Djoudj Bird Park
Djoudj, just over the northern border from Mauritania is one of the biggest ornithological parks in the world, with over 350 different species of bird. I’m told it’s famed for colonies of nesting pelicans and flamingoes.
Djoudj is the southern part of the Mauritanian Diawling National Park. This half of the Senegal River delta is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to some 1.5 million birds of 365 species, such as the white pelican, the purple heron, the African spoonbill, the great egret and the cormorant. It's the first Atlantic stop-over after migration and a refuge for birds after crossing the Sahara Desert.
I've been met, coming over the border from Mauritania by Senegalese guide Mountaga, dapper in his hat.
First, we’re greeted enthusiastically by more capering warthogs, it’s almost as if they’re trained in reception duties. We cruise up a small river lined with lotus flowers, birds emerging continually from the greenery: herons of several kinds, kingfishers, crakes, snakebirds and datars. The ranger who’s accompanied us recites their names solemnly. I want to squeak, ‘Gannet on a stick,’ Monty Python style, but no-one else would get the joke.
The highlight is an island at the mouth of the river, crammed full of nesting white backed pelicans. Their eggs and emerging tiny black chicks are hidden from view by the swarm of bodies. They jiggle excitably, yellow pouch beaks quivering and billowing. Every so often they lumber overhead, mewling, in ungainly fashion. As I’ve said before they remind me of the squat Airbus A380s. Both look an unlikely prospect for getting into the air. There’s just time to head to the viewing platform to admire the flamingos feeding in the lagoons. (Lesser and greater in separate distant flocks, though the lesser are darker pink, so less is more, according to the ranger). There are fewer of these – they don’t breed till spring.
Now we drive to the coast, to St Louis.