Waking up on Saturday morning it was hard to believe we hadn't even been in the Gambia a whole week yet, we had seen so much it was hard to take it all in ! Today was to be a bit different though.
Firstly, we had no trips planned because today was a National Clean Up Day. Apparently there are now two instead of the previous one a month and unless you have a special permit you are not allowed to take a vehicle on the road during the morning. I think that everyone is meant to spend time clearing rubbish but I could see little evidence that this was happening, if anything there seems to be more rubbish than ever before which is a great shame and something that does need to be halted otherwise the country will end up like India.... a mess. Most of the rubbish is plastic and the increased use just makes matters worse. In countries like The Gambia where rubbish collections don't happen it would be preferable to use other materials to package goods and introduce deposits on bottles etc.
Still, back to that Saturday.
Something else was happening. Claire was flying out today !
I wondered what she'd think of Farakunku Lodges.
Actually I knew she'd love them !
The entrance doesn't in any way reflect what's behind the walls and that's no bad thing.
In fact the surrounding area is very rural, you can wander off on the network of paths that go between other small holdings.
but behind the gates there are well manicured gardens and 4 Round Houses... the rented rooms.... each with it's own private patio, sunbed, table and chairs and a hammock.
I knew Claire would be more than comfortable left here with her Kindle books and a bottle of suncream !
The rooms themselves are large and airy with a separate sitting area
and huge bed.
There's also a good sized dressing room for storage and an excellent shower, wet room style.
If you want to sit in a more public area there's a plunge pool to cool off
but with a maximum of 8 guests at any time it won't get crowded!
Accommodation is on a half board basis and meals are taken in the open restaurant area.
and owner Heather conjures up a different 3 course menu each night, never once duplicating anything over a two week period. The meals were all very good and the ambience excellent.
I think Alan and I were almost forgiven for drinking straight out of the bottles of beer at dinner time, and Alan also omitted to tell Heather he had a special dietary need. He doesn't like cheese, either cooked or uncooked. Anyway, reprimanded for his indiscretion, he was served chicken and chips at short notice. You have been warned... next time list your dislikes as they count as special dietary needs !
Anyway, Claire loved the place and so did we. To be perfectly honest though, if you have a non birding partner who is to be abandoned for the day you need to bare in mind that there is little else in the locality although it's perfectly safe to wander. Those of us who are out from dawn to dusk are probably happy to not have to wander too far to get a beer and a decent bite to eat.
I certainly think that the birding package that Farakunku offers represents excellent value and saves the uncertainty of guides, vehicles etc.
Once again though, back to that Saturday !
We decided to walk down to the nearest beach and see what we could along the way. I was up earlier than Alan and a short walk away from the Lodges I was rewarded with this close up encounter with a Grey-headed Woodpecker.
After returning for the usual excellent breakfast we headed off finding our first Black-shouldered Kite of the trip.
After an hours walk in the ever increasing heat we arrived at an area of rough ground and water, just behind the beach.
A flock of White-faced Whistling Ducks had one stranger in their midst, a Comb Duck, a lifer for me I think, certainly in Africa.
I was quite pleased with myself for spotting it !
We also saw an Intermediate Egret in this area too, again a first for the trip but other than a small group of African Spoonbill and Sacred Ibis that wouldn't tolerate approach within 100 metres there wasn't too much around.
We found the one small bar that served cold drinks and asked the barman to phone Farakunku and beg for a lift home which they are happy to provide, free of charge.
On returning Alan headed for the cool of his room, I went and sat in the private gardens of Heather and Moses's bungalow which they happily allow guests to use.
Male Beautiful Sunbird
as well as female were regulars at the Hibiscus flowers.
Drinking pots of water attracted Lavender Waxbills.
Very pleasant not rushing around for a change !
A regular pair of visitors to a nearby dead Palm tree were a pair of Senegal Parrots.
I think they have a nest hole in the tree as they seemed to spend a lot of time staking a claim on it.
Leaving early and returning late I never did get around to getting the shots I would haver liked of these splendidly attractive birds.
A walk a little way from the gardens gave me some excellent photo opportunities of both female
and male Namaqua Doves.
Very handsome and a lovely flash of rust colour when they fly too.
Well that was it for that day, a day of rest. A mere 3 new species for the list it was a little depressing !
Still we moved on to 218 after our first week.
Come the evening I went off with the car and driver to pick up Claire from the airport. Unlike our flight that had been delayed 2 hours by the diversion to refuel, she was actually 40 minutes early landing and had cleared immigration and was waiting patiently for us when we got there. OOPS ! I was not in trouble, we were 10 minutes early too.