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
It is100km east of the capital Banjul, and the estuary,
encompassing parts of Upper and Central Baddibu districts.
Bao 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 Ramsar
International Wetlands Convention, the government having
signed it in 1996.
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 vegetation,
mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.
Water Levels & Salinity:
about half the year, water in the nature reserve remains
brackish. 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
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 level.
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.
wetland complex has been deemed an Important Bird
Area (IBA) by Birdlife
International, & increasingly attracts bird
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
are African 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
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).
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
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 Boa.
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
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
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).
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).
Trail & Excursions:
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
& Wildlife Management (DPWM)
Resident Human Communities:
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
West National Park. The conservation area is susceptible
to deterioration through the expansion of grazing, hunting
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 en-suite
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
Perhaps the most pleasant place to stay in the area
is the upriver resort called Tendaba
Camp. 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.
Travel Information & How To Get There:
To 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.
See also safety.
Contact Address Details:
of Parks & Wildlife
Abuko Nature Reserve, HQ
C/o Min. of Forestry & Environment
GIPFZA House, Kairaba Avenue
The Gambia, West Africa
Tel no: +220 4376973
[Geographical coordinates 13.5167° N, 15.8667° W
/ Upper & Central Baddibu, North Bank Region]