Africa, a bit like the number 9 bus; you wait years to make a trip and two come along together; hot on the heels of Ethiopia, we were suddenly faced with the prospect of spending February in Borisland. so time to try the Western side of the continent in one of Africa's smallest countries: the Gambia.

It is all to easy to find you have crossed the border into Senegal, the country surrounding Gambia on all sides, so we will fit in a trip there too to explore their wildlife.

Quite a few visitors come here for the fantastic birdlife on offer so we started off in a jungle lodge well known to twitchers worldwide.

Now these guys take birdwatching very seriously hunting down as yet unseen species to regail their families back home, marching out at first dawn and again in the evening lugging massive lenses and binoculars assuming any visiting namby pamby amateurs will be satisfied with the sunset cruise and a bottle of wine. Very good it was too, the wine, with entertainment from a few (genuine) old crocs slumbering on the mudbanks, women collecting oysters from the mangrove banks and, as a finale, the gathering of the feathered clans seeking to secure a roost for the night on a huge half-dead leafless tree: waves of cormorants, egrets and sundry other species (don't as me) swarmed in above our heads as the gloom turned to night, magical.

As we returned to our creek for the night, the full weirdness of our accommodation revealed itself, several of the stilted bungalows sported upturned Thai style roofs and the dining room looked like a Kentish oast house with three very tall conical towers of matted palm leaves.

Birdsong is of course almost constant but there was in addition a sound we could not initially identify until we gazed up from our dining table to see dozens of fruitbats clinging to the rafters. Now I have enjoyed fruitbat curry in the Seychelles but it has usually been included before the curry is served rather than being dropped from a great height at the last minute not egg drop soup but bat drop curry) as they occasionally became dislodged from their roosts.

After all this excitement, time to retire to our 'jungle lodge', for a peaceful night's sleep. 'Oh yes', cried our host,'don't worry about the baboons or cats (not big cats but domestic ones), they're harmless, oh if you hear a crashing through the undergrowth, that will be the resident cow'. She didn't mention the family of large spiders that rushed in when we unbolted to door to the outside shower. At least we never set eyes on the allegedly common black mambas.

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