It sounded like a unique opportunity: visiting a national park in Africa by taking a local bus. Indeed, it was possible: I took a minivan from Serekunda towards Brikama, got off right at the entrance, where I paid my ticket and walked in. The trail led through a thick forest with some openings with water, where to my dismay I saw quite a lot of trash. I reached the small Darwin Field Centre at a small pool of water, and went up the stairs to see a small exhibition and to get a better view of the pool. After all, it is supposed to hold a fair amount of crocodiles. But even with the help of the friendly researcher, we could not spot any. There was too much water now, he explained: the crocs were out there, where no trail could take me.
There were plenty of birds around, through, and I spotted a big lizard on the ground below. I continued walking into the park, away from the main road to Brikama, and the noise of traffic was now gone. The vegetation was thick, there were plenty of butterflies, and I often heard noise in the bushes next to me. But I could spot no animals; even if they were just two metres away, the leaves and flowers would block my view. At the entrance and in the Darwin Field Centre, I had seen drawings of the snakes living in the park, but no matter how hard I searched the branches of the trees, I could not spot any. So I continued to walk towards the west, where the asylum of the park is located. There, for sure, I would spot animals.
When I arrived at a big cage with baboons, I knew I was there. I observed the animals, who appeared to live voluntarily in the cage; on the other side, I saw a hole in the fence big enough to let through all of them. Another cage had a lonely pelican bird, who eagerly walked towards me. I imagined he was expecting food from the visitor, but I did not want to give anything. The same cage was supposed to hold a turtle, too; but I could not see it anywhere and assumed it must be in its hiding place. I arrived at another big cage where hyenas were easy to spot; some of them were in a small pool of water where a leg of a cow was floating. Inevitably, there were big vultures as well. When I asked about the lions, the supervisor told me that there was no lion. One had died, his successor had escaped. When I asked him where these lions came from (as I did not think there were any lions living in the wild in Gambia), he informed me the first one was donated by the United Kingdom, and the second by the Netherlands. Lions donated to an African country by European countries - seriously? The cage had been improved, and a new lion was supposed to come to the park - one day. Even on my return walk to the main road, I did not see any more wildlife; and I realized I should not have expected to see any. Instead, I was happy just walking the narrow trail through the forest.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Abuko Nature Reserve (Gambia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Abuko Nature Reserve.
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