Maintenance: It’s a Constant Battle

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.

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A bit of a fright!

Breakfast is something of a movable feast here at Balaba Nature Camp. Sometimes we have maize porridge, served with sugar and evaporated milk, which tastes delicious but takes quite a long time to cook. If we have no ground maize, Saffie sometimes pounds rice and makes a sort of ground rice pudding instead. It’s served in large bowl, which is placed on the ground, and everyone has a spoon to feed themselves. In fact, all our meals are served this way, and it’s not uncommon to be beating off the chickens with a stick while we are eating! Many Gambian homes don’t have chairs, and people simply crouch around the bowl to eat, so putting it on a table wouldn’t be practical. We do serve our meals in a communal bowl when guests are here, because they like to eat the traditional Gambian way, but we do eat at the table – sometimes it feel a bit strange sitting up at the table when we have spent so long eating from ground level!

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How to make a bird pool the Gambian way

Here at Balaba Nature Camp we have several bird baths around the camp to attract the beautiful birds that live around us. One of our pools is sited right next to the forest edge, especially to encourage the shy birds, and this has been a real success. We have lots of birds visiting every day. However, over the last few days, some of the bigger birds have been trying to have a bath in our rather small bird bath! These tend to be quite shy birds, such as the Violet Turaco and the Western Grey Plantain Eater.

Don't you think you're a bit big for that bird bath?
Don’t you think you’re a bit big for that bird bath?

So Lamin thought it might be a good idea to try and build a larger pool which might give them a better chance of having a bath.

So here is your step-by-step guide to building a bird pool Gambian-style. (I should explain that my camera went on strike while I was photographing, and some of the earlier ones didn’t save properly, so the photos only start some way into the instructions!)

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A rather lovely visitor

Here at Balaba Nature Camp we get a fabulous variety of wildlife. Yesterday we were relaxing under the trees – Lamin in his hammock and me doing some cross-stitching, when Lamin suddenly grabbed his binoculars. This is usually a sign that he has seen something a bit unusual, and he always seems to spot things before I do. After a few moments, he announced that there was a chameleon in a nearby tree. Again as usual, it took me a few minutes to spot it, but at last I found it, and as I watched it flicked out an enormous tongue in a vain attempt to catch one of the swallowtail butterflies that flit here and there all day.

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All Creatures Great and Small

The Gambia has some truly wonderful wildlife, and it seems that the end of the rainy season is a great time to see lots of different creatures. As a general rule, I fond of most wildlife that has fewer than, or more than, eight legs. If it has exactly eight logs I am less fond, although I don’t mind if it’s outside and I do think they can be very beautiful even though I don’t want them in my bedroom or on me! I thought I would share a few photos with you, so you can see some of the amazing variety we have here. Most of these photos I have taken since arriving here this time, but a couple were taken on previous visits.

Let’s get the eight-legged creatures out of the way first. There are spiders in all sizes here, ranging from jumping spiders that are generally not too big (and sometimes tiny), to large hairy monsters that look as though they could swallow a bird!

This large spider was disturbed when Lamin and the guys removed the old palm leaves form the roof of our restaurant before putting on a corrugated iron roof. He (she?) was about 15cm (6 inches) across, and although it large, was rather beautiful.

A large Gambian spider
A large Gambian spider

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