Kathryn from our marketing department recently returned from honeymoon in The Gambia and Senegal. Here she shares her experience of Fathala Wildlife Reserve.
Having had a wonderful start to our honeymoon at Mandina Lodges, we were excited to now be heading to Gambia's next door neighbour, Senegal. The first thing we had to do was cross the River Gambia on the Banjul to Barra ferry. It's a trip I've done before, but a new experience for Neill. While our guide looked after our luggage, we ventured upstairs where it was less crowded to get a better view.
The drive to the border, and then Fathala Wildlife Reserve, doesn't take long at all, and we were soon settled into our air-conditioned safari tent with a huge four poster bed, wooden floors, en-suite bathroom and open-air shower. My kind of camping!
That afternoon we headed out into the reserve. At this time of year, the grass is long, so I was a little worried about how many animals we’d get to see, but luckily those worries were completely unfounded.
A small herd of Burchell's zebras were one of the first groups we spotted. They were completely unfazed by our presence, apart from a youngster that was just a month old. He (or she) sensibly hid amongst the adults, peeping out at us, before finally gaining confidence and coming out into full view.
A small family of giraffes were fun to watch, chewing the cud while Yellow-billed Oxpeckers kept their fur parasite free.
Another memorable figure that we encountered on a number of occasions was the magnificent white rhino.
Saving the Western Derby Eland
We saw a number of different antelope species during our stay, but the highlight was the Western Derby Eland (Taurotragus derbianus derbianus). There is another herd in the Bandia Reserve near Dakar and, together with the University of Prague, the two reserves are fighting to save this magnificent and critically endangered sub-species of eland, one of the largest antelopes in the world.
Seeing them was an absolute joy and privilege, and it's heart-breaking to know that the Western Derby Eland is now only found in the wild in Niokolo Koba National Park in Senegal, where there are an estimated 170 adults. The decline in numbers is believed to be due to poaching and grazing competition from the local livestock.
Plans are currently being drawn up to set up a new breeding herd in Niokolo Koba, made up of individuals bred in Bandia and Fathala.
What makes Fathala so special to me, in addition to the Western Derby Eland conservation, is how there are no fences keeping the animals away from the accommodation, other than around the communal area which includes the small swimming pool. To reach the main lodge from your tent, you walk along a raised walkway, which the animals can come right up to (including the rhino which can be a little hair-raising).
We both loved watching the antics of the warthogs, groups of which always seemed to be nearby. When we first arrived, a couple came right up to me as I stood on the walkway. They seemed as curious about me, as I was about them. I had to check Neill’s suitcase before we left in case he’d popped a baby warthog inside; he was rather taken with them.
To find out more about holidays to Fathala Wildlife Reserve, visit our website.
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