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Serrekunda and Abuko National Park

Home -> Africa -> Gambia -> Travelogue Gambia -> 12 January 2005

Wednesday 12 January, Serrekunda and Abuko National Park

At breakfast we talk to several other couples who are also in Badala hotel, like Jan and Hetty who have been at least seven times to the Gambia and want to buy some land here, and Berend and Agnes who are outside Europe for the first time and for them it is a culture shock. We agree to go with them today to a snake farm which must be somewhere around. But when we start negotiating with the taxidrivers we find out that it is an hour away at least, maybe much longer. Then we change plans and later a third time. The drivers can't follow us, but well, often it is the other way around, so we don't care. In the end they call the taxicontroller and he says that we really have to pay more for the trip(s) we have in mind. At last, we agree to a price of 550 Dalasi (€ 15) for a visit to the market at Serrekunda and the Abuko national park. And we have together 6 hours for the visits!
Serrekunda (or Serekunda) is the biggest city in The Gambia (somewhere between 175,000 and 275,000 inhabitants according to different sources) and there are several markets, all close together. It is a colourfull fuss on the market and soon we are escorted by two young boys who act as if they are guides when we enter into the narrow streets between the market stalls. One in front of us and one at the end, but we choose our own way and they often have to follow us when we deviate from the way that they want to go. No, sorry, but we don't want to go to the batik-shop of your uncle!
Market at Serrekunda Market at SerrekundaApart from vegetables and fruits there is mainly fish for sale, often totally covered with flies. Politely, we ask people if we are allowed to take a picture and some people like that very much, others don't like it or want money for it. A few ladies encourage me to take photographs and that I don't have to pay them money, but instead can marry them. I explain that I am totally happy with one wife.
Market at SerrekundaThe colours and scents are overwhelming, like the fuss in the narrow streets. Now and then we are encouraged to buy something, but in general we are not being harassed at all. After more than an hour walking around, we come to a small square with a mosque. Here we stop for a while to take a break and rest a bit.
Market at Serrekunda Market at SerrekundaWe wonder how much people sell here in one day and what they do with all the fish and other fresh goods that aren't sold at the end of the day. Will they take it home and use as much as possible for their own needs or is it thrown away?
After an hour and a half we have seen enough, but we can sure recommend it to walk around here, a real experience. And it is no problem to arrange a taxi yourself, in contrast to what some travel agencies say. You can even ask the taxidriver to walk with you, so you won't be bothered too much if you are afraid of that.
Then the driver takes us to Abuko Nature Reserve, south of Serrekunda. On the way we see a big market with thousands of goats and there is also a slaughterhouse. Friday, next week is Tobaski, the day of offering for the muslims, which is always celebrated 2 months and 10 days after the celebration that marks the end of the Ramadan. If a family can afford it, a sheep, goat or chicken is butchered and eaten with family and friends.
Abuko National ParkAt Abuko we see a piece of jungle that looks much more wild and 'real' than at Makasutu! There is one pathway (about 3 kilometers) through the area and a guide accompanies us. When he stops at the first tree and starts a story, we first think: no, not again... But he is far more concise in his stories than the guide at Makasutu and real soon we see the first wildlife: antelopes. And also crocodiles who hide in the tall grass and a deep pool.
Abuko National ParkThere are supposedly more than 300 species of birds in this unspoilt jungle and we hear a lot of noises, but don't get them always in sight. And a vague rustle in the treetops, monkeys according to our guide. I promise Elisabeth that this time she will see monkeys in the wild, but at first itn doesn't seem to happen.
Abuko National Park Abuko National ParkBut there they suddenly are, probably hoping that we have food for them. They seem reasonably accustomed to people but recoil when we come too close. We show the same behaviour: most monkeys have fleas, they can have rabies and they can bite very hard with their sharp teeth. And a bite can give you a terrible infection.
Abuko National ParkBerend carries no peanuts with him, but he has pepermints and one monkey seems to be curious about this white thing. Cautiously, he takes it from Berend's hand and backs off to study his acquisition and chew on it at a distance.
Abuko National Park Abuko National ParkMost monkeys here are black faced velvet monkeys, but there is also a rehabilitation project for monkeys born in foreign zoos who are being prepared to be able to survive in the wild. After their education, most are set free on Baboon Island, a nature reserve that is not accessible for tourists.
Black cobra Black cobraWhen we walk along a hollow trunk at 30 centimeters distance, Berend suddenly exclaims: hey, a snake! We turn around and suddenly see a cobra raising itself into the air and trying to scare us off. The guide says, it is a spitting cobra and he jumps meters away. But it turns out to be a black cobra, which is still dangerous enough. It is a very rare occasion that we see one here. When we keep one meter between ourself and the cobra, it seems to be happy with us and returns to the trunk to do some sunbathing.
Taking a rest Abuko National ParkWe continue our hike, but this time with a bit more care. At the end of the pathway we come to a place with a shop and a large cage with giant turtles and some monkeys. For us it is time to have a refreshment and a sandwich for the guide.
Hyena’s VulturesThere are also some hyena's (caged) and lots of vultures who come to take their part of the meat that the animals get. There used to be some lions here as well, but according to the guide the last one (coming from the Beekse Bergen in Holland) escaped only three days ago and was shot by the military since he ventured too close to a Senegalese refugee camp.
The kitchen Child being carriedThe women of the shop have their kitchen outside and seem to live here. And again they like it that we take a picture of a child that is being carried. Until they are 3 or even 4 years old they carry them like this.
The taxi is already waiting for us and we are verry satisfied with this trip. We have seen much more than at Makasutu but when we read the stories on the internet this doesn't have to be true for everybody. Today we are lucky, yesterday not. But coming across a black cobra like this is a real highlight!
We get off the taxi at Elton's, the gas station at the corner near the hotel to have a cold drink. Time to calculate the expenses: less than 1200 Dalasi (€ 33) for the taxi, all tips, the drinks and the entrance fee for Abuko, so about € 8 per person. A bargain, compared with the excursion to Makasutu.
We have dinner early, chat a bit with Salifu the guard and go to bed early. Tommorow we are trying to make it a real rest day, without any excursions, so we decide.


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