Kanika: Poet. Lover of Words. One who tells the stories of the mundane and inanimate. Bearer of Light, Water, and Sky.
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A few weekends ago, I had the privilege to attend Gambia's first International Bird Watching Festival. Every year birdwatchers from all over the world travel to the Gambia, as it is considered a prime location to spot some of the world’s most beautiful birds. Gambia is home to nearly 570 species of birds comprised of native and migratory species; a pure delight for bird enthusiasts.
The first two days of the festival were held at Tendaba Camp, Gambia’s premier up-country lodge. I really enjoyed my stay at Tendaba Camp. The camp has an amazing view of the River Gambia giving way to tranquil scenery. Also, it was just really nice to take a break from my daily bucket baths and take an actual shower! The highlight of the festival for me was a boat ride down the River Gambia. Lined with beautiful mangroves, the River Gambia is a thriving ecosystem full of wildlife. Here I met Ed Hutchings, journalist and avid bird watcher of the UK. Ed is quite hilarious and it was an amazing feeling watching him and the other experts get excited about their sightings and quickly identify the species and calls of birds. I was extremely impressed with the Gambian bird guides for their professionalism and expert knowledge. Throughout the tour they demonstrated calls and identified birds that we spotted along the river. They were also extremely patient with novice birdwatchers like me and by the end of the trip that “pretty blue bird” became the Abyssinian Roller.
To say that two days of bird watching had a profound impact on me would be an understatement. Once I returned back to my village I found that I had an increased awareness and curiosity about the birds in my environment. I was even able to identify the Northern Red Bishop and the Long Tailed Glossy Starling, two birds I had noticed prior to the festival due to their beautiful plumage. I would very much like to start a bird watching club at my school in the next few months.
Special thanks the the Gambia Tourism Board for granting me with the opportunity to see more of the Gambia and learn a little bit more about why they call it The Smiling Coast of Africa!