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The Gambia 3 – 13 December 2024,
2 – 12 December 2025

Birding in West Africa with a smile

This holiday is run in partnership with Simon Tonkin and Niki Williamson of Inglorious Bustards; Honeyguiders will join others who book directly with them.

This tiny, friendly West African gem has long been a favourite with birders, and with good reason. As the gleaming Gambia River bends gently inland to form its welcoming ‘grin’, it provides access to teeming habitats ranging from coastal creeks to mangrove swamps to freshwater lakes, with species-rich Sahelian scrubland in between.

Occupying about the area of Norfolk and Suffolk combined, this small, accessible country embraces the shores of the languid Gambia River, which flows through its very heart before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. Extensive protected areas interspersed with low-key traditional agriculture make for a welcoming wildlife haven, rich in eye-poppingly colourful flora and fauna.

Appealing, hospitable and easy to visit, this simply amazing birding destination provides an ideal introduction to sub-Saharan Africa, with raptors galore and a myriad of colourful and exciting target species. Bursting with life and culture, it is well-deserving of its nickname of ‘Africa’s Smiling Coast’, not just for its geographical appearance, but also because of the genuinely warm welcome waiting for you here.

hamerkop yellow-billed oxpeckers
Hamerkop; yellow-billed oxpeckers.

Watching marabou storks (Mark Howarth)
Watching marabou storks (Mark Howarth)

The Coast (3 nights)

Tanji Bird Reserve is made up of mangroves, dry woodland, vegetated dunes and coastal lagoons. With this range of habitats it’s no wonder that over 300 bird species have been recorded here.  Exploring from our eco-lodge accommodation within the park, we’ll hope to see black-headed heron, white-fronted plover, Caspian and royal tern, and grey-headed gulls.

The coastal town of Tanji offers culture and wildlife spectacles combined, with superb up-close views of sea- and shore-birds fighting over fish discards at the lively local fish market, where fisherman barter loudly over the catch of the day from their colourfully-painted wooden fishing boats.

We have eight rooms available at Tanji Ecolodge; leaders Simon and Niki will stay nearby, and perhaps any additional bookings can do the same.

Caspian terns
Caspian terns

Tendaba Safari Camp (3 nights)

The dense red and black mangrove swamps and mollusc-rich muddy banks of the Bao Bolong River are protected under the Ramsar convention from the northern border of The Gambia right to its scenic estuarine culmination where it joins the Gambia River.

From our base at Tendaba Safari camp on the opposite shore, we will explore the reserve’s mysterious steamy creeks by boat, getting us up close to avian A-listers such as African finfoot, African blue flycatcher, malachite, pied and blue-breasted kingfishers, goliath heron, African darter and spur-winged lapwing as well as experiencing the prehistoric sounds (and smells!) of egret and cormorant colonies. 

A boat trip takes us to an extraordinary project where a population of chimpanzees has been established from rescued mammals. With luck,hippopotami can be seen in the same area of the Gambia river.

darterSenegal coucal
African darter; Senegal coucal.

Janjanbureh and around (4 nights)

Further inland, amongst Sahelian scrub and savannah grasslands, we’ll meet a whole host of other bird species. Flowering and fruiting trees, such as Pterocarpus erinaceus, red acacia and the iconic baobab, provide a real focal point for wildlife. Here we’ll look for bearded barbet, exclamatory paradise whydah, white-throated, little, blue-cheeked, red-throated and northern carmine bee-eaters. At dusk we may be lucky enough to see Senegal thick-knees and long-tailed nightjars.

For lovers of raptors, simply looking up will bring a constant stream of delights.  The diversity of raptor species in The Gambia is truly phenomenal, with over sixty birds of prey including spectacular creatures like bateleur, dark chanting goshawk, shikra, African harrier hawk and Verreaux’s eagle owl to name just a few.

Greyish eagle owl Dark chanting goshawk
Greyish eagle owl; dark chanting goshawk.

blue-bellied roller black-bellied wood doves
Blue-bellied roller; black-billed wood doves.

Conservation project

Based at Kotu Creek, near Brufut, the Gambia Bird Watchers' Association (on Facebook here) was established in 2007. It provides a headquarters for the area's bird guides and trains the next generation of ornithologists.

In The Gambia, many important forests are still community-owned, and BWA is instrumental in setting up community reserves, training bird guides in the villages and enabling them to benefit from the preservation of forest habitat through ecotourism.


Mangrove: extraordinary intertidal woodland. BWA carries out excellent project-based conservation work, including using local volunteers in the restoration of mangrove swamp habitat. Video of mangrove planting here, supported by Honeyguide.

Holiday details

Price: £3,500 per person in twin or double room for 10 nights (Tuesday to Friday).

Single room supplement: £130

En suite facilities

flights for 2024
Titan Airways through The Gambia Experience (award-winning, October 2022)
3/12/24 Titan Airways ZT791 departing Gatwick at 08:30 arriving Banjul at 15:00
13/12/24 Titan Airways ZT792 departing Banjul at 16:00 arriving Gatwick at 22:15

An immigration security tax of €20 per person (or sterling equivalent) will be collected on arrival and departure from Banjul.

Deposit: £1000

Maximum number (2 leaders): 12 (also there's a maximum of eight rooms for group members)


Simon Tonkin worked as an RSPB Senior Conservation Officer for many years, specialising in the challenging job of stopping the decline of farmland wildlife. He also lectures in ornithology and has been involved in developing ‘fair to nature’ food products.

Niki Williamson was a warden at the RSPB’s Ouse Washes nature reserve, then worked on projects helping farmland birds in the Fens and subsequently managed the RSPB Eastern England’s farm wildlife advisory team.

Both are now full-time nature guides under the name Inglorious Bustards, based in the Strait of Gibraltar and specialising in leading tours all along the East Atlantic Flyway. Local guide Tijan Kanteh is a key part of the Gambia team.

River sailor Citrus swallowtail African tiger
Gambian butterflies can include river sailor, citrus swallowtail, African tiger.

For prices, see Holiday Details at the bottom of the page.

travel aware logo

FCO travel advice for Gambia here, and NHS health advice here.

FCO travel advice for Gambia here,

This is Africa

The Gambia is one of the poorest countries in the world and facilities and what you see will reflect that. We suggest a conversation with the Honeyguide office before you book.

Holiday report, photos, blog

The Gambia 2022 holiday report here

Gambia blog, 'Green tourism: a perspective from The Gambia' (December 2022).

Photos on Facebook December 2022, including two movies of street scenes.

Gambia 2018 holiday report here.

Honeyguider Brennan Aunger's photos from December 2018 on Facebook here.

Abyssian roller

Abyssinian rollers are widespread

spur-winged lapwing

Spur-winged lapwing

coastal fishing

Coastal fishing

red colobus monkey

Red colobus monkey

'with a smile'

'West Africa with a smile'


1) Coastal area probably Tanji Eco-lodge (plan B is Picca Laa eco-lodge) on arrival and before departure.

2) Tendaba Safari Camp (website often not working) ao try Tendaba camp on Facebook

3) Baobolong Guest House in Janjanbureh and their Facebook.

little bee-eater

Little bee-eater

namaqua dove

Namaqua dove

bearded barbet

Bearded barbet

chestnut-bellied starling

Chestnut-bellied starling

Donation 2018: Yankuba Jammeh from the Gambia Bird Watchers' Association says:

"We are grateful for the support and rest assured that the funds will be utilized for the benefit of conservation particularly our efforts to restore the habitats of the Kotu Creek. We will equally like to extend our sincere gratitude to Honeyguide."

Future guides?

Simon Tonkin

Simon Tonkin

Niki Williamson

Niki Williamson

Photos on this page mostly by Simon Tonkin.

Gambian music

Sona Jobarteh on YouTube. Look out for the kora, like a cross between a harp and a lute.

Facebook Honeyguide
... where there are many holiday photos to enjoy.

Atol protected

The air holidays shown are ATOL Protected by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is ATOL 3253. ATOL Protection extends primarily to customers who book and pay in the United Kingdom. Click on the ATOL logo if you want to know more.

Helping you enjoy wildlife – Helping you protect wildlife