Campement Njagabaar, Djoudj NP, Senegal,
It is sunset, we’re about to have dinner, and I’m sitting at our campsite looking out over the pond. In the tree just 10m away we have spotted a Yellow Crowned Gonolek, a group of Longtailed Glossy Starlings, three Pied Kingfishers, and a group of Blue-Naped Mousebirds. And a flock of about 100 Flamingos just flew overhead. This is a great place for birding!
Parc National des Oiseaux de Djoudj is a RAMSAR site, and it is easy to understand the importance of this site on arrival. It is 6,000ha of wetland, and is the first real wetland stop for the migratory birds after crossing the Sahara desert.
We accessed the park from the N2 just outside Ross-Bethio, as we arrived from Podor, and from here it is a 18km drive on gravel to reach the park. There is another road which is more convenient if coming from St Louis. Once we reached the park entrance it was clear why this is such a great place to spot birds: there were Pelicans and Cormorants in flocks, and more Wagtails than I have ever seen in one place. It took us about 45min to drive the 400m from the park entrance to the Campement – we had to put the binoculars down in the end!
There is a Campement run by the local village very near the park office. Although very basic, it is clean, and we decided to stay there rather than the hotel. With three hours of daylight left we decided to head into the park. We completed the formalities at the park office, and took a slow drive towards one of the lakes. At the first hide we stopped, and quickly added Herons, Egrets, Cormorants, and Osprey to our growing bird list. In the distance we saw a pink sheen – Flamingos. Heading back we spotted Malachite Kingfisher, the Little Bee-Eater, and the Squacco Heron. We inched our way along the final lake about 100m from the campsite, adding Stilts, Avocets and Mallards.
Next morning we drove to the park office to organise our “pirogue” – which in reality is a glass fibre boat with a 15hp motor. We shared ours with two other couples so there was plenty of space for us. An initial slow meander took us past flocks of African Darters and diving Pelicans, with a flock of Whisked Terns following the wake of the boat. In the treetops the Cormorants were watching us go past as they sunned themselves, and overseeing everything was a lone Sacred Ibis. As we closed in on our main destination for the trip we noticed the smell before the sight – the smell of bird droppings! We rounded the corner of the channel and were met by an island full (and I mean full) of Pelicans; we had reached their breeding spot. For the first time, we saw the grey juveniles, not quite ready to take flight. Much jostling, squawking. On the return we passed under the watchful eyes of both an Osprey and an African Fish Eagle.
After the boat ride we jumped back in the car and set off for a slow drive to see what else we could spot. As the park has several hides it is relatively easy to find one not too far away. We found one overlooking water in the shade, and decided it was a good spot for lunch. Little did we know that this hide was next to a tree full of Black-Crowned Night Herons! We were now relatively tired from the spotting and the sun, and decided to head back to camp for a sit in the shade and a cool drink. We thought we would be able to put our binoculars down for a while, but soon realised that the birding from our campsite is as good as in the park.
Facts & Figures:
- The local Campement just outside the Djoudj NP is nice and quiet. It has a few small chalets with shower, and it also has some space for camping. Facilities are basic but clean. Current rate is 2,000CFA pppn for camping, 12,500CFA pppn half board, 16,000CFA pppn full board.
- The park office is situated just 400m away from the Campement, and here we bought our 24h permits to enter the park (2,000CFA pp + 5,000CFA for vehicle).
- Next to the park office is a small shop where you can buy “pirogue” tours, and organise a guide. These pirogues are from the village and are 3,000CFA pp, as opposed to the ones from the hotel next to the park office that are 3,500CFA pp.
- Guides are 5,000CFA, and even though you share a “pirogue” with other clients the guide will stay as “your” guide. Confusing – yes.
- Our French neighbours rented a boat for half a day – to do spotting and serious photography – and paid 50,000CFA + guide + park entrance.
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