Kathryn from our marketing department recently returned from honeymoon in The Gambia and Senegal. Here she shares her photos from Mandina Lodges.
I still remember clearly when I first saw photographs of Mandina Lodges. I had just started working for The Gambia Experience, some 12 years ago. I instantly fell in love with the floating river lodges and dearly hoped to stay there one day. It was more than 10 years before that wish came true, when I accompanied a group of travel bloggers to The Gambia. Please excuse the cliché, Mandina was everything I dreamed it would be and more.
Last September I got married, and of course, Mandina Lodges was the first place that came to mind for our honeymoon. Neill had never shown any interest in visiting The Gambia (or Africa) but when he saw the floating lodges he eagerly agreed. We booked our honeymoon in December, visiting Mandina Lodges, Fathala Wildlife Reserve and Ngala Lodge.
Our honeymoon at Mandina Lodges
I counted down the days until our flight. I really couldn't wait to share Mandina with Neill.
Our welcome there couldn't have been better, as the local baboons walked through the resort stopping periodically to tuck into the oysters hanging from the mangrove roots by our lodge. Neill grinned from ear to ear as baboons wondered by him just a couple of feet away. It was the first time he'd seen baboons and I don't think he'd ever imagined he’d be getting so close to wild animals.
It was only after the baboons had moved on that we went inside our river lodge. With a four-poster bed in the middle of the room and views of the river gently flowing by, it was an idyllic location for the start of our honeymoon.
The following morning, we enjoyed a cup of coffee while watching or, more accurately, listening to the forest awaken from the shaded decking of our lodge. The coffee had been left outside our door, at the time of our choosing, in a thermos flask - such a great idea.
Dining at Mandina
The food at Mandina is excellent. Each day the chef came and found us so he could take our order for that evening. There's usually only a couple of dishes to choose from. The limited choice is due to the lodge's remote location, making supplies harder to acquire, but everything I have eaten here has been very good. If you have any special dietary requirements, I'm sure they can accommodate them, with advanced notice of course.
above: Evening meals can be taken under the thatched open-air dining area or on your private terrace.
Breakfast includes a choice of fruit juices and fresh fruits, as well as a full English breakfast with bread, jam and honey.
One of my favourite dishes at Mandina was the fish cakes from the lunch menu. They really are unbelievably good. I'd also highly recommend Isa's Lemon and Ginger Cooler.
Things to do at Mandina
Each couple at Mandina is assigned a guide who will arrange with you what you would like to do the following day. We opted for a walk through the forest each morning and a ride in a canoe in the late afternoons.
There's plenty of animals to see, as our guide pointed out numerous birds and plants as we wandered through the dappled shade of Makasutu Forest.
above: fruit bats sleeping under a palm leaf near the pool
above: Acraea serena, the dancing acraea
Plenty of butterflies teased me, flitting around, but they were darn hard to capture with my camera.
One of my favourite things to do at Mandina is to head off in the canoes. Our guide pointed out no end of birds as we drifted along the tributaries.
above: heading out along the river to explore the mangroves
above: Long-tailed Cormorant
Periodically we heard a large splash by the boat, but even when we instantly turned around to look in the direction it had come from, we only caught sight of the smallest of splashes. Just this one time, I managed to capture it with my camera, which happened to be pointing in the right direction, as a shoal of fish jumped out of the water.
After a couple of hours, we returned to the lodges as the sun set behind the mangroves.
Relax by the pool or river
In the middle of the day it can be too hot to do anything other than relax. I'm a social media addict and I thought I'd really hate not having an internet connection. But I didn't miss it one bit. I loved being sans Wi-Fi. No emails to answer. No temptation to share a photo (or ten). Instead a good book with a view of the pool or the river.
Markets, beaches and more
We only had a three-night stay here, but there is plenty to keep you occupied during a longer stay. It's easy to arrange visits to local villages, markets and beaches if you wish. One thing we didn't do but I really wish we had, was the Sunset Cruise. Other guests were raving about it.
Within 24 hours of our arrival Neill was already talking about coming back to The Gambia. Just like I had been many years ago, he was hooked.
Visit our website to find out more about planning your West African honeymoon.
A Traditional West African Wedding Celebration Read more
West African honeymoon - Part 2 - Fathala Wildlife Reserve Read more
West African honeymoon - Part 3 - Ngala Lodge Read more