Dakar/Embark MY Harmony V
Late afternoon on board our mega-yacht MY Harmony V. Dinner tonight is on board, as are all of our meals for the next week. Late tonight we set sail southward towards the Saloum Delta.
M/Y Harmony V Meals: Dinner
Cruising – Saloum Delta/Djiffere/Joal-Fadiouth/Banjul
A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and also an Important Bird Area, the Siné-Saloum Delta comprises almost 700 square miles of the Senegalese coastal belt, being a mixture of open water, permanent islands and seasonal or tidal flats. Sailing through here this morning we’re sure to see some of the reserve’s many bird species, including the greater flamingo, Eurasian spoonbill, curlew sandpiper, ruddy turnstone, pink-backed pelican, and little stint in the mangrove swamps and mudflats lining the waterway — along with such aquatic animals as marine turtles, dolphins, West African manatees, and crocodiles. Known as the world’s most important breeding site for the royal tern, the delta also hosts scores of great white egrets as they overwinter. We visit the primitive fishing village of Djiffere and also the village of Joal Fadiouth, set on an island of clam shells that also are used in local buildings and crafts. Sailing on, we enter the 700-mile Gambia River, West Africa’s only waterway accessible to the Atlantic – and where salt water can be found as far as 100 miles inland. Late this afternoon we reach Gambia’s capital city of Banjul, a sleepy and picturesque seaport at the mouth of the Gambia River where it enters the Atlantic. Tonight we sail upstream to Tenada, overnighting on the river.
Cruising – Kiang West National Park/Bao Bolong Reserve
Optional excursion to Gambia’s Kiang West National Park, just 45 square miles and one of Africa’s last undisturbed tracts of savannah and a sanctuary for terrestrial wildlife, birdlife (more than 250 species), and the occasional primate. If we’re lucky, we may see the bateleur, an imposing eagle with feathers of black, red, and white that is an emblem of the park. Then we travel across the way to the Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve. At 85 square miles it is Gambia’s largest nature reserve, with three distinct eco-systems in close proximity: mangrove forest, salt marsh, and savannah woodland. In addition to impressive resident and migratory birdlife here – including the woolly necked stork, goliath heron, brown necked parrot, and fairy blue flycatcher – we also may see such fauna as the clawless otter, Nile crocodile, West African manatee, hippopotamus, and the rare Sitatunga, a type of antelope that lives in the marsh. Another common sight along the river: local villagers farming rice. Early this evening we return to MY Harmony V and overnight in the town of Tenada.
Cruising – Kuntaur
We savour a leisurely and scenic day on the river as we sail to the bustling Gambian port town of Kuntaur, the last inland stop along the river that is navigable for ocean-going ships. As we wind our way through ever-narrowing stretches of waterway, we pass lush vegetation, wildlife, traditional thatched huts, and villagers as they fish, pound millet, mend their nets, and tend their dugout canoes. Early this afternoon we reach Kuntaur, a traditional market for groundnuts (peanuts), Gambia’s main export crop. We spend the night docked in Kuntaur.
Cruising – Kuntaur/River Gambia National Park/Janjanbureh
Today our optional tour is a highlight as we board small vessels (‘motor pirogues’) for the journey to River Gambia National Park, established in 1978 and comprising of five uninhabited islands. As we explore the park by boat (tourists are forbidden to go ashore to prevent damage to the environment), we see up close its diverse ecosystems, including lush jungle rainforest, reeds, savannah, and mangrove swamps. It’s a steamy, evocative rivers cape that harkens to an earlier, undisturbed Africa. In addition, we’re sure to see some of the chimpanzees living here, a result of a successful project to rescue chimps that had been mistreated in captivity; happily, the playful mammals now breed here on their own. Other park residents that we may encounter include the aardvark, West African manatee, Nile crocodile, African clawless otter, monkeys, baboons, antelope, and crocodile. The park also represents the last refuge for the endangered hippo in Gambia. Colourful birdlife also call the park home, including the palmnut vulture, African fish eagle, African finfoot, pelicans, hornbills, barbets, shrikes, egrets, ibis, and parrots. We then travel on to the sleepy port town of Janjanbureh, once a settlement for freed slaves, before returning to MY Harmony V in Kuntaur in time for dinner on board.
Cruising – Cruising/Banjul
We spend another relaxing day on the river, as we cruise to Banjul, arriving late this evening.
Cruising – Banjul/Abuko and Makasutu Nature Reserves
This morning our optional tour travels outside of Banjul to tiny Abuko Nature Reserve, a scant half-mile in area but rich in bio-diversity: the reserve boasts forest, perennial pools, more than 270 bird species, Nile crocodiles, and such mammals as green monkey, red colobus, bushbuck, and Maxwell’s druiker. We continue on to Makasutu Culture Forest, a private reserve and Gambia’s most prominent eco-tourism project. Comprising of riparian forest, savannah, mangroves, and wetlands, the reserve hosts Guinea baboon, antelope, and small carnivores, along with abundant birdlife. We explore Makasutu by bush walk and by dugout canoe, and also experience Gambian life up close through encounters with an Islamic holy man and a palm tapper. Later we return to Banjul for a visit to the National Museum, with exhibits on native Gambian artefacts and culture. Back on board MY Harmony V, we cruise through the night to Dakar.
Disembarkation and transfer to the airport for departure to the UK or to your hotel as booked.