Getting To Fathala
Next we wanted to take a day trip into Senegal.The best bet seemed to be a visit to the Fathala Reserve. However this was not as simple as we had expected.
The Gambia is a small thin country either side of the Gambia river. It is surrounded by Senegal so we assumed it would be an easy journey. We finally found someone who would take us to the Fathala game reserve, a day trip not recommended for the elderly – well ignore that to start with! We later found out that the reason it was hard is because many operators are currently refusing to use the Banjul to Barra ferry, the only sensible way to get across the river and on to Senegal, because of safety concerns. However we were blissfully unaware of this as we left in the very early morning for Banjul.
We arrived at the ferry terminal on time but we had to hang around for about an hour before we could board, a common occurrence apparently. Luckily our guide got us on quickly and we got a seat so we could people watch the crowded chaos around us.
The boat ride took about an hour. We watched people begging and others selling a random assortment of items from bags. Colgate toothpaste seemed popular- no idea why! Eventually we landed at Barra and our 4WD took us to the border with Senegal. Getting in was easy we only had to hang about for a few minutes sitting in the Jeep while our passports were checked and then we drove on to the reserve. The road was straight and in quite good condition. Unsurprisingly the country side didn’t change at all. The only real difference we found was the language. Gambians all speak English as well as their tribal language ( our guides spoke Mandinka). In Senegal every one speaks French. The Gambia has no large animals but the reserve in Senegal has animals imported from South Africa.
We knew the time of year wasn’t the best for seeing much wildlife but we really just wanted the adventure of a trip to another country.
At the Reserve
We drove around the reserve in our Jeep looking for wildlife. The driver tried really hard but we saw a lot more termite mounds than wild animals. I also got bitten by insects a lot!
But we were allowed to stand up as the Jeep hurtled across the bush, very Indiana Jones. All our bruises were definitely worth it. No health and safety rules to spoil the fun.
Not Walking with Lions
There was the option to walk with lions. A fantastic photo opportunity billed as a chance to interact with young lions in their natural habitat. However either the lions are tame and no danger or they are wild and its not safe! I decided that it was probably safe, killing your tourists isn’t good business. So the lions were tame and young enough not to be a danger but lions should not be tame and safe to walk with they should be wild and free. Then they are worth seeing.
We didn’t do it.