The Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve (also spelt
Baobolong) was established in 1996, it covers an area of
about 220 square kilometres (84.94 sq. miles), and is located
on the North Bank Region of the
River Gambia. It
is100km east of the capital Banjul,
and the estuary,
encompassing parts of Upper and Central Baddibu
Bolong Wetland Reserve (BBWR) is the largest protected reserve
in The Gambia; so ecologically significant is
the area that it has been designated a site of
international importance by
Wetlands Convention, the government
having signed it in 1996.
Bao Bolong's 3 distinct ecosystems of mangrove swamp,
closed-canopy savanna woodland, and saltmarsh,
are all within close proximity of each other, and abundant in
birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.
WATER LEVELS & SALINITY:
For about half the year, water in the nature reserve
However, during the rainy season, which
runs from about July to October, rain water is retained
by dikes for rice irrigation.
This situation continues until December when the water
level starts to drop again, turning brackish once more.
On the 1st January, 1993, an area of 13.514 sq. miles
(35 km²) was initially declared as Bao Bolong National
On the 16th September, 1996, the protected area was
expanded to 220 km², and became the first and largest
wetland reserve in The Gambia worthy of protection, as
noted in the Ramsar Convention, and was re-named the Bao
Bolong Wetland Reserve (Ramsar site no. 860). Note: some
sources say the preserve is 200 sq. km. in area.
The vast 22,000 hectares of the reserve is located opposite the
Kiang West National Park, on the south
bank of the river, and lies to the east of Salikene
village and south of the villages of Mandory, Marong
Kunda, N'jaba Kunda, Minteh, Brang ya, No Kunda and
Konteh Kunda Niji. The terrain is generally flat, with
the highest elevation being 11.6 metres above mean sea
The nature park is named after the Bao
Bolon, a tributary of the River Gambia, which courses
south from northern Senegal to join the river in a wide
low valley on the north bank, facing Tendaba.
The valley enters Senegalese territory at Kayemore,
Ndiao, Marlene, and passes through the
south-east of Niorro and crosses into Gambian territory
through Illiassa. Between the villages of Katchang and
Salikene there are a further 5 tributaries that supply
water to the wetlands. The effect of this is a
pristine riverine area that's a network of brackish
creeks fringed by tall stands of mangrove forest. A
little further north of the mangroves and aquatic weeds the
terrain is elevated, rising into a laterite escarpment.
Beyond this are mudflats and lightly wooded areas.
The wetland complex has been deemed an
Area (IBA) by Birdlife International, and increasingly
eco-tourists. Among the 268 bird species from 62
families recorded here are resident and migratory
avians including waterfowl such as herons, ducks,
egrets, pelicans, Palearctic waders,
as well as raptors and parrots. The preserve is thought
to hold over 20,000 waterbirds regularly between August
and December. It is thought to be an important passage
site for migrating Common Greenshanks (Tringa nebularia), Common
Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula), Black-tailed
godwit (Limosa limosa) and Black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus).
Among the bird species recorded at Bao Bolong Wetland
Fish Eagles, African Darters, Pygmy Goose, Blue-breasted Kingfishers,
Brown-necked Parrots, Fairy Warblers, Finfoots, Garganey Ducks,
Giant Kingfishers, Knob-billed Ducks, Little Stints,
Malachite Kingfishers, Mouse-brown Sunbirds, Northern
Pintails, Northern Shovelers, Pel's Fishing Owls, Pied
Kingfishers, Red-necked Buzzards, Senegal Thick-knees,
Spur-winged Geese, Spur-winged Lapwings, Striated
Herons, Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, White-backed Night
Herons, Woodland Kingfishers, and White-faced Whistling Ducks.
Among the riverine waders feeding along the riverside and
creeks are Goliath Herons, Grey
Herons, Woolly-necked storks, Cattle egrets, Hamerkop,
Little Bitterns, Western Reef Herons, Sacred Ibis, Marabou
storks, and Squacco Herons.
Among the 32 mammal species recorded
at Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve are antelopes
such as Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekii), bushbuck
(Tragelaphus scriptus) and duiker. There are also
African / Cape clawless
otters (Aonyx capensis), warthogs, spotted hyenas
(Crocuta crocuta), hippopotamus, leopards, primates
(Red Colobus, Guinea Baboon, Patas, the nocturnal
Senegal Bushbaby, Green Vervet monkeys), as
well as the rare and endangered West African
Manatee (Trichechus senegalensis).
Due to the extensive network of waterways and mangroves the area
is an important breeding ground for fish fry and
juveniles, with 6 families of fish having been recorded
here. Among the various fish species found within
the mangrove creeks, tributaries, and the riverside are
Barracuda (Sphyraena sp.), Bobo Croaker (Fonticulus
elongatus), Mullets (Mugilidae, Tilapia, Bonga
Shad (Ethmalosa fimbriata), Giant African Threadfin
(Polydactylus quadrifilis), Catfish (Arius sp.),
Pseudotolithus bracygnathus, Pomadasys peroteti (Cuvier,
1830). There are also molluscs such as Mangrove Oysters (Crassostrea
gasar), and crustaceans such as Blue Crabs (Callinectes sp.).
Among the various types of reptiles are West African crocodiles (Crocodylus suchus), Dwarf crocodiles
(Osteolaemus tetraspis), Nile Monitor Lizards (Varanus
niloticus), Green sea
turtles (Chelonia mydas), and various snakes such as the burrowing Sand
The Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve has a rich
patchwork of habitat types which broadly follow a
gradient starting with the high mangroves of the River
Gambia, through permanent salt marsh, bare tannes and
seasonal freshwater marshes, grading finally into wooded
and fringing savanna woodland and woodland species
include the African locust bean tree (Parkia biglobosa), West
African copal tree (Daniella Oliveri), Muninga 'kino' (Pterocarpus erinaceus), Terminalia albida
Scott-Elliot, and Red-Flowered Silk Cotton Tree (Bombax costatum).
The principal species of grasses in the grass savanna
with intermittent flooding are Echinochloa pyramidalis,
Phragmites karka, and Cyperus papyrus.
Shrubs and small trees include
the Camel's Foot Tree (Piliostigma thonningii), Woani (Anthostema Senegalensis),
Fig trees (Ficus spp), Terminalia avicennioides,
Pin Cushion or Peach Tree (Nauclea latifolia), and grass species
include Horse Grass (Andropogon tectorum), Gamba Grass (A. gayanus),
Beckeropsis uniseta and Pennisetum subangustum.
This ecosystem supports vegetation such as Shoreline
Purslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum), Brown Beetle Grass
(Diplachne fusca), Salt Grass (Sporobolus spicatus) and
Seashore Paspalum or Biscuit Grass (Paspalum vaginatum).
The inter-tidal mangrove forests, which grow as high as 20
metres, are characterised by stands of Red mangroves
(Rhizophora mangle, Rhizophora racemosa), and Black
mangroves (Avicennia africana).
NATURE TRAIL &
The Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve is attracting an increasing number of
eco-tourists to The Gambia, especially bird watchers. The simplest way
to visit is to go on an African pirogue river excursion
run by the
Tendaba Camp. Departing
from the camp you would first cross to the opposite side
of the River Gambia, then on to the creeks called the
Tunku and Kisi bolongs, where you can spot various bird
species nearby. If you are really patient you might also
see West African crocodiles or Nile monitor lizards.
other alternative excursion route is via the north of
the park using a 4 wheel drive car. From the village of
No Kunda you can take a dirt track from the North Bank
Road, and head south for a few kilometres to the
headquarters of the reserve, at a place called Dai
Mandinka. The staff there can assist you on guided tours
or find a fisherman willing to take you on a dugout
canoe trip along some of the bolongs.
It is perhaps best that you make prior arrangements to go and visit the
complex with the
Department of Parks &
(DPWM) at Abuko.
The reserve's resources are used by people from the
internal and peripheral villages, and the rural Senegalese
settlements to the north. Rice farming is widespread.
Cattle graze throughout the open areas during the rains
and early dry season. Later in the dry season swathes of
tall swamp vegetation are cut for fencing and roofing.
The felling of mangroves for wood has been discouraged
with the help of staff from
Kiang West National Park. The
conservation area is susceptible to deterioration through the
expansion of grazing, hunting and agriculture.
There are no lodgings inside the reserve itself. The
nearest rooms can be found at either Farafenni or south
across the river
at Tendaba. In Farafenni there is
the Ballanghar Motel with
11 basic rooms with fans around a yard (tel: 7735431).
According to the
Rough Guide the best-known place to stay is Eddy's
Hotel, Bar & Restaurant. The rooms here have ensuite showers, WC with
optional fan or AC (tel: 7735611 / 7735225 / 5735225). There are a
few small local restaurants such as Assane's and Sunnu Yai
which cooks good quality chicken, steak and chips along with
cold soft drinks and beer.
Perhaps the most pleasant place to stay in the area is
upriver resort called
It is located in Kwinella, on the other side of the reserve, along the
southern bank of the river. They have their own boats so
getting to the preserve is fairly easy. They have 160
beds in two types: basic rooms, and riverside ensuite
deluxe rooms. These last set of rooms each has a private shower, toilet and
sink as well as air-conditioning.
INFORMATION & HOW TO GET THERE:
get to Bao Bolong by road you go the the Gambia's
capital of Banjul, then board the
ferry to Barra
in the NBR.
From the town you make your way east along the North
Bank Road, past Kerewan and onto No Kunda. From here you
take the southbound access route.
Department of Parks &
Abuko Nature Reserve, HQ
Ministry of Forestry & the
GIPFZA House, Kairaba Avenue
The Gambia, West Africa
Tel no: +220 4376973
What to Pack
[Geographical coordinates 13.5167° N, 15.8667° W
/ Upper & Central Baddibu, North Bank Region]