verandah, we can overlook the Kartong wetlands, created when rain water filled old sand mining pits many years ago. The area is teeming with waterbirds - Malachite Kingfishers zip back ad forth, while Black Crake, Purple Gallinule and even occasionally Allen's Gallinule stalk the reedy fringes. Purple and Squacco Herons are common, Dwarf Bittern can be found with luck, and paleartic migrants abound in the reeds and scrub. After breakfast we go on foot for the morning to explore the bush around the observatory. Four-banded Sandgrouse is a real possibility here and the small pools often hold Greater Painted Snipe. Various kingfishers can be seen and we will be checking the larger areas of water carefully for the superb African Pygmy Goose - rare in The Gambia. Coastal bushes provide a witer home for a range of palearctic migrants including Common Nightingale, Western Subalpine and Western Olivaceous Warblers, while weavers and bishops abound. Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters often congregate in the area, and we have sometimes found rarer species such as White-throated or Northern Carmine Bee-eaters too. Reaching the shore,  we have a chance to check the assembled waders for White-fronted Plover, here at its only mainland breeding site in The Gambia. Offshore we may spot tern, gulls and skuas, Osprey, Pink-backed Pelican and who knows what else? After lunch here, we will take a boat trip along the river which forms the border with Senegal and look for flocks of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters. If the tide allows, we can creep up on roosting parties of Caspian and RoyalTerns and Audouins Gulls and the photographic opportunities can be fantastic. If we are lucky, we could find the localised Brown Sunbird, pick up an African Fish Eagle or Yellow-billed Stork, or perhaps even a Goliath Heron. Many great rarities have been found in this area and you never know what we are going to see! We return to the hotel in time for dinner.
Due to the evening flight time we have a free morning which is set aside for people to do as they choose - take a swim, walk on the beach or visit the local craft markets. Of course, you may want to spend some more time birding around the hotel grounds!  We will return to Senegambia at lunchtime and have a meal at one the nearby restaurants before our transfer back to Banjul airport for our flight back to the UK.  


Additional Information


Walks are mostly easy and on sandy paths, tracks or roads. There is some walking on very narrow paths in the ricefields, which some people may find difficult. At Tujerang, there is some walking on heavily vegetated paths with stumps and roots.
Single base throughout at Senegambia Beach Hotel, which is a tourist hotel of a good standard. All rooms en suite with air conditioning - they are clean but basic in facilities. All evening meals are taken at the hotel, and are buffet style with plenty of choice. Expect meat and fish options with plenty of rice and vegetables every day, plus an extensive salad bar. Vegetarians should beware that this is not a concept well understood in a country where choice is not a luxury most people have when it comes to food. However, omellettes at breakfast are excellent, and the evening buffet has plenty of salad and vegetables, rice and potatoes, soup and bread etc. 
Return charter flights London Gatwick/Banjul, seven nights accommodation at Senegambia Beach Hotel, breakfasts, lunches and evening meals, services of leaders, ground transport, boat trip and reserve entrance fees.
Transport to/from London airport and any overnight stay that might be involved, travel insurance, drinks, departure tax of approximatley £20.00 per person payable locally before departure and any items of a purely personal nature.
Visas are not required by UK nationals and you will be issued with a 28-day tourist stamp on arrival. Passports must have 6 months validity beyond the return travel date. Standard health and innoculation requirements apply for UK nationals, visit to check these and if necessary, download a free health brief to take to a travel appointment at your local medical practice. It is also strongly advisable to take precautions against malaria for this tour, and if you are travelling from or have recently travlled in a region with Yellow Fever, you will require the innoculation certificate to travel. Please note that some prescription or over the counter medicines are banned in The Gambia, please check with the Gambian Embassy before travel.




Tour Reports


2009  2010  2011


2012    2013   2015


2017    2018    2019




"We really enjoyed our holiday -the variety and number of birds were very enjoyable; we would go again"
S & C C County Durham
" This holiday was an overwhelming experience not just because of the wonderful birding but it also gave us an opportunity to gain insight into the lives of the people. The trip to Kartang where we were welcomed into a Gambian home and ate a reaal Gambian meal was very special and memorable. The kindness and patience of the leaders in ensuring everyone had good views was particulalry important and enjoyable and added an extra dimension to the holiday" M. J. Northants
"We had a great time in The Gambia - AND did manage to get over the 200 species mark and so I shall not be demanding my money back!!  Dave did a really good job and Modou was truly excellent" C. H. Cardiff
" Great birds, great country, great guides - Dave Gosney was brilliant at looking after everyone, but Modou also made a real effort. They were Simply The Best!! We have done two trips with you now and would certainly recommend Oriole Birding to others " J & S B Surrey
" I really enjoyed my holiday and found Ashley to be very knowledgeable and helpful. I would certyainly travel again with you and will be recommending that my friends do so too" E C Sussex
" Great birding, great standard of hotel and the expertise of the leader made it a very enjoyable holiday" B. L. Leeds
"The wide variety of birds, which exceeded our expectations, Ashley's totally unfazed leadership and the wonderul winter sunshine were particularly enjoyable and the food was also very good. As you know we stayed a seconf week and it was only then that we appreciated how much of the stress and unpleasantness in dealing with the local guides when booking via the hotel had been removed for us by Oriole Birding personnel. Their knowledge was excellent but their integrity regarding trying to extract as much money from the individual as possible left a lot to be desired" J & K H Merseyside.
"I really enjoyed the mix of birding and down time each day and Ashley was extremely knowledgeable " T F Sussex
"The holiday was a completely new experience with completely new birds and once I stop aching from the malaria shots, I am sure I will be left with  memories of a wonderful experience and a plethora of new birds!! " T C Bristol
" A great week in the sun, superb birds, good food and great fun with a like minded group of birders. This tour will certaainly banish those winter blues!! Ashley and Modou were a great team and always had the answers to any question regarding African birds and were there to put you right when you got it all wrong... " C S Oxford
" Both Ashely and Modou were excellent  and took time to ensure that everyonbe got to see each species as far as was possible. The amazing array of birdlife was fantastic and the hotel was great with superb birding available in the grounds. I can't recommend Oriole Birding highly enough and will definitely travel with you again. Oh, and the beer on the tours I have been on has been excellent too !!" S E Herts.
"Thanks for the excellent tour, all arrangements suited me very well. The rooms were very comfortable and were better than expected. All in all a super introduction to birding in Africa with great birds and I'm really glad I made the effort]!" A J London
"Thank you Ashley for sending the tour report and all the great photos . We had a great time and learnt a lot. Hope your next trip goes as well" R & SB Surrey