Tag Archives: The Gambia

A River Trip in Casamance

14 May

If you need to take a journey using public transport, you need to check the timetable, right? But of course, things aren’t really that simple here! Gelli-gellis and cars wait until they’re full before they leave, so the operator gets the most return for the journey. And boats have to rely on the tide. So when we planned to move on from Oussouye to Bakassouck (which can only be done by boat), we knew it was likely to be a long day. And so it proved…

Our itinerary was: take a taxi or gelli-gelli to Zinguinchor (about 40 minutes drive), then take a small boat to Haer, a small landing point on the Isle de Caronne, which would take around 3 hours. Lastly, we’d have to walk around 5 kilometres through the forest to get to Bakassouck. So I was prepared for a lengthy journey.



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.


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!).


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!



An accident and the aftermath

20 Jan

If you don’t know me personally, you may be wondering why this blog seemed to stop abruptly and hasn’t been updated for a long time. That’s because on 17th March 2015, I slipped while getting washed and landed very heavily on my left wrist. As soon as I sat up, I knew it was dislocated, and I suspected (correctly!), that it was fractured too. I did my best to keep my wrist immobilised, and Lamin made phone calls to find out which hospital was equipped with an X-ray machine – not every hospital in Gambia has one!

We were told that the hospital in Serrekunda (about 45 minutes drive away), could do X-rays, so we drove there, with me clutching my wrist very firmly. When we arrived, we were assessed by a nurse (this was in the height of the Ebola scare, so they were naturally being very careful!), and I was sent to wait for an X-ray. Once this was done, I watched in amazement as the technician brought out the film and pegged it on a little metal stand in the sun to dry. Once, dry, we had to take it back to the casualty nurse. She took one look and said it was broken, but they didn’t do plastering there – we’d have to drive on another 30 minutes to get to the hospital in Banjul.


A Very Balaba Christmas

3 Jan

Christmas in The Gambia is not such a huge celebration as it is in the UK. Although Christians do celebrate, the focus is on eating a nice meal, spending time with friends and family, and perhaps attending Midnight Mass. Giving presents and putting up decorations aren’t really part of the culture here, which I think is sensible as most families have little cash to spare. So Christmas here is a much more laid-back affair.


Check out our bird pool and bird hide!

21 Dec

As you know, one of the most fantastic things about Balaba Nature Camp is its beautiful birds. The Gambia is famous for its birds – in fact, many tourists come especially to see them. Lamin has worked hard at Balaba to maintain the trees and unspoilt forest around us, which has become increasingly important as the area around us is being deforested at an alarming rate. We have always put out containers for the birds to drink from (usually a plastic container cut in half!), but last year you may remember Lamin decided to build a larger pool next to the forest edge to encourage some of the shyer birds. This was a great success, so this year he thought it was time to build a concrete one instead.


Tree felling: Gambian style!

11 Dec

I’ve often talked about the trees here at Balaba Nature Camp and for those of you who’ve visited, you will know that it’s one of Balaba’s greatest features. But trees need to be carefully managed and every now we need to fell some, perhaps to open up an area for other trees to get better light or sometimes for safety reasons.

Recently, we decided to take down one of our palm trees. It was right in the middle of the compound – in fact, the first year I came we used to eat breakfast underneath it. But it was leaning at a bit of a crazy angle, wrapped around with another climbing plant that is popularly used for medicine.


Giving the Termites Some Food for Thought!

27 Oct

Mention the word ‘termites’ to anyone who lives in a country where they are found and they will probably turn a few shades paler. Termites are similar to ants, and cause untold damage to almost any kind of wooden structure, including homes, fences, furniture and so on. They even burrow underneath buildings, making huge nests, which de-stabilises the foundations, and when it rains, the whole building can collapse. If you want to see more about the damage they can cause, take a look at my previous post ‘The War Against the Termites‘.


Getting organised

12 Oct

Waking up in The Gambia is always a bit special. It generally starts around four o’clock with the first cockerel, although to be truthful, it’s fairly noisy all night, especially in the rainy season. You can hear frogs croaking, crickets chirping, dogs barking, and the Long-tailed Glossy Starling which calls all night long, as well as the gentle hooting of the White-faced Scops Owl. After the first cockerel, there’s a bit of a break, and then you hear the first call to prayer from the local mosques at around 5:30 am. There are quite a few near here, and because the countryside is so flat, the sound travels very well. Some have loudspeakers, and that can be a bit of a jolt when they start, as it feels as though the caller is sitting on the end of the bed, but at the moment, they all seem relatively quiet, but the sound comes in waves as the start time varies between 5:30 and 6:00. I always enjoy waking the first morning here, as it sounds so different from the UK.

Usually, the day after I arrive, I like to spend the day getting organised, and I thought I would share about how things are arranged here, so you have a clearer picture of everyday life in the compound. If you want a more detailed idea of daily life, take a look at ‘A Day in the Life‘.


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