Mandina Lodges

Unique   The Unique Collection

The Gambia  |  Makasutu

Lowest price package

Tue 19 May 2015 - 7 nights

from £1090 £949pp (based on 2 sharing)

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Next departure date

Fri 08 May 2015 - 11 nights

from £1368 £1149pp (based on 2 sharing)

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There is simply nothing quite like Mandina. Hidden away in the african bush on a mangrove-lined tributary of the River Gambia, it has its own special atmosphere that gradually works its way into you over the course of your stay - and for many, a few days just isn't enough.

The excellent quality, riverside Mandina Lodges at Makasutu Forest offer an unforgettable experience, with the chance to discover the people and wildlife of The Gambia that have made the forest their home: the amazing birdlife, monkeys, monitor lizards and ever-increasing troupes of baboons. Mandina Lodges is featured in the book '1001 Escapes To Make Before You Die' which is a guide for those in search of the world's most unusual and beautiful places. The owner, Lawrence Williams was also presented with the National Order of The Gambia by the President in April 2012.

During the day you can choose to relax by the large pool, blissfully soaking up the atmosphere, disturbed only by birdsong and the hum of chattering monkeys; or take advantage of the expert guides provided, to explore the forest and mangroves on foot or by canoe. Why not wander over to Base Camp with another freeform pool to enjoy along with an impressive three-storey viewing tower overlooking the creek? In the evening, enjoy a refreshing drink in the bar area overlooking the mangroves, whilst meeting new friends and sharing stories of your experiences that day. Dinner is served al fresco in one of the thatched dining areas, and sometimes the fire is lit with the dancing flames creating a magical mood. Please note that, due to the remote location, menus are simple but of a good standard.

There are nine lodges, maintaining an exclusive yet slightly rustic feel, all built to a high standard, largely from local materials, and are extremely impressive and comfortable. As you would expect in this rural setting they come equipped with fewer practicalities than mainstream hotels, however we believe this simply adds to the charm of the lodges and offers an authentic bush experience. There are three styles of lodge – the spacious Jungle lodges with private roof terrace are set back from the river close to the restaurant/bar and pool area, whilst the popular river lodges are either floating or on stilts. The Mangrove Lodge which enjoys a large terrace and is located beyond the jungle lodges on a small inlet nestled in the mangroves. Each lodge has a private but roofless bathroom along with flushing toilet in Jungle and Mangrove lodges and composting toilet in Floating/Stilted lodges (these are inspired by Swedish log cabins and are of a very acceptable standard). The impressive Stilted Lodge is on two floors with separate bedroom, outside deck and lounge area on the lower level plus upstairs day room. Fans are employed instead of electricity sapping air-conditioning and, following substantial investment, solar power is now used most of the time.

Situated just 45 minutes from the coastal resorts on a tributary of the River Gambia, the 1000 acre Makasutu Cultural Forest is the result of 20 years’ hard work by two Englishmen who were inspired by the beauty of the area and motivated to return and build unique accommodation.  James English sadly passed away in 2011, however Lawrence Williams continues to have a big presence at Mandina (along with his much-loved pet dogs and cats!) and is well known to our many repeat guests, and we are delighted that James' former wife, Linda English, has decided to make Mandina her home and the property continues to benefit from her 'woman's touch'!

The focus has always been on ensuring the local population benefits from the forest and emphasis has been placed on using local materials and employing staff from the surrounding village communities. This means that service is very friendly but perhaps not as polished as in some resorts. There are also strong links between the Makasutu Wildlife Trust and the Gardens for Life programme sponsored by The Eden Project in Cornwall. The owners are also involved in organising a project called 'Wide Open Walls' which involves international street artists offering their talents within the Ballabu Conservations Area. In 2010 they first painted the village of Kubeneh, which can be visited from Mandina and is well worth seeing. The project has gone from strength to strength and international artists dedicate time each year, with the ultimate objective of creating an area of cultural interest to visitors which will help support the villages in the future.

We believe a stay at Mandina provides a unique chance to experience the real Africa in comfortable and striking surroundings and, for some, a short break simply isn't enough and we can provide plenty of ideas of how to fill your time there, as well as simply relaxing by the enormous pool. The lodges are easily accessible, only 30 minutes from the airport and guests can spend their whole holiday at Mandina or for longer stays combine with a coastal hotel.  Alternatively, why not consider a visit to the Chimp Rehabilitation Project Camp, 3 and a half hours inland from Mandina?

Chris Packham, ornithologist, presenter of the BBC's Springwatch and Autumnwatch, and frequent visitor to The Gambia, stayed at Mandina for the first time in 2010 and now returns each year to lead a private tour for our guests. He calls it "a slice of Gambian paradise: beautiful lodges, luxurious pool, amazing food and a tranquil river setting - all topped off with unrivalled hospitality. It's also home to a great diversity of wildlife which is easy to enjoy from boat or bank."

Mandina Lodges accept children 10 years and over - as the property is by the river, parents must supervise children at all times. Please note that there is little in the way of entertainment for children, however the wildlife holds appeal for all age groups.

The standard excursion programme is not possible from Mandina, however, for a supplement, why not enjoy a romantic Sunset Cruise in your private dugout canoe complete with bottle of wine, to see amazing egret colonies roosting and other wildlife settling down for the night? The tranquillity of the area as well as the changing colours of the river as the sun sets will stay with you.  You may also want to try your hand at fishing - either by boat (we recommend you bring your rods if you are a keen angler), or amateurs have also had success simply fishing off the pontoons of the floating lodges or jetty.  The chef is more than happy to cook anything of substance that you catch for your dinner.

 

Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence

 

Hotel Facilities

  • Large pool and sun terraces
  • Bar and al fresco dining areas
  • Dug-out canoes
  • Forest guides
  • Optional Sunset Cruise / river fishing excursions (payable locally)
  • Visits to 'Wide Open Walls' street art project (payable locally)
  • No credit card facilities
  • 9 lodges

Lodge Facilities

  • Four-poster bed
  • Fan
  • Safety deposit box
  • Mosquito nets
  • UK 3 pin sockets
  • Tea/coffee delivered to your lodge each morning
  • No energy-sapping air-conditioning or fridge/minibar. Solar power is used where possible

Activities

  • Free guided forest walk and river trip by traditional West African pirogue
  • Fishing from the jetty (basic rods for hire or bring your own)
  • Walk to Base Camp with its impressive viewing tower and Makasutu craft centre
  • Other private excursions can be arranged on request, such as Brikama market (payable locally)
  • Please note that the standard excursion programme is not possible from Mandina

Cuisine Information

Set in a peaceful location under the shelter of an impressive straw and canvas lodge, Mandina's restaurant serves a variety of fresh, tasty Gambian dishes and local fish in a well-presented manner.

100% of customers rated this hotel as good or excellent. Based on 18 reviews.

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Rooms at Mandina Lodges

Jungle Lodge

From £949pp

Sleeps up to 3 

 Minimum child age: 10  

  More Information

Mangrove Lodge

From £999pp

Sleeps up to 2 

 Minimum child age: 10  

  More Information

Floating Lodge

From £1,049pp

Sleeps up to 2 

 Minimum child age: 10  

  More Information

Stilted Lodge

From £1,115pp

Sleeps up to 2 

 Minimum child age: 10  

  More Information

Hotel & Local Restaurants

Opening dates are subject to change and beyond our control.

Hotel

view across the swimming pool by night

Mandina's Restaurant

International Cuisine

OPEN END OCT - MID JUN

More information

 

Mandina Questions and Answers

Q. Are mosquitoes a problem?
A. Not once the rainy season is over, and by December there are hardly any; in fact often fewer than at beachside hotels which use sprinklers to water the gardens leaving pools of fresh water. This is because the river here is tidal salt water, not fresh water swamp, as is often associated with mangroves. It is always advisable, though, to wear insect repellent, especially at dusk.

Q. Are the baboons vicious?
A. Not at all, although in large numbers on the move they can look intimidating. Just don't keep food in your lodge or leave anything outside, especially in the open air bathrooms. They don't come out when it's dark, so are nothing to worry about. We have men here whose sole job it is to try to keep them away from the lodges during the daylight hours. Our pet dogs provide an effective warning system.

Q. Can we swim in the river?
A. We advise against it: strong tidal currents, stingrays and the odd crocodile could be encountered.

Q. Can we go fishing?
A. The river is a wonderful fishing ground and guests have done very well from floating lodges 3 and 4, but if you are serious about the sport, please bring your own rods etc.
If you just want to 'have a go', Max, our boatman, will rig a hand line up for you, but we do make a small charge for the line, hooks and weights etc. as so many get lost. For bait people usually buy a few prawns from the kitchen, although some have success using just bread.

Q. Can our guide take us fishing in the canoe?
A. No, because constant paddling, especially when a tide is running, is totally exhausting. Also other guests might want to use the canoes. Fishing trips in our motor boat cost £25 an hour from the start of fishing.

Q. Are there lots of creepy crawlies?
A. Well, we are in a forest so obviously there are lots of insects and reptiles there, and monitor lizards and geckos are frequently seen near the lodges. It is, however, rare to see a snake, a giant snail or a land crab outside the rainy season.
None of the insects you are likely to encounter in the grounds will do you harm and the lodges are sprayed every night while guests are having dinner.

Q. Do you have wifi?
A. Sadly not. So far no-one has come up with a reasonable plan or price for installing it. You can, however, get a connection to the internet on your smart phone, although it is intermittent. If it is important that you contact home and you encounter a problem, Lawrence or Linda will try to help you.

Q. Do you accept credit cards?
A. No, we have no landline or wifi to enable this.

Q. Which currency is accepted for payment?
A. We accept Dalasi or any strong currency at the Central Bank rate, which, of course, can be subject to change. If you want to have some local currency for use here, we suggest you change your money at the airport in Banjul. Even if you find someone to provide it in the UK, you will probably get a very bad rate of exchange.

Q. Can I use an electric kettle or a hairdryer?
A. We run on solar and generator, and although we rarely have a time without power, we don't have enough for everyone to plug in an electric kettle. You can borrow a hairdryer if you need one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q. Can I drink the tap water?
A. lot of people do. Our water comes from a borehole and most will use it for cleaning their teeth but tend to drink bottled water just to be on the safe side.

Q. What clothes will I need?
A. It depends on the time of year but it is advisable to bring a sweater or light jacket as the evenings, after a warm day in the sun, can sometimes feel chilly, especially from December to March. During these months we use the fire pit, where guests can sit around, chat and have a drink after dinner. It's advisable to wear sturdy shoes or sandals for walking in the forest, not particularly because of insects but because of thorns on fallen palm leaves. A hat is essential - we have had a few cases of mild sunstroke because people have refused to wear one when the sun is high. Dress is always casual.

Q. What about tipping?
A. Obviously this is optional but much appreciated by the staff. We ask guests to tip their guide, their housekeeper and their waiters individually and then most people leave something for the back of house staff which is distributed to all those behind the scenes once a month. All tipping is done at the end of your stay except, perhaps, for a one-off service which the guest feels should be rewarded.

Q. How much should I leave?
A. That is left entirely to your own discretion. If you would like any guidance on this, please ask Linda during your stay.

Q. Do we have our own guide?
A. Yes, you will have a designated guide who will arrange all trips, walks etc. after consulting you.

Q. Do I have to pay for canoe trips etc.?
A. No. All our guides, who are superb at helping spot birds and other wildlife, are paid by us but you can show your appreciation by your tip at the end of your stay. There are a few excursions by motor boat (eg the Sunset Cruise) for which you have to pay extra, or, of course, if you want to use a taxi. We have selected safe drivers with decent cabs which we can book on your behalf. Again, all such charges are paid at the end of your stay.

Q. Can we use our guide for a day's excursion outside Makasutu?
A. Yes, by arrangement with the General Manager. It is, of course, expected that you provide food and drinks for him during the trip, plus transport home if you get back to Mandina after dark.

Q. How much is the Sunset Cruise?
A. We charge £75 per couple for the 2.5 - 3 hour trip, accompanied by your guide and our boatman. This includes a bottle of our South African house wine. Details are in each lodge and it can be booked ahead or when you arrive. We have a small boat which takes up to four people and a larger one for up to 12 guests. We can't guarantee sole use of a boat if we are busy but we do our best to accede to all our guests' requests.

Q. Do you cater for vegetarians?
A. Yes. Please make known to our Head Chef any special dietary requirements about which we might not have been informed. We don't have a written menu; it changes every day.

Q. Can you cater for special occasions?
A. Yes, provided arrangements are made in advance. In fact, because we have only nine lodges, we would be more than happy to take groups who could take over the whole complex. Mandina is not suitable, though, for very formal occasions.