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Q&A with Malick Suso, The Gambia's birdwatching expert

Updated on Jun 16, 2020 by Clarabel Jones

Blog > Q&A with Malick Suso, The Gambia's birdwatching expert

Nobody knows The Gambia’s birdlife like Malick Suso – Chris Packham’s go-to guide when he visits The Gambia. We had a chat to find out his best birding spots and what he loves most about his job.

Malick Suso has over 20 years of experience birdwatching in The Gambia and has been described by Chris Packham as one of the very best birdwatchers in the whole of The Gambia.

Here, he tell us a little more about how his passion for birding began, his popular tours and what species to look out for while birdwatching in The Gambia.

 

Q. How did you get into birdwatching?

A. I’ve been interested in birds since I was about 12 years old. When I grew up I found out my uncle was a keen birdwatcher himself, and after I showed an interest, he started to teach me everything he knew about the birds of The Gambia.

 

Q. How long have you been offering birding tours for?

A. I have been offering birding tours for 24 years now! I know the terrain and where to look for the rare species like no-one else in The Gambia – and I love every moment.

 

Q. Chris Packham speaks very highly of you! How did you come to meet him?

A. Chris Packham has been visiting The Gambia for years. I first met him as a tourist, but found out from him later on that he’d already met loads of my workmates before he met me. Now, I am his preferred guide in The Gambia and we get along very well!

 

Q. Where are the best birdwatching spots?

A. The best places for birdwatching are Mandina Lodges – mainly the mangroves, rice fields and vegetable garden area – Farasuta farmlands and forest, Abuko Forest Reserve’s rice field and park, Penyem Forest, Marakissa Stream, Sifoe woods and Tujereng woods.

Brufut Forest is also still good for birdlife, as are Kartong farmlands and the sand mining area.

When it comes to hotels, Senegambia Hotel’s large gardens attract lots of birdlife, and Bakotu Hotel has its own birdwatching deck overlooking Kotu Stream where you can see monkeys, monitor lizards and over 50 species of bird.


Bakotu Hotel's birdwatching deck

 

Q. What is the best time of year for birdwatching?

A. All year round really; at any time of the year some birds with be leaving The Gambia but others will just be arriving.

Birds are at their most colourful from July until December, which is the main breeding season.

 

Q. What sort of birdlife can people expect to see in The Gambia?

A. My guests are always surprised at the amount of birdlife that can be seen when you’re not in a rush.

Birds to look out for include the wader, kingfisher, African darter, hammerkopf, rare golden-tailed woodpecker, white-faced scops owl, long-tailed nightjar and the bittern – and many more!


Pied Kingfisher

 

Q. What do you love the most about your job?

A. I love how my hobby has become my job. Even when I don’t have any guests to show around, I am still happy to go birdwatching, because I find it very healthy for me to be outside in nature, doing what I enjoy.

 

Q. In your opinion, what makes The Gambia special?

A. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise, with over 540 species to look out for. Plus, wherever you decide to go birdwatching, you’re never more than a 40-minute drive away from the main resort areas. Beginners will also find a lot of pleasure in spotting our colourful birds and may discover a new hobby!

But even if you’re not interested in birdwatching, you will fall in love with The Gambia’s friendly, welcoming people and beautiful culture.
 

 

 

DISCOVER MORE WITH MALICK

We can arrange half or full-day birdwatching tours with Malick either before you travel or on arrival.

Explore a variety of habitats and use his invaluable local knowledge to seek out the rarest and most colourful species!

Here's what some of our happy customers had to say about their tours with Malick:
 

"The Gambia is one of the best places in Africa to go birdwatching, and to get out into the field with the legendary guide Malick Suso is an experience I’ll never forget. A really inspiring day hiking in the bush with plenty to see and never a dull moment. Malick is simply the best."
 

"It was not only Malick's superb knowledge and awesome skill in locating, spotting and calling up birds that made our time with him so special. In addition to this it was also his passion for sharing his understanding of the people and culture of his country as we ventured 'up river' and away from the coast. He showed great initiative and flexibility in being sensitive to our needs, to give us the trip we really wanted. We learnt a great deal and had lots of fun in the process!"

 

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