Why New Birdwatchers Will Love The Gambia

Whether you’re a new birdwatcher or have been doing it for years, with over 600 recorded species, birdwatching in The Gambia is perfect. You don’t need to hire a guide, visit a national park or even leave your hotel; birds in The Gambia are so easy to spot.

A male red-cheeked cordon bleu

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. My Path To Travel also participates in other affiliate programs and receives compensation for providing these companies with traffic. See My Path To Travel Disclaimer for more information.

Why The Gambia Is Good For New Birdwatchers 

If you’re a new birdwatcher just starting out on your birding journey, there’s a good chance you may feel intimidated by more experienced birders. They might look the part. Safari clothes, pocketed waistcoats, books and binoculars. And they may speak about birds you’ve never heard of but wish you had.

But everyone has to start somewhere. And if you’re just getting into birdwatching, The Gambia is a great place to start.

The Gambia is geared up for all birdwatchers from novice to experienced. You can hire a guide, take a trip with a group, or watch the birds with the peace of your own company. At Kotu stream, you’re likely to see young children becoming interested and enjoying the birds. I’ve watched people get into a boat at Kotu stream with no real interest in birds and get off the boat excited by what they’ve just seen.

Birdwatching in The Gambia can be as straightforward or as complicated as you want to make it. You could take a trip upriver. Or you can sit back by the pool and watch the birds come to you. 

What You Need To Watch Birds In The Gambia

Birdwatching doesn’t need to be expensive. Most people say you should have binoculars to go birdwatching. But in the beginning, you won’t know what you need, the specifications or what’s out there. I’ve been birdwatching for many years, but I struggle to use binoculars because I wear bifocals. So I use my camera instead. I like nothing more than trying to get a good photo of a bird. Or, worst case, a non-blurry shot that I can use to identify the birds I’ve seen.

There’s just one thing I recommend to get the most out of birdwatching, and that’s a good bird book. I looked long and hard before I left for The Gambia (and Senegal) before deciding on the Helm Field Guide.

It’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny. The book has drawings rather than photos and features more than 680 species, including species found in Senegal.

Birds of Senegal and The Gambia book

The Best Bird Book For Your Trip To Senegal or The Gambia

Weighing just 610 grams (21 ounces), Senegal and The Gambia Birds is a well-organized, easy-to-use bird book. In addition, I can vouch for it being an outstanding bird book for the area. It made a huge difference to my birding trip around Senegal and The Gambia.

Colourful Birds Of The Gambia

Even none birders may become interested in the colourful and diverse birds, which can be seen from almost anywhere, including your sun lounger by the pool. And as you can see, there are plenty of opportunities for colourful bird photography.

You don’t need to venture very far to spot beautiful birds in The Gambia. Most of the birds shown in this post were photographed in and around hotel grounds. 

When Is The Best Time Of Year For Bird Watching In The Gambia?

Bird watching in The Gambia during the dry season from Mid November to early June is fantastic. There are plenty of resident birds, but many migrant birds make The Gambia their home during the European winter.

Birdwatching can be very hit and miss. Some days you’ll be amazed by the number of different birds you see. Other days they may give you a wide berth. But you have very high chances of spotting lots of birds in The Gambia every day. And you don’t have to go very far to see them. 

If you like birding you’ll love these books, 18 of The Best Bird Books With The Most Stunning Photos.

Which Are The Best Hotels For Birdwatchers In The Gambia? 

Take a look at this article, Why You Should Use Booking.com, for all the reasons why booking.com is the best online hotel booking service.


Hibiscus House, Brufut, The Best Hotel For Birders Who Like A Quiet Location

Hibiscus House is a small, friendly, family-run boutique hotel in the village of Brufut. Sarah, the owner, took over Hibiscus House after years of neglect by the previous owners. She has lovingly turned it around, and it’s now a wonderful place to stay if you prefer to be away from the resort hotels.

Hibiscus House is a haven for birds. Sunbirds, parrots, weavers, finches, and so many more bird species stop by for food, a dip and a drink in the regularly filled water bowls scattered around the garden. The garden at Hibiscus House is smaller but better for bird watching than the other hotel gardens I visited. It’s a paradise for birders but especially people new to birdwatching. You’ll be undisturbed whilst you enjoy identifying, and if you’re lucky, photographing the birds.

Brufut village is small and friendly. If you’d like to meet local Gambians with no bumsters insight, Brufut is the place to see people as they are. I’m sure you won’t get very far without people waving and saying hello.

The dining area of Hibiscus House, Brufut. A white clothed table is set for two people
A bedroom at Hibiscus House, The Gambia

It’s a leisurely stroll from Hibiscus House down to Tanji bird reserve and the beach, where you will see people going about their fishing life without crowds of tourists. And, of course, you’re likely to see lots of birds along the way.

Whilst Hibiscus House is in a quiet area, it’s just a cheap taxi or minivan ride away from the Senegambia Strip. So you can have the best of both worlds. A relaxing, peaceful place to stay and nightlife not too far away if you want it.

Three hooded vultures stood on the grass looking into the distance
Hooded Vultures In The Garden Of The Senegambia Beach Hotel

Senegambia Beach Hotel, The Best Hotel For Birdwatchers Who Also Want Nightlife

If you’re looking for bars, restaurants, nightclubs and happy hour, the Senegambia Strip is the place to go. But birds are also big fans of The Strip.

At the end of The Strip, Senegambia Beach Hotel has extensive gardens that attract birds, monitor lizards and monkeys.

Whilst I didn’t stay at the Senegambia Beach Hotel, I wandered around the grounds a couple of times and saw some beautiful birds. And there are always plenty of vultures around as they are fed daily by hotel staff.

You can also have a drink or dinner at the bars and restaurants inside the Senegambia Beach Hotel. But, it’s just down the road from all bars and restaurants of the Senegambia Strip if you prefer.

A bar restaurant on the Senegambia Strip
Senegambia Strip

Bakoutu Beach Hotel: For Birders Who Want To Be Close To Kotu Stream

Bakotu Beach Hotel is just across the road from Kotu beach and is the best quality hotel in Kotu. The hotel’s not small, but it still feels friendly and welcoming.

We had an apartment overlooking Kotu creek. The apartment had everything you would need, and it was spacious and spotless.

Ask for an upstairs apartment so you can watch the birds and monkeys from your balcony.

The sun rising over Kotu Stream, The Gambia
Sunrise At Kotu Stream

Where Is The Gambia?

The Gambia is a small country in West Africa, measuring 11,295 km² with 2.4 million people.

It’s known as The Smiling Coast, although the actual Atlantic coastline is relatively small. Most people visit The Gambia for the sea and sunshine and spend their time around Kotu and Kololi. But it’s easy to get out and about to see other parts of the country.

You can even cross the border into Senegal, which I highly recommend. 

Pink backed pelican with reflection
Pink-Backed Pelican

Are You Ready To Go Birding In The Gambia? 

Whether you’re an experienced or new bird watcher, The Gambia is an excellent choice for your next holiday. You can enjoy birding in your hotel garden, on the coast, in the national parks, or upriver. If you want a guide, you won’t struggle to find one. You’ll be approached by guides even if you aren’t looking. Ask questions, and don’t pay any money upfront if you arrange it with someone you don’t know.

Alternatively, ask the reception staff in your hotel. They’ll have a list of recommended guides for you to choose from.

The Gambia is a birders paradise with sunshine pretty much guaranteed. If you plan your trip during the Gambian dry season and the European winter, you are likely to see not only Gambian birds but winter migrants too.

Nowhere is very far from anywhere, so wherever you are, you’re likely to enjoy excellent bird-watching spots in The Gambia. Whether you’re a novice or an expert, want to travel or relax, The Gambia is a bird watcher’s dream.

Take a look at Abuko Nature Reserve: One Of The Gambia’s Best-Loved Parks for everything you need to know about visiting and birdwatching at Abuko, the smallest protected nature reserve in The Gambia.

All photographs in this post were taken with my Canon SX60HS, Canon SX70HS, Nikon P900, and Nikon P1000.

Unless otherwise specified, all photographs on My Path To Travel website were taken by and are the intellectual property of Karen Smedley. The featured images were taken using a Canon SX70 HS with a 65 x optical zoom.
© Copyright Karen Smedley 2023.

The Best Tips For Travelling Around Africa Without A Tour