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Bird Safari Camp
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Reviewed 18 January 2013

My wife and I visited The Gambia over Christmas and New Year 2012/13. Our itinerary was arranged through Hidden Gambia Holidays which is owned and operated by Mark Thompson. We arrived in The Gambia on Christmas day and spent our first four days on the coast in Hisbisus House, a lovely boutique hotel in Brufut away from the main tourist areas. Our itinerary then took us on a journey up the river Gambia mainly by boat. This was a fantastic two day journey spent in the company of a small group of fellow travellers (9 of us in total) with an overnight stay at Tendaba camp. This was a very peaceful and relaxing way to see the real Gambia where very few tourists go. Our second night was due to be spent at Bird Safari camp but due to operationl resons we were redirected to Baolong Annexe in Georgetown. Here we were met in person by Mark Thompson and his wife who made us very welcome. The following day was New Year's eve. The morning was spent leisurely either exploring Georgetown and it's history with one of Mark's wonderful staff or going bird watching with one of his very knowledgable guides. Mid afternoon we were taken by Mark and his staff down by the river where they had set up a lounging and dining area by the water. We spent the rest of the day socialising with our fellow travellers, Mark, his wife and staff. As darkness decended, a bonfire was lit and later we had a sumptious BBQ and banquet befitting the occasion. We were entertained by African drumming provided by the staff and celebrated and danced our way to midnight and into 2013. What a fantastic way to celebrate New Year! The next day we travelled back to the coast arriving at Hibiscus House in time for dinner. We spent our last three days there exploring the coast from north to south. The whole trip was co-ordinated by Hidden Gambia from airport pick up to drop off and went without a hitch. We certainly had a fantastic holiday we shall remember for a long time to come. Thanks to Mark and all his team.

  • Stayed: December 2012, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank TJPoole
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 October 2012

Spent 8 days in The Gambia in May and am only now getting around to submitting this review... better late than never! Mark Thompson, the owner/operator of Hidden Gambia Holidays and Bird Safari Camp, arranged our trip from start to finish and on very short notice. We could not have asked for better service or a better host. We began our stay with a couple of days at the Lemon Creek Hotel Resort in Bijilo and used that as a base for trips to Serekunda, Banjul, and Tanjir. The resort is a pretty little place with nice clean rooms and a terrific staff who go out of their way to be friendly and welcoming. We made part of the journey up river by boat (with one stretch on the Solar Queen and one on the Lady Hippo), and the other part by road (one stretch on the South Bank and one on the North Bank). We stayed at Tendaba Lodge on the way up river. This accommodation is VERY basic, but we enjoyed a great boat trip into the Baobalong wetlands and a bird-watching hike with Ebrima, as well as having the chance to watch the Euro Champions league final with folks from the village (Chelsea has some BIG fans in The Gambia). As we traveled up river we saw chimps, hippos, and lots and lots of birds, of course. We then spent a couple of nights at Bird Safari Camp with just two other guests (a big advantage of traveling at low season) and had a wonderful stay. We went fishing for tiger fish (but didn't catch any), visited Janjanbureh town, went to Basse Quarry to see the bee-eaters, and spent half a day in a small village across the river. Anything we were interested in doing, the staff was there to help us. The tent-style accommodation was great (we can vouch for the fact that it holds up well in a thunderstorm) as was the food. But most of our good memories of out time in The Gambia revolve around the people we met there. We are already looking at plans to return and visiting BSC again.

Room Tip: The tents by the river are great.
  • Stayed: May 2012, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank Brenda K K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 March 2012

This is a great place to stay. I came here in late February for 3 nights, mainly for bird photography, after spending 6 nights at the coast. It's a long but interesting journey by minibus (2) and boats(2) and we arrived on the Lady Hippo after dark to a warm welcome and some great Gambian cooking by Binta. We were lucky to arrive 2 weeks before Mark, the owner's, wedding, and , along with his Mum and other guests, we helped him celebrate in advance. The wine and beer never ran out and the drumming and dancing lit up one of the evenings.

We met some wonderful people, the tents beside the Gambia River were great, the composting toilets were pretty much odourless and the beds very comfortable. Apart from a few sandflies, the insects were almost non-existent too - the NE breeze and dry atmosphere no doubt keeping them away. The swimming pool, filled with river water, which we thought might be a bit 'iffy' was in fact very pleasant indeed and well used whilst we were there. My Dutch neighbours had a small shock when returning to their tent one evening, to find a rather large Monitor Lizard lounging outside - all part of the rich scenery here! We watched Hippos from the boat, found an Eagle Owl roosting near the Camp and spent two hours getting very close to over 100 pairs of Red Thoated Bee-eaters at Bansang Quarry - all feeding young. For keen birdwatchers, Wassu turned up a Light Bellied Bustard on our return trip - a bit of a rarity in Gambia; worth searching for instead of looking at the stone circles.

Hard to think how the camp could be improved - it is certainly a cut above Tendaba down the river which, although great for birds too, looks rather depressing when approached by boat! I hear it's not that bad, but first impressions can be important. It could do with a major refurbishment.

Mark runs a logistically difficult operation at Hidden Gambia, but it seems to work well. We did suffer from a 1 hour late pick up on returning to the airport which left everyone a bit breathless and one of the mini-buses we were provided with at the coast was a bit of a wreck (dodgy brakes, crunching gear box, dented side, bald tyres, no seat belts, completely ineffective headlights etc etc) but the standard of driving was pretty good and it didn't break down! A slightly more modern vehicle would certainly increase the confidence levels of European travellers.

Other than that - I have nothing but praise for Bird Safari Camp and Hidden Gambia. I expect to return quite soon!

Room Tip: Go for the tents rather than the huts
  • Stayed: February 2012, travelled with friends
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6  Thank PeteD012
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 March 2012

I can't really add much more to the 2 reviews before this one. Bird Safari Camp is a lovely experience, the river trip to get to the camp, the o/n in Tendaba camp and the people at the camp itself. I agree that the tents, half canvas and half brick with a royal throne room! are fantastic to stay in. Ours had local women outside most days, sitting by the river washing clothes and drying them on the bushes outside our tent.
We enjoyed the bird watching trips and the boat trips up river.

Room Tip: The tents are best and take 'mossie' stuff.
  • Stayed: February 2012, travelled with friends
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4  Thank boxtree
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 March 2012

We stayed here as part of a trip organised by Mark, the owner. It's well worth the trip, and I'd really recommend you come by boat. Mark organises it all and it's very well put together. The trip up river involves two minibuses and two boats (one solar powered), but it all worked like clockwork for us and the staff were great.
The safari camp is peaceful and in a beautiful setting, right by the river. I'm not that into birdwatching but it's hard not to enjoy it there, as the birds are all so colourful.
Althought it's a camp - there are beds and (compost) loos - it's not the glamping you get in some other places in Africa. This isn't a criticism - everything is perfectly adequate and we were really impressed by the eco-friendliness of it all - take a look at the veggie garden if you go. In a very understated way we felt that Mark was really doing a lot to support the local people.
We had some great entertainment - a sunset boat trip with hippos and sundowners and an evening with a local musician. The guides are realy good too. And so is the food.
All the guests eat together to it's a nice opportunity to meet people.
If I went back to the Gambia I would definitely go back - it was so much nicer than anywhere down on the coast...

Room Tip: Don't forget the mossie repellent, and have it handy if you are travelling there by boat as you'll get there late in the day.
  • Stayed: January 2012, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank queeenofcakes59
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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