Kiang West National Park

The Kiang West National Park occupies an area of over 110 km2 on the southern bank of the Gambia River in the Lower River Division in the Kiang West District, with the river marking its northern boundary. Established as a protected area in 1987 and run by the Gambia Department of Parks and Wildlife Management, it is the largest wildlife reserve in the country.

Located mostly on a low plateau, the park contains predominantly savannah grassland and deciduous woodland, including baobab and red acacia trees, although tidal flats and mangrove creeks, home to the West African manatee (a large, seal like, sea mammal) and Nile crocodile, are also present. Three "bolons" (tributaries or creeks) divide the park interior into three sections. Kiang West National Park has become a park of regional excellence with an extraordinary range of wildlife and a number of distinct habitats.

Kiang West National Park is home to all of Gambia's most important wild mammals. The park offers an essential haven for wild cats such as caracal and serval and antelope such as bushbuck and common duiker, which are widespread throughout the country, although in small numbers. Spotted hyena and warthogs are plentiful in the park, but as they are mainly nocturnal, are seldom seen in daylight hours. Several visitors have reported sightings of leopards, although a glimpse of such cautious, elusive creatures is rare. Resident reptiles, other than the above-mentioned Nile crocodile include African and royal pythons, puff adder, sand snake and spitting cobra, whilst hinge-back tortoises inhabit the woodlands and mud terrapins occupy the creeks. Although not permanently resident in the Kiang West National Park, small groups of roan antelope are migratory visitors from Senegal's Cassemance region towards the end of the rainy season.

Things To Do And See

Tubabkollon Point

Situated at the furthest north-east tip of the Kiang West National Park, Tubabkollon Point offers good access to the river and acts as a convenient location from which to explore the steep slopes to the west. This steep ridge of red tropical soil (formed by the weathering of basalt rock) runs near to the river bank and indicates the height to which the river has risen during past periods of heavy rainfall. The higher ground offers excellent opportunities to view warthogs, bushbucks and an infrequent sitatunga antelope searching along the borders of the grassland underneath. An observation shelter has been built just over a mile (2 km) to the west of Tubabkollon Point, looking out over a waterhole, which attracts a great assortment of animal species as the dry season advances. Additionally, as dusk falls, troops of long-tailed colobus monkeys and baboons may be viewed moving towards the mangroves to sleep.

Nganingkoi Bolon

At the eastern perimeter of the park, Nganingkoi Bolon offers rich feeding for a selection of wading birds and a marsh mongoose may be seen chasing crabs along the fringes of the mangroves.

Jarin Bolon

Jarin Bolon offers rare sightings of humpbacked dolphins, along with perhaps the sight of a manatee at the intersection of the creeks, or maybe a sitatunga crossing over the bolon to Jali Island.

Bird Watching

The Kiang West National Park is a veritable paradise for bird watchers, with over 150 species from nearly 50 different genera resident in the park. Combined with temporary, dry-season visitors, about 300 different species have been observed. The park is home to at least 12 species that are hard to find elsewhere in the country. In particular, the brown necked parrot, which breeds in the mangrove forests, is listed as a threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Additionally, all 10 species of kingfisher found in Gambia appear within the boundaries of Kiang West National Park. Birds of prey are also abundant, with the 20+ species of eagles, falcons, hawks and vultures usually present within the park, swelled by large numbers of migratory birds during the dry season. The martial eagle and the bataleur are the avian, West African avian equivalents of some of the big game species of the east of the continent. The Bataleur is more regularly seen and the official symbol of Kiang West National Park.

Getting There And Travelling Around The Area

The park is situated some 62 miles (100km) from the coast, with the village of Tendaba about three miles (5km) away. The Gambian capital, home to the international airport is 90 miles (144km) away, but buses and river trips run regularly to the Kiang West National Park. However, travellers are advised to hire a 4-wheel drive vehicle (some roads are very poor) at the airport and take the trans-Gambia highway to Dumbuto, which is an ideal starting point for a trip to the park.


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