Tag Archives: Balaba Nature Camp

Maintenance: It’s a Constant Battle

4 Jun

One of the hardest aspects of life here in Gambia is maintenance. Of course, I know everyone has to keep their house maintained – my house in Devon needed roofing work and a complete new bathroom a couple of years ago. But here at Balaba, there’s something that makes it hugely difficult to keep houses, roofs and fences in good order for more than a year or two – termites.

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you might remember I wrote about the work that needed to be done on one of our accommodation blocks (The War Against the Termites). The termites had burrowed underneath, leaving quite large holes under the foundations of the block. In the rainy season these holes fill with water and the building literally shifts if the holes aren’t repaired.

So Lamin spent a long time digging out the termite-ridden soil, filling the holes with concrete, cementing holes in the wall, and putting the building back into good condition. But now it needs doing again, so that’s another job on the horizon before the rains arrive next month.



Yet Another Casamance Journey!

17 May

In my past post (if you missed it, you can read it here), I told you all about our rather long journey from Ziguinchor to Haer. By now it was Tuesday morning, and we were due to catch the boat back from Bakassouck to Kafountine the following day. Again, there’s only one direct boat a week, so we couldn’t afford to miss it! So after a quick breakfast of bread (which we’d brought with us as bread isn’t cooked on the island, so it’s real treat for the people who live there), we set off to walk the 5km walk through the forest to Bakassouck.

We wanted to get there before the sun got too hot, so we walked at a brisk pace. Our route took us through thick forest, with an overhead canopy of leaves, vegetation on the ground, and even the occasional fallen palm tree to climb over. Occasionally we came out into rice fields – these are used in the rainy season so the islanders don’t have to buy rice, which is expensive and has to be brought in by boat. There were some beautiful birds along the way, and sometimes we skirted mudflats and narrow inlets, crossing over little bridges made of a simple plank.


A Road Trip to Casamance (Part 1)

26 Apr

Every now and then, Lamin and I decide to take a few days’ break from life here at Balaba and head off to somewhere different. Last year we had a trip all planned, but because I broke my wrist, it had to be postponed. We’d intended to go to southern Senegal (a region known as ‘Casamance’, to visit the provincial capital Ziguinchor and also some of the islands on the Casamance River. So we decided it was time to revive the idea of our road trip, and head off to Casamance.

I especially wanted to visit the island of Carabane, which is almost the most westerly point in Africa. It’s a very historical place, and was once famous as a slaving port. There’s now a museum of slavery there, which I wanted to see, and was also interested to see other historical monuments. So we decided to travel to Ziguinchor, then down to Oussouye, and base ourselves there for a few days. Then we planned to travel back to Bakassouck, the island where Lamin grew up. Our friend Rafael has a home in Oussouye, so he came with us and we stayed in his compound.


Easter at Balaba

10 Apr

It seems we’ve been very busy lately, with several friends and family visiting, and despite my best plans I’ve got a bit behind with blog posts. Thus means I’ve got several I want to put up, which I’m hoping to get done over the next few days. And here’s the first one – how we spent Easter at Balaba.

Although Gambia is mainly a Muslim country, Easter is recognised as a celebration, so Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays. Of course, many Muslims carry on as usual, but government offices, banks etc. are all closed. However, one thing that’s very good is that in the essential services, (e.g. hospitals, police, army), the Muslims cover for their Christian colleagues, who then return the favour at Tobaski.


Gardening the Gambian Way

15 Mar Gambia vegetable garden

Here at Balaba Nature Camp we have quite a large area of land. Of course, much of that is given over to the huts and other buildings we need for when we have guests. But surrounding the central compound we have quite a lot of forest (which is a haven for wildlife), and also a large garden area. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that we cultivate some and then let the local women use areas so they can grow their own vegetables. In return, they help to water our fruit trees. So I thought it was time to give you an update on the garden so far this year.

By the time I arrived, Saffie was already well ahead with planting onions. She’d managed to grow a huge number of plants from seed, which I’m told is a bit tricky, and she was busy selling seedlings and also transplanting some for herself. We will use some of them ourselves, but she’s also hoping to have enough to sell some mature onions in time.

Onions growing in Gambian garden


A Visit With a Purpose: Part 2

28 Feb

In my last post (click here if you missed it!), I told you all about the journey to Bakassouck, together with the equipment we’d bought for the school. This post is all about the rest of our time there and how we donated the things to the school.

Life runs at a very slow pace on Bakassouck. No-one actually ‘goes to work’ in the sense that they commute to an office and spend a designated number of hours there. But of course, there’s always plenty to do. As in much of rural Africa, roles are quite clearly defined. The men usually go out to catch the fish for our meals (almost always tilapia from the surrounding bolongs), and they also go out to tap the palm wine which is drunk almost like water on Bakassouck. Naturally, this often means a party of them heading out together, and certainly during the daytime the men and women do things separately.


A Visit With a Purpose: Helping the School at Bakassouck

19 Feb

I had several blog posts I was going to complete before breaking my wrist last year, so I thought I’d write up at a least a couple of them for you. This post is one of them.

Some of you will know that Lamin grew up on a remote island in southern Senegal. Bakassouck can only be reached via a 5-hour boat journey from the Senegalese fishing village of Kafountine, and we’ve been several times now. (If you want to read about previous visits and see some photos, then check here and here to read about our previous visits, which have been rather eventful!).


Pancake Day – Gambian Style

14 Feb Balaba Nature Camp pancakes

A little bird told me that my mum was hosting a pancake party on Shrove Tuesday. Not to be outdone, we decided to have our own pancake party here at Balaba Nature Camp. As always, this wasn’t quite as easy as it seemed!

Firstly, we needed to buy the ingredients we needed from the local shop – flour, eggs and sugar. Milk powder I already had, and of course we can pick our own lemons off the tree! However, I have no weighing scales here, so getting the batter mixed involved rather a lot of guesswork. I had a willing helper in Dodou, who not only went and bought the ingredients from the local shop, but also wanted to help cook the pancakes too (and also acted as photographer for some of these photos).


Travelling back

12 Feb

It seemed hard to believe that after ten long months in the UK I was finally able to return to The Gambia, but at last the moment had arrived. It’s always hard to say goodbye to friends and family, but I’d said my farewells to people in Devon and also spent a week in London doing the same. So at last I was on board the plane and ready to set off.

Needless to say, the British weather was determined to give me a good send-off – rain, wind and low cloud!



And a Happy Balaba New Year

9 Jan

In my last post I told you all about our Christmas, which was rather a laid-back affair. In contrast, our New Year celebrations were a much more lively affair. A few weeks before Christmas, one of the local youth groups asked Lamin if they could have a party at Balaba, as there was plenty of space here for people to dance and enjoy themselves. We know the young people in this youth group quite well; they helped us with planting our rice fields and they also came along one Saturday morning voluntarily to cut back the vegetation each side of the our road from the camp after the rainy season. So we were happy to let them come to Balaba for a party, but I must admit I hadn’t quite expected it to be so lively!


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