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During my time in the Gambia I decided to pop over to Senegal for the day…like you do!
When the opportunity arose to take a road-trip over there to visit some of the African wildlife Gambia lacks I signed straight up! My friend and I teamed up with two local boys (yes they are bumsters, but they are also very good guides!) and they organised everything.
The day began at 6.30 am when we commenced our drive to Banjul port in a local taxi with our guide. Within minutes we had been pulled over by the police. Corruption is rife over here, and it is so sad to see the local people have to hand their hard earned money over to rather scary looking police, which is what happened on this morning. As is the case I am sure in much of Africa, the police here often pull you over for no reason and then demand money or they will take you to the police station for something that you probably didn’t do. For example, I met a couple that had been stopped whilst driving a hire car and they were told they had to pay a fine for a driving through a red traffic light-which they didn’t even drive through!
So after a few tender minutes at the police check point we continued on our way to the port. The port was a busy place, there were all sorts of people there, some smartly dressed as if they are going to work, some selling cashew nuts (which were really cheap and really tasty!), some with babies tied to their backs, and some even with their heard of cows! The ferry was very busy and certainly an interesting experience, and my friend and I were the only white people on board.
The ferry took us across the mouth of the Gambian river to Northern Gambia, where we would proceed to the Senegalese boarder. The sight from the ferry was very picturesque; watching the African sun rising above the gentle waves and the mangroves, whilst being completely and utterly immersed in African culture mixing with the locals. It was almost magical 🙂
When we reached the port at the other side our guide parted with us for a moment to go and change up some money and I took this as a great opportunity to check out what the near-by stalls had to offer. Having been awake now for a good couple of hours I was by this time getting rather hungry and after assessing the obvious levels of hygiene (or lack of) and limited choice of cooked food, I decided fruit was my best bet. I somehow managed to get into a long discussion with the local people about peeling a mango (well I can’t eat it if it’s not peeled now can I?!) and when my friend wandered over to join in the debate she burst into fits of laughter at the fact that by this point I had several locals all searching the area for a knife! My friend has one of those incredibly infectious laughs, so I couldn’t help but giggle along too.
When my breakfast was finally ready we proceeded to the jeep that would take us to the boarder and then on to the park. Upon entering the jeep we were given a scruffy piece of paper that was actually a hand written immigration document to complete-‘how very ‘Africa’!’ I thought to myself.
When cruising along we could hear sporadic screams followed by the appearance of small children; their faces lit up with excitement. Not many tourists come to this part of Gambia and so many of these children had never/rarely seen white people. As soon as they would spot us (and even if they were not looking, they all did!) they would begin to scream and run along the side of the road. It was really quite surreal.
The Senegalese boarder was as expected from a border crossing; full of hustle and bustle! There were people selling things, children wanting to meet you, animals, women carrying babies on their backs, shops and lots more. However what was unexpected was that I was not required to leave the vehicle at all! We gave our passports to the guide (I will admit I was a little nervous about letting my passport out of my sight) and he returned with them stamped! Never before have I crossed a boarder without immigration validating that I am actually the person I claim to be in my passport- but hey it’s these new and different experiences that make my love for travel continue to grow!
From the border it was around a 15 minute drive to the park. When we got to the park we were joined by a local guide who directed the driver where was best to go and spot the animals. And the animals were great!
It was pretty easy to find the animals; we immediately spotted zebra and antelope as we drove in. We then came across some giraffe, followed by more varieties of antelope, boar, warthog and buffalo. I had never seen warthogs before and it was like a real life ‘Lion King’ setting watching the little ‘Pumbaa’s’ fight over the nuts we threw out for them. I now have a new found understanding for the term ‘eat like a pig’!
We observed all of the animals as we drove along and it was wonderful. I was able to stand up for a better view whilst driving along in the jeep and I really did feel like I was in (what is my all-time favourite show!) Wild at Heart! It felt great to be cruising along in the bush, just me my friend and our guides (no buses full of tourists!!!), looking out into the bush-now this is what I call Africa!
While driving through the bush we excited to spot a rhino. The rhino looked beautiful, so calm and happy in its natural habitat. We got out and took some photo’s, standing only a few feet away from this potential aggressive, but stunning creature. I was advised that they had cut off the rhino’s horn because it was aggressive, this did worry me slightly- I don’t know much about rhino’s but surely cutting off it’s horn wouldn’t make it any less aggressive, but just slightly less dangerous?
After seeing the rhino the last thing to find was the baby giraffe, and within a few more minutes of driving we found it! The baby was three years old and just over half the size of its mother. I zoomed in on the baby’s face and could see how cute and ‘teddy-like’ its features were. It was absolutely adorable!
The park also had a few enclosed animals, including hyenas, turtles and ostrich. Unfortunately I didn’t get to hear the hyena laugh, but all of the animals were very interesting to see and seemed happy in their enclosures. I have seen many turtles, but they never fail to amaze me-their pre-historic appearance is beautiful.
So that pretty much brought my little Senegal adventure to an end. We had had a great time cruising along the African roads and through the bush, being screamed at by kids and animal spotting, delegating mango cutting skills and meeting the locals. It was a wonderful day 🙂