Brikama Things to Do
On one of our days at Mandina we had a late afternoon / early evening boat ride with Amadou, paddling along the mangrove-edged waters in search of bird life and just generally relaxing in the cooling air.We passed some fishermen near a village, casting their nets in the traditional way, and some women returning from a day spent collecting oysters...more
On our first morning at Mandina we were up quite early, woken by the birds and a waiter bringing our morning coffee. Once we had drunk this sitting out on our deck it was time to meet up with Amadou to go for a walk planned with him the previous evening.He led us out of the lodge complex and along the main track a short distance, before turning off...more
One of our morning walks with Amadou took us to the area they call Base Camp, the location where the founders of Makasutu and Mandina, Lawrence and James, lived when they first came to this region. They spent the first seven years living in tents on the land, with no running water or electricity, really getting to understand the environment and...more
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Stays at Mandina are on a half-board basis (they have to be - there is nowhere else to eat round here!). The dinner menus are somewhat limited, constrained by the remote location and the availability in the local markets, but the food is of a good quality and well-prepared. The chef will find you each afternoon somewhere around the lodge to explain that evening's options and take your orders, also confirm what time you want to eat. We had a choice each day of two starters (one always a soup), two main courses and two desserts. The main courses were usually both meat or one meat and one fish, but vegetarians can be catered for if advance notice is given, as can other dietary requirements.
Meals are taken in the open sided restaurant next to the pool. It can be quite cool and breezy in the evenings so bring a light jacket, cardigan or jumper. One evening a couple of bats flew in and got caught under the high roof, which gave us all a little excitement. Some of the many resident cats are also likely to be around, hoping for tit-bits. You are allocated the same table and waiter for the whole of your stay (apart from on “your” waiter’s day off, when another will substitute) and they will get to know you and your tastes.
Favorite Dish: Among the dishes I enjoyed was a traditional Gambian dish, domoda, made from chicken stewed in a peanut sauce. I also had a great prawn starter one day and loved the crepes served for dessert on two occasions – once with chocolate and once with lemon.
But actually, one of my favourite elements of every meal was the very garlicky garlic bread that arrived with the starters each evening and which regularly saw Chris and I battling for the last slice!
We also had breakfast here each day, usually after an early morning walk or activity. This consisted of a choice of juices (the baobab was my favourite but only available on our first two mornings), a plate of fresh fruit, good crusty bread with jams and honey and a cooked breakfast with eggs done to your taste – the scrambled eggs were excellent!
Lunches aren’t included but are reasonably priced. We particularly both liked the toasted sandwiches but there are more substantial dishes if you’ve worked up an appetite in the pool.
Next tip: Bird spotting
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We came to Mandina in a minibus which picked up us and three other guests at the coastal hotels. Our luggage was piled on the roof and we set off, soon leaving the more touristy strip behind and driving through dusty markets and local villages. We turned off this busy road on to the track to Mandina and immediately saw why everyone comments on this road - it is a very bumpy, sandy track that must take its toll on the vehicles as well as the comfort of passengers. The oft-repeated joke is that you are getting a free Gambian massage! But this part of the journey only lasts about 15 minutes and you are soon pulling up in the car parking area of the lodges, to be welcomed by the smiling staff.
If you’re travelling to Mandina independently or coming here straight from the airport, you’ll be met there and driven to the lodges down that same bumpy track. The total journey time from or to the airport is about 40 minutes.
Next tip: Mandina LodgesRelated to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
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Near Base Camp is a small craft market aimed mainly at the day trippers who come here from the coast. But of course they are not averse to welcoming visitors from Mandina whom I imagine the guides are encouraged to bring. We passed through one morning with Amadou on our way to Base Camp and felt sort-of obliged to look around and consider a purchase. We settled on a woodcarving of a woman carrying a bundle on her head and a baby on her back, much as we had seen women do at Serrekunda Market. Although not especially finely carved, it seemed an appropriate reminder of our visit to The Gambia and we were able to get it for a reasonable 300D (about £4.60 or $7.70), reduced by the seller, after some bargaining, from his original 450D. A smaller one offers at 200D (reduced from 350D) we rejected for its poor workmanship.
Other goods available include bead bracelets and necklaces, traditional instruments, sand paintings and a few really large (and mostly very good) carvings made from tree roots. Haggling is strongly recommended!
Next tip: soldier ants
Brikama Local Customs
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One of the mainstays of the local economy in this region is oyster- farming – or rather, since the oysters live and grow naturally among the mangroves, oyster-harvesting. Collecting them is a tough job, and one traditionally done by the women whom we saw frequently passing Mandina in their dug-out canoes or pirogues.
When we went to Kubuneh we landed on the small beach where local women boil the oysters they have prised off the mangroves. The discarded shells are picked clean by vultures and piapiac birds before being smoked, ground to a powder and mixed with water to make a wash for the walls of buildings.
Meanwhile the oysters have to be boiled for an hour to make them edible (you can’t eat these raw as you do the coastal ones, we were told). Some are eaten by the locals but most sold to restaurants. Unfortunately they never appeared on the menu at Mandina during our four evenings there; I would have liked to have tried them.
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Brikama Warnings and Dangers
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Before arriving at Mandina we had expected that the insect that we should be most concerned about would be the mosquito. But when we arrived Linda, the manager here, told us that there would be very few mozzies at that time of year (February), although of course we should still take precautions. The insect she said we should be most alert to, however, was this, the soldier ant. So when we saw some on our walk to Base Camp we were careful to heed Amadou’s warning to step over them very carefully – although I did stop to take a few photos and shoot a little video of them on the march.
There are numerous species of these ants in various parts of the world (we saw some years ago in the Amazon) but they all share this habit of moving en masse and in a very purposeful line. They are very aggressive and hunt prey such as larvae, worms, small insects and their eggs. According to Wikipedia, a “colony of army ants can consume up to 500,000 prey animals each day”! They attack as a group and have been known to overwhelm large animals. It’s more likely though that they will just give you some nasty and painful nips from their amazingly powerful jaws. So stay well clear!
Next tip: an evening paddleRelated to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
Makasutu means “sacred forest” in Mandinka. This 500 hectare reserve was founded by two British men, James English and Lawrence Williams, who had a passion for The Gambia and wanted to help to preserve its wildlife and natural environment. They gradually bought this area of land and restored it to its natural state. It encompasses five different...more
The Mandina area is justifiably promoted as a great place for birds and many keen birdwatcher's visit, either on a day trip from the coast or to stay a few days. Although we don't fall into that camp, I was keen to see and learn the names of as many as possible, and to take photos whenever I could. Among those we saw on our walks with Amadou, from...more
Everyone says that when you come to Mandina you must do the sunset cruise, and so we did. And they were right! This is the one trip that isn't included in the price of your stay, so you have to pay extra, but it is worth it. We did the trip on our first evening here, and it was so good I would have done it again, except that numbers are so limited...more