Christmas Day 2010

I woke shortly before 7am, for an early morning walk when the forest and the birds were just waking up. The mist was clearing from the river and a pair of Verreaux’s eagle owls sat in a baobab tree grunting at the group of tourists admiring them from below.

Finally back to the camp for breakfast, then a lazy morning reading a novel, with the occasional swim in the pool to cool off. In the afternoon the camp owner suggested a fishing trip on the river. Arriving at a suitable spot, we (well, those who knew what they were doing) attached the lures to the fishing rods and we made slow circles around the river, waiting for the fish to bite. They didn’t, but who cared? We enjoyed watching the African harrier hawks hunting over the water, and the red colobus monkeys moving about the trees on the bank.

Finally back to camp for a shower before dinner. The owner had moved the table and chairs out onto the little wooden fishing jetty so that we could dine under the stars, and one of the other four tourists there produced a bottle of champagne for us all to share. It wasn’t exactly a traditional Christmas meal – we had spaghetti bolognese followed by flambed bananas – but it was one of the most enjoyable I have had.

My fellow tourists were contemplating their flights home, hoping that Europe’s snow had begun to clear. I had a long, uncomfortable shared taxi ride back home to Dakar, but with the knowledge that blue skies and warm sunshine would continue for me until the rains come next July.

Oh, where was I? In The Gambia, at the Bird Safari Camp on Jangjangbureh Island, taking a short break. A beautiful place although I’d be giving too one-sided a picture if I didn’t mention the voracious mosquitoes that have left me with dozens of red and itching bites as my souvenir.

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