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 individually, and leave a general tip to be divided amongst our 40 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.